OSAA districting draws HRV into IMC

Columbia River Conference schools unified in opposition of plan, OSAA says they’ll listen

A migraine for Hood River Valley High School athletics comes around every four years, and to the dismay of the athletic department, school board, coaches, parents and athletes, the splitting headache has returned in rapid fashion.

The Oregon School Activities Association is in the process of its four-year districting and classification update, and in an update released this week, has proposed a merging of the Columbia River Conference with the Intermountain Conference. The Classification and Districting Committee meets on Oct. 7 to hear public testimony on its proposed changes before making final recommendations to the OSAA Executive Board and Delegate Assembly on Oct. 28.

The last-minute announcement means HRVHS is again in the position of having to articulate what district the school should be placed in and why. In the past four cycles, the Eagles have been moved from the Mt. Hood Conference to the Intermountain Conference, back to the MHC, and most recently to the Columbia River Conference.

The proposed plan for the 2014-18 cycle places HRVHS with eight other schools to form the new IMC. CRC schools The Dalles, Pendleton and Hermiston face the same outcome of being grouped with Bend, Mountain View, Redmond, Summit and Ridgeview for the four-year period.

Keith Bassham, HRVHS athletic director, addressed the HRCSD School Board Wednesday evening to rally support for his efforts to fight against the proposed reclassification, which he and athletic departments from the other three CRC schools are fervently opposed.

According to Peter Webber, OSAA assistant executive director, the option to keep the two conference separate is still very much on the table.

“The committee wanted to put the idea out there and see what the feedback was,” Webber said Thursday. “If schools are into the change, great. If not, there is certainly time to revert things back.”

OSAA’s rationale behind the proposed change is to make a more even conference in comparison to the other four 5A leagues drawn into the plan: the Northwest Oregon Conference with eight schools, the Mid-Willamette Conference with eight and the Midwestern League with seven. The 5A level lost six schools this year as a new 6A Portland Interscholastic League was redrawn. A four-league 5A setup with even numbers in each league would make playoffs and state championships easier and more streamlined to organize.

While the change may simplify scheduling, Bassham is quick to point out that it would be countered by significant increases in travel times, expenses and missed school, decreased participation, coaching and spectatorship and dangerous trips to Central Oregon, particularly in winter months.

“We testified in the last meeting — Karen Neitzel and I — last year, and made if very, very, very clear with the numbers we gave to the executive board and reclassification committee that we wanted no part of being in the IMC,” Bassham told the school board Wednesday.

Bassham asked the board for an official letter of support in resisting the change of conference, to be presented to OSAA prior to its Oct. 7 work session. The board agreed to provide the letter.

Bassham says the other three CRC schools are unified in their opposition to the change, which should send a loud-and-clear signal to the OSAA.

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