North Medford High wrestling coach Phillip Lopez isn't the type to get carried away.
A recent proposal that would elevate St. Mary's High to the Class 4A level will not go unchallenged, according to Crusaders athletic director James Joy.
The Oregon School Activities Association's classification and districting committee met last Monday and released its ninth draft proposal three days later for the 2014-18 time block. In that proposal, new average daily membership (ADM) figures were used and subsequently vaulted St. Mary's High above the Class 3A cutoff level for the first time since the process was sent to the committee last October.
"We're not in favor of that," Joy said of the change. "We're just a couple over the cutoff and we've already been in contact with the classification committee about what our real numbers are. The number that they're using was last year's (ADM total) and it was a bit high. If you look at this year and the previous three or four years and took an average instead of going off that one year, that number for us would be 310."
The Crusaders' ADM figure had been 302 — under the 3A cutoff point of 324 — but a change to utilize enrollment figures from the 2012-13 school year bumped St. Mary's ADM total to 330 in a move that Joy said doesn't adequately represent his school.
"It was a little bit of a surprise in that the number they've been using for us was a 302 number the whole time," said Joy. "The cutoff number has moved a few times, and we've definitely been paying attention, but, boom, in the last proposal they used a whole different brand of numbers. We felt like we were pretty comfortable as a 3A school because we hadn't been anywhere else until now."
The timing couldn't be worse for the change in classification for St. Mary's, with a final recommendation by the committee to the OSAA's Executive Board and delegate assembly scheduled for Oct. 28. An additional meeting was added for this coming Monday, and Joy hopes a personal appeal — to support documentation already forwarded to the committee — will revert the school's status back to the 3A level.
"There is definitely a sense of urgency there for our communication with the committee," said Joy. "Once that decision came out we immediately sent up a letter to the committee and gave them a number of our points, the biggest one being that if they go by our average number we're right there at 310 and that's definitely a 3A number."
The Class 4A level utilizes a low point of 325 — or five students less than last year's ADM for St. Mary's — with a high cutoff point of 689. The 3A figure runs 191 to 324.
"We're hoping they'll see we really fit the eyeball test as a 3A school," said Joy.
"I think that we do have some support in our (Southern Cascade League) for staying as a 3A school," he added, "so we'll try to see if they'll hop on board and help us out."
Joy sent a proactive letter of appeal to the committee prior to last week's meeting on the chance it would be altering the ADM figures for its classification purposes, but that didn't appear to make a difference. With limited time remaining before the committee makes its final recommendation, Joy said it's difficult to say where St. Mary's will end up on Oct. 28.
"I really don't have a feel on this one," he said. "Usually I have a little bit of a sense of which way it might go, one way or another, but I don't know on this one."
The proposed move would place St. Mary's in the 4A Skyline Conference with Phoenix (618), Hidden Valley (609), Klamath Union (576), Henley (569), Mazama (517) and North Valley (465).
The Crusaders receive an enrollment boost due to their boarding school program, which offers foreign exchange students to come to the United States and work on their English skills as well as get a full American experience, complete with extra-curricular opportunities like playing sports. All students at St. Mary's are considered equal, according to Joy, and therefore included in any ADM figure to show complete transparency.
While the school has enjoyed considerable success in several sports at the 3A level, the football program has been playing an independent schedule to make up for a lack of participation numbers and Joy said the school cannot field junior varsity teams in every sport.
"We certainly have had some successful programs but we also have some that are struggling at the 3A level," said Joy, "and we don't even offer some sports because of who we have at our school. We just don't have the student body or even the participation numbers to back up that sort of expectation you have at the 4A level."
"We play Skyline teams a lot in selected sports and that's been nice for both their schools and us to be able to say, 'This is going to be a good matchup for both of us and this one's not going to be such a good matchup,'" added the athletic director. "They're great people to work with, but us moving to the Skyline would be a pretty significant challenge."