Athletics may move to new conference

By: Grant Lucas
The Bulletin

This school year, Redmond High athletics made their return to the Intermountain Conference for the first time since jumping to Class 6A in fall 2006. Soon, the Panthers, currently in 5A, could be on their way out, possibly joining crosstown Ridgeview High in Class 4A.

The 2012-13 school year is winding down, as is the four-year time block of the latest school reclassification of the Oregon School Activities Association.

Three meetings remain for the OSAA’s classification and districting committee to fashion a final recommendation for the new time block starting in fall 2014.

It is widely accepted that the OSAA will stick with its current six-classification model, according to Redmond School District athletic director Brent Walsh, but much debate revolves around the fates of Central Oregon schools — specifically Redmond High and Ridgeview.

In the latest draft proposal, put together during the committee’s March 18 meeting, Redmond High and Ridgeview, the newly opened high school in Redmond, were placed in the Class 5A Intermountain Conference with Bend High, Mountain View and Summit.

The problem with that plan, however, lies within the latest adjusted average daily membership numbers, which show all three Bend schools exceeding 1,100 students and Redmond and Ridgeview with fewer than 820.

Those figures, along with competitive balance, travel costs and nonleague scheduling, have led to Redmond High proposing to move to 4A alongside Ridgeview, which currently competes at the 4A level.

“We just want to be in a league where there’s a balance between the teams that are over here that we would be in a league with and the teams we’d have to travel to meet,” says Nathan Stanley, the athletic director for Redmond High. “We just want to be someplace where we’re going to be competitive and where we’re going to have something in common with the teams that we’re playing and that’s going to ease our scheduling and not overburden us too much with transportation.”

The OSAA, the governing body for high school athletics in Oregon, considers three objectives when classifying teams, according to Redmond School District superintendent Mike McIntosh. Those objectives, he says, are competitive balance, limiting travel, and a league size that allows for manageable and efficient scheduling. In McIntosh’s eyes, the Redmond schools remaining in the IMC addresses only the travel standard.

Instead, Walsh, Stanley and McIntosh have proposed moving Redmond High to 4A and maintaining Ridgeview’s standing in the same classification.

“I think that it not only benefits our school district but it improves the league play for neighboring school districts,” McIntosh says. “I don’t think it has a huge negative impact on the state picture with the exception of now where (do the Bend schools) go to pick up some games.”

An ideal situation, according to Walsh, would be a 4A conference in Central Oregon consisting of up to six schools, including Sisters, Crook County, Madras and La Pine. Another option, Walsh says, would be for Redmond and Ridgeview to join the Tri-Valley Conference or Sky-Em League — both Class 4A leagues — whether as a package deal or separately.

The southeast Portland-based TVC currently includes Madras from Central Oregon, as well as Estacada, Gladstone, La Salle, Molalla and North Marion. Central Oregon also has ties to the Eugene-based Sky-Em, which includes Sisters and La Pine along with Cottage Grove, Elmira, Junction City and Sweet Home.

McIntosh says jumping to the 4A Greater Oregon League — which currently includes Baker, La Grande, McLoughlin of Milton-Freewater and Ontario — is another possibility for Redmond and Ridgeview. Even another possibility, according to Stanley, would be for Redmond to move to a 5A league based along the Columbia River Gorge, with schools in communities more similar to Redmond than to Bend — such as Hood River, The Dalles, Hermiston and Pendleton.

The Redmond officials make it clear, though, that their first choice would be to move their schools to 4A.

“We’re not opposed to being in with Bend if we’re their size, but we feel that if our numbers accurately reflect that we’re a 4A (school), we should play at the 4A level just like Crook County would like to do and other teams like that,” Stanley says. “We’re not actively working against Bend. … It’s just that we think we’re going to give the most accurate numbers to the committee and let them decide whether or not we’re 4A.”

Such a move could happen, according to OSAA assistant executive director Peter Weber, who also serves as a staff liaison for the classification and districting committee. It all depends on the adjusted ADM cutoff point between 5A and 4A, which currently stands at 740 students. But that figure, Weber notes, is a “moving target.”

“It’s where that cutoff is and where (enrollment numbers for Redmond and Ridgeview high schools) are going to be is really what the factors are, and those things aren’t set yet,” Weber says.

Still, Walsh, Stanley and McIntosh are optimistic about both Redmond high schools competing at the 4A level. Adjusted ADM numbers will be presented at the committee’s next hearing on Monday, and a new draft proposal is to be released later next week. The committee’s final meetings are scheduled for May 20 and Sept. 23, and final recommendations will go to the executive board and delegate assembly for a final decision at the end of October.

“It’s one of those things where you don’t see what the painting looks like until it’s on the wall,” Walsh says. “We’re going to wait to see what the next proposal looks like and adjust, talk, and go from there.”
— Reporter: 541-383-0307, glucas@bendbulletin.com

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