After being moved to the new Sky-Em League by the Oregon School Activities Association (OSAA) during the most recent round of reclassifications and redistricting, Siuslaw was set to join powerhouses Marist, Cottage Grove and Marshfield, along with Elmira and Junction City beginning next fall.
However, with a record of 3-11 over the last two football seasons, it wasn’t viewed as a particularly positive change for Siuslaw High School administrators, who saw the disparity in the student ratio between Sky-Em schools — in some cases with student enrollment outnumbering Siuslaw nearly 2-to-1 — as creating anything but a level playing field.
“We were on the borderline of dropping down to the 3A. So when the decision came through that we’d be staying in the 4A and playing against Cottage Grove, Marist and Marshfield, we kind of felt like we were just out of luck,” said Siuslaw High School Athletic Director Chris Johnson. “When you’re looking at criteria based on the last four years, it doesn’t take into account the most recent trend.”
And over the last two years, that trend has made Siuslaw one of the three smallest schools in the 4A.
The concerns held by Siuslaw were echoed by other school football programs among all classifications, from 1A through the 6A. After receiving testimony from nearly a dozen other football programs, the OSAA’s Football Ad Hoc Committee convened in a work session to discuss ways to address the schools’ concerns. At a public meeting held Dec. 18, the committee submitted its recommendations to the OSAA Executive Board for review.
Among the committee’s suggestions was to include Siuslaw among 30 schools playing down a classification in new Class 3A special districts. The proposal would put the Viking football program in the 12-school Special District-2 with Harrisburg, Brookings-Harbor, Cascade Christian, Hidden Valley, La Pine, Pleasant Hill, Santiam Christian, South Umpqua, St. Mary’s (Medford) and Sutherlin.
It would also bump Marshfield into a seven-school 4A special district with Cottage Grove, Henley, Klamath Falls, Mazama, North Valley and Phoenix.
North Bend would be part of a 5A special district along with Ashland, Churchill, Crater, Eagle Point, South Eugene, Thurston and Willamette.
“From our perspective, this proposal makes a lot more sense and keeps schools with 450 kids or so playing against schools with 900 kids,” said Johnson.
The committee used a 22 percent or less Colley winning percentage formula, based on the last two seasons rather than four years, to determine which schools would qualify to drop into a lower classification for football for the 2018-2022 seasons.
At with a 21.4 winning percentage against schools in its own classification for the past two seasons (1-6 in 2017 and 2-5 in 2016), Siuslaw easily qualified for a special district slot within the 3A.
Should the OSAA sign off on the proposal, the decision would be re-evaluated in two years, with the understanding that the eventual goal is for each school’s football program to eventually transition back to its original classification
“Siuslaw has a proud football tradition but we have to take a realistic look at where we are,” said Johnson. “This is an opportunity to continue that tradition by bringing some competitive balance to the program.”
While the changes won’t have a big impact on Mapleton’s 8-man football program, it will mean a shift in competition as teams from Alsea, Eddyville, McKenzie, Powers and Triangle Lake — all of whom have been part of the Mountain West — have expressed interest in 6-man programs.
That would mean The Sailors would join the 1A Special District-1, with Crow, Elkton, Mohawk, Myrtle Point, North Douglas, Siletz, Waldport and Yoncalla.
The changes would only apply to football; all other sports would continue to compete within each school’s primary classification and district.
Schools have until Friday, Jan. 5, to make their final decision on their Special District placement in advance of the next public meeting of the Ad Hoc Football Advisory Committee set for Tuesday, Jan. 9, in Wilsonville, beginning at 9 a.m.
For more information, visit http://www.osaa.org/governance/committees.
The meeting will allow for public testimony before holding a closed work session.