Cost-cutting measures are at the heart of just about every conversation these days, and that stands to be a considerable focus of public forums in Medford this week at Washington Elementary.

Cost-cutting measures are at the heart of just about every conversation these days, and that stands to be a considerable focus of public forums in Medford this week at Washington Elementary.

Facilitated by Superintendent Phil Long, the public forums are set at 7 p.m. today and Thursday and 10 a.m. Saturday. Anticipated topics include how to trim the district's general fund, as well as the potential of going to a four-day week in the next school year.

As a look ahead — and in no way a declaration for such action — Medford's director of secondary education and athletics, Doug Jantzi, says the potential of a four-day school week wouldn't have much impact on sports schedules.

"It might cause us to adjust schedules to minimize lost class time but that's about it," he says. "We'd try to move more games to non-teaching days, like if Fridays or Mondays are wide open we'd start looking at scheduling more athletic events on those dates."

A reduction in the general fund, however, would definitely have an impact on local teams since that's where coaching stipends are generated. Gate receipts and participation fees, which Jantzi says total around $400,000 per year, fund all sports expenses except for paying coaches.

In that scenario, a potential lowering of the general fund would likely mean losing a coach here or there in sports that contain multiple coaches, such as in football. Jantzi says individual sports like tennis or swimming currently have one coach in charge of 30-40 athletes, while football staffs tend to go around seven deep.

"We can't have less than one swim coach and still have swimming," says Jantzi, "so it's not like we can do something there."

A cost-cutting measure gaining steam across the nation involves the shortening of seasons for each sport, but that was tabled by the OSAA when brought up at a recent meeting. Florida officials voted Monday to cut its number of varsity games by 20 percent and all other play by 40 percent for the next two years — and only those years — to offset the current economic downturn. That policy applies to all sports except for football.

The Oregon proposal, originally submitted as a Class 3A/2A/1A proposal that was broadened for potential statewide adoption, discussed dropping football from nine to eight games and basketball from 24 to 21 games.

At the heart of the matter of why the motion — which equated to about a 10 percent drop in games per sport — was tabled here in Oregon was the potential of losing revenue in football, where gate receipts can be anywhere from $5,000 to $10,000 depending on the teams involved. Likewise, boys basketball games return between $1,000 to $5,000 in gate receipts.

Jantzi says the bulk of that money, along with participation fees, helps subsidize all sports that don't have a gate receipt.

"We rely on every home game, particularly in football and basketball, for revenue for us," he says. "Even one home football game is significant revenue for us and we didn't want (the OSAA) to touch that. We've been blessed with great fan participation in both basketball and football so they really are the cash cows for us."

u

A RETURN TO THE OLD Southern Oregon Conference appears more and more likely for local high schools, albeit with a few wrinkles to make the Class 6A/5A hybrid solution appear more palatable.

The Classification and Districting Committee for the Oregon School Activities Association came out with its latest proposal last Friday — the seventh official proposal overall — and local teams found themselves among a Southern Oregon hybrid conference for the fifth straight time.

"It appears the hybrid system is moving forward," says Jantzi. "I think we're where we're going to be."

The most recent issue involves finding a proper home for Hermiston and Pendleton, but few other tweaks have been made in recent proposals, leading to speculation that the process is closing in on a final official recommendation by the committee.

That final recommendation isn't expected to be made to the OSAA Executive Board until October, but the committee is well on target for that date.

The only change for local 6A and 5A teams involves the movement of Marshfield back to a Midwestern hybrid but still in line with playing Southern Oregon teams when it comes to determining playoff teams. While the former SOC contingent and Eugene-based teams expect to compete amongst themselves on a sport-by-sport basis regardless of classification, they will come together in 6A and 5A groupings for playoff seeding.

The expectation, assuming certain enrollment criteria, is that the 6A classification would be comprised of North Medford, South Medford, Crater, Grants Pass, Roseburg, Sheldon, South Eugene and Thurston. The 5A grouping would include Ashland, Eagle Point, Willamette, Springfield, Churchill, Marshfield, North Eugene and Marist.

"We're not happy about it or willing to accept it, but I don't know if there's anything we can do about it," says Ashland Athletics Director Karl Kemper of the expected setup. "They've definitely picked a direction and they're going with it. Our situation is unique so there's not a lot of sensitivity to it statewide, which I understand. Most people are happy and that's what you try to do in these things: bring the greatest good to the greatest number."

Ideally, Kemper says, Ashland would remain in the current Southern Sky Conference setup it was moved to when reclassification was done for the 2006-10 block. Another preference involved the five-classification model proposed by the Medford School District — which placed Ashland and Eagle Point among the current Skyline Conference setup — but that proposal never really gained momentum statewide.

"I think the challenges in the way they're drawing it up right now is Eagle Point and us are the only two 5A schools south of Eugene," Kemper adds. "That's a tough dilemma statewide on how you handle that."

In the hybrid model, football teams likely would face each team in its classification and then fill the remainder of the schedule with games against area opponents outside their classification.

In other sports, teams likely would play programs in its own hybrid a couple times and those in the accompanying hybrid two or three times to formulate proper playoff standings. Scheduling separate preseason and postseason meets or tournaments for 6A and 5A squads to determine playoff seeding at those levels is also an option.

Sub-varsity teams likely would only face teams in their local hybrid.

As part of the Southwest Conference, North and South Medford already have strong ties with the Eugene schools and Jantzi says the 6A teams in each hybrid have said they will stay together for playoff positioning. Ashland has scheduled many of the 5A hybrid teams it will face in recent years, and Kemper doesn't believe there will be resistance to continue down that same path from either end.

"We're really playing them in a lot of things already, but we're picking and choosing right now," he says. "That's the main difference."

Reach reporter Kris Henry at 776-4488, or e-mail khenry@mailtribune.com