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Athletic directors favor five-class plan

Except for football, old leagues would remain virtually intact

The state's Class 4A athletic directors have talked the Oregon School Activities Association into considering a five-classification proposal as an alternative to the six-class system favored by a redistricting committee.

The new proposal would split the 5A classification into two divisions in football ' 5A and 5AA ' but would maintain five classifications in all other sports. The earlier plan called for six classifications in all sports.

The new proposal wouldn't affect reclassification plans in the smaller classifications.

The OSAA is conducting an Internet-based survey to all current 4A athletic directors, principals and superintendents to see whether they favor the five- or six-classification system.

The hope is that a strong majority will support the new plan, said Sunset athletic director Pete Lukich, who, along with Portland Interscholastic League athletic director Greg Ross, brought the 4A athletic directors together this summer to brainstorm their ideas. If it's a 50-50 vote, then it will just muddy the waters.

The redistricting committee formed in January in an effort to improve competitive balance within leagues, minimize travel and expenses for schools and maintain league alignments as much as possible.

The idea of forming another classification or two has gained momentum in recent years because of wide gaps in enrollment. Several schools, including Klamath Union, have dropped out of their leagues in football rather than face schools more than twice their size.

The six-class system met with wide approval with the smaller schools but was widely opposed by most 4A officials, who claimed traditional league rivalries would decrease and travel costs would go up rather than down.

One of the things that's proven is that no one is bailing out of leagues except for football, said South Medford athletic director Dennis Murphy. I think what this (new proposal) does is keep leagues much the same as they've been, except in football.

And so we're addressing the main issue.

The Southern Oregon Conference would maintain its current eight-team format in all sports other than football.

On the gridiron, the new District 5AA Southern Conference would consist of Roseburg, North Medford, South Medford, Grants Pass and Marshfield.

The District 5A Southern Conference would be made up of Ashland, Crater, Eagle Point, Klamath Union, Springfield, Churchill and North Eugene.

The 5AA division would include schools with enrollments over 1,400, while the 5A division is for schools between 876 and 1,400.

Schools can petition to play up.

The redistricting committee will meet in a public format for a final time on Sept. 26, with final recommendations being forwarded to the OSAA executive committee on Oct. 24.

The new classification system will go into effect in the fall of 2006.

Reach reporter at 776-4469, or e-mail Athletic directors favor five-class plan"dhunt@mailtribune.com.