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Local editorial

OSAA reshuffle is bad for sports The plan overreaches, and it comes at the expense of many schools

The Oregon School Activities Association has set the stage to change high school sports in this state ' and particularly this end of the state ' forever. We're not convinced the change is for the better.

The OSAA, which regulates all high school athletics, has come up with a proposal to reclassify and redistrict high schools across the state. It is a proposal that helps some schools and hurts others and, as such, has drawn support in some quarters and fierce opposition in others, particularly in Southern Oregon and Eugene, where tradition and common sense would be thrown out the window.

The proposal, which turns Oregon's four classes of high school sports into six classes, was pushed largely by schools that found themselves unable to compete against bigger schools in their leagues. The inability to win reduced the ranks of student athletes at those schools and cut into school spirit and community support.

Evidence of that exists to a degree in the Southern Oregon Conference, where North Medford, South Medford, Roseburg and Grants Pass dominate many sports, and especially the big two of football and basketball. They average about 1,850 students per school, while the rest of the league ' Ashland, Eagle Point, Crater and Klamath Falls ' averages about 1,100.

To fix that disparity and similar disparities elsewhere, the OSAA has proposed reshuffling leagues all over the state. There are some odd results: Redmond would be in a league with six Salem schools. Two Eugene schools, South Eugene and Sheldon, would be in a league with the four large SOC teams.

Ashland, which first played a Medford school in 1899, would no longer be in the SOC. Also penciled for removal are Crater, Eagle Point and Klamath Falls.

— Those small schools are not necessarily crying the blues; in fact, the smaller schools in leagues across the state are the biggest supporters because they see an opportunity for more wins.

That may be true for them, but there will be just as many losers. Southern Oregon teams will be asked to drive to Eugene to play league games, trips that will bring the athletes back home ' often on school nights ' at midnight or later. Crater, which has recently won state championships or been ranked No. — in at least four major sports, would drop to the smaller 5A class. Some leagues would have five teams, while others would have 10.

It's a plan that overreaches. To use a sports metaphor, the OSAA is trying to hit a home run when all it really needs is a single. Here's our suggestion: Since the biggest issue lies with the smaller 4A schools, why not drop those schools into the 3A class? It's a simple solution that fixes most of the problems without creating major problems for other 4A schools.

We understand there will be winners and losers on the field of play, but when it comes to establishing who's on that field, the OSAA can do better. There are too many big losers in the six-classification proposal. It should be rejected.