Murky remains the condition of high school football across the state as the Oregon School Activities Association’s ad hoc football committee continues to wade through the swamp of alternative plans.
That committee released its latest update Thursday afternoon, recapping the meeting held Tuesday in Wilsonville. There are impacts to every classification and the clarity of how football will be structured in the fall is like the visibility in a coastal fog.
“It’s pretty stressful right now,” Sutherlin High Athletic Director Josh Grotting said. “Usually by now we have all our fall scheduling all taken care of. Our special district in boys soccer has 11 teams in it and you only get 14 games.
“It’s completely unsettled.”
Grotting, ADs Kevin Hunt and Kevin Wilson at South Umpqua and Douglas, respectively, are under added stress as all three schools are dropping down a classification to Class 3A and forming a new league. While that district was set up in October, planning anything has been on hold since the Salem-Keizer School District appealed the OSAA’s redistricting plan and the ad hoc football committee began trying to address football’s unique concerns.
“I thought it was pretty settled, then the ad hoc committee started,” Grotting said. “I understand the situation — football and basketball pay the bills at the OSAA. We’re all in the same boat, we’re all going to be into March before we have anything settled.”
Grotting truly considers that to be a decent timeline, too.
In the latest committee update, Class 6A and 3A both have two options for special football districts.
The 6A schools, including Roseburg High, have a third option to be presented, too, RHS Athletic Director Russ Bolin said.
“There’s really three options,” Bolin said. “The 6A ADs are meeting Tuesday to go through and see which one we can all settle on. Option A is a super league and we split it in half and we play the teams and then crossover to fill our schedules.
“Option B is really just doing the status quo, and doing that will not work for us. That’s a horrible option for us. We won’t find games and we won’t have games to get.
“The third option is we stay with our current leagues, schedule weeks 7, 8, 9 — we would not see everybody or play everybody, but then the entire state does that — and then the entire state has open scheduling for weeks 1 through 6 to have competitive games for your teams.”
What hasn’t been figured out in that scenario, is how teams would qualify for the postseason. Bolin did say his preference for the end of season games would be contests with long-time rivals North Medford, South Medford and Grants Pass.
“We’ll talk about that (playoff qualification) too on Tuesday,” Bolin said. “We have to land first on what we’re going to do, how we’re going to schedule our teams, then how do teams get to the playoffs.”
With the multiple districting options, the ad hoc committee is also proposing playoff options for 6A varying between 32 and 24 teams. A third option — and one the 6A schools might endorse Tuesday — is to seed two playoff brackets: 1-16 and 17-32. At present, the first and often second rounds of the 32-team playoffs result in lopsided blowout after lopsided blowout.
Without any changes at all, Roseburg and the rest of the Southwest Conference will be left as a five-team league with no great options for scheduling outside of a double-round robin football schedule that still leaves teams looking for a game to fill out the schedule.
“I’m telling you, that’s a nightmare,” Bolin said of a five-team league schedule.
While not faced with special district concerns like Grotting and other ADs in the county, Bolin is sympathetic to the issues they’re facing.
The super conference Roseburg could wind up in would feature all of the Southwest Conference schools, plus Bend, McNary, Mountain View, South Salem, Sprague, Summit and West Salem.
For Sutherlin, Douglas and South Umpqua, there is an overriding sense of limbo for all sports.
“We had a league meeting with the new guys in November, but haven’t since then because we’re all in limbo,” Grotting said. “We have to go do football, volleyball, boys and girls soccer, and I’m trying to wait to see where I’m actually going to be.”
As of right now, the potential is there for Sutherlin’s fall sports to be split up among four different, and disparate, districts: volleyball in it’s league and football and both soccer teams in special districts with differing foes.
After spending four years in the Sky-Em League, Sutherlin was looking forward to competing with Douglas and South Umpqua in the same league once more.
In 3A Option A, the three schools are in the same district — a super conference of 12 schools that stretches from La Pine to Siuslaw in Florence and Santiam Christian in Adair Village to St. Mary’s of Medford and Cascade Christian in Jacksonville to Brookings. With only nine regular season games, Sutherlin would likely be shoved into a division opposite its county cousins, but playing crossover games against them.
In Option B, Sutherlin goes into a special district of six teams as the southern-most member. The others are La Pine, Siuslaw, Santiam Christian, Harrisburg and Pleasant Hill.
“I think we’ll end up playing each other no matter what,” Grotting said of scheduling Douglas and South Umpqua. “Option A keeps us in the big league. Obviously I’ve talked to Kevin Wilson and Kevin Hunt, we would at least make sure they were preseason games, but with this way, I would propose the big leagues and maybe a north and south with a couple crossover games that would be with South Umpqua and Douglas. But this doesn’t solve any problems for us.”
Douglas County’s 2A schools — Oakland, Glide and Reedsport — would be in three different special districts, much as each is headed in their new leagues.
In 1A, Skyline schools North Douglas, Yoncalla and Elkton are proposed to move into Special District 1, a 13-team super conference that stretches northward to St. Paul and westward to Waldport.
“We’re located in a spot where you knew some schools would be pulled one way and others would be pulled the other way,” North Douglas Athletic Director JJ Mast said. “Kind of what happened with the old Big Fir League. Us and Yoncalla, you have to draw a line somewhere and try to balance it our somewhere.”
Camas Valley, Days Creek, Glendale and Riddle are all dropped into Special District 2, a 12-team super conference that includes “playdown” members Myrtle Point, Bonanza and Butte Falls/Crater Lakes Charter.
Those “playdown” teams are all above the 1A cutoff, but meet the criteria to play down a level based on their recent history of losing or the enrollment exception the ad hoc committee has placed for schools between 120 and 89 students to participate in eight-man football. Waldport, Oakridge and Lowell are also playdown schools in Special District 1.
“There’s people putting their own versions our there right now,” Mast said. “Those will have merit, and we’ll see what works best and then we’ll see what happens.”
The OSAA will accept feedback and testimony relating to the latest update leading up to its next meeting on Wednesday, Jan. 31, in Wilsonville. Written comments can be sent to Brad Garrett with the OSAA at email@example.com.
The OSAA’s executive board will meet on Feb. 12 in Wilsonville and receive a report from the ad hoc committee with hopes of bringing the process to a conclusion.