Conference, classification changes in store for Central Oregon

Beginning this fall, five schools change conferences and two jump classifications

By Grant Lucas / The Bulletin / @GrantLucas88

Published Jun 10, 2014 at 01:47AM

Ridgeview

5A Intermountain Conference

4A Special District 1

Crook County

4A Tri-Valley Conference

4A Special District 1

La Pine

3A South Valley Conference

4A Sky-Em League

Culver

2A Rolling Plains League

2A Tri-River Conference

Central Christian

1A Mountain Valley League

1A Big Sky League

Embrace the world as it is now. Soak in what has been — the league titles, the state championships — and prepare for change.

The plate tectonics of Oregon high school sports are in motion. And in a few months, a new landscape will be formed. A new world will await fresh footprints. A new era will begin.

Last fall, the executive board of the Oregon School Activities Association unanimously approved the final recommendations of its classification and districting committee. The result will be five Central Oregon high schools moving to different conferences — including two schools that will be changing classifications altogether.

The most notable leap is being made by Ridgeview, which after competing in Class 4A in its first two years of existence joins Bend schools Mountain View, Summit and Bend High, and crosstown rival Redmond High in the 5A Intermountain Conference.

“I think it’s going to be great having Ridgeview in there,” says longtime Mountain View athletic director Dave Hood. “They obviously can compete with anybody in the IMC. There’s no doubt about that.”

While the IMC will no longer be a “hybrid” league — which included 4A schools Ridgeview and Crook County, the only two members of 4A Special District 1 — much will remain the same for the Ravens, according to Ridgeview athletic director and football coach Andy Codding.

“It’s going to be just like it was this year,” Codding says. “Football was the only sport where we didn’t play a full league schedule against all IMC teams. We’ve done this. It’s going to be nice to not have the ‘hybrid’ word attached to our league. But it’s going to be the same in terms of league play.”

The issue, as Hood points out, is that without Crook County consistently competing with the rest of the IMC (the Cowboys from Prineville join the 4A Tri-Valley Conference in the fall), the Intermountain is left with five schools. And with an odd number of conference members, scheduling becomes more difficult.

“It’s one thing if you have a small league of four or a small league of six, and then you have your league games and you’ve got this huge group of nonleague games at the start of the year,” Hood says. “Well, we’ve got byes all the way through the schedule clear to the end. So we’ll have to deal with that. … It just takes some adjustment.”

The upside, however, is that all five members of the IMC are within 20 miles of each other, give or take. Then again, Hood notes, a small league (the IMC will be the second-smallest in 5A) translates to more matchups against the same (few) league rivals — and more holes to fill on the nonleague schedule.

Still, the addition of Ridgeview to the IMC, Hood says, “is critical.”

“Redmond has really been such a great community athletically,” the Mountain View director says. “We have these great rivalries. Since I played at Bend High (in the 1970s), the real Central Oregon rivalry was Bend-Redmond. Now, to have Ridgeview and Redmond and the three Bend schools, I just think it’s really important and it will really improve the quality of competition here.

“They’re a powerhouse in a number of sports,” Hood says of Ridgeview. “It’ll improve the quality very quickly of our league. We really look forward to that.”

In moving up from 4A, Ridgeview (754 average daily enrollment, based on OSAA calculations for the 2012-13 school year) will join Redmond High (718) as two of the smallest schools in 5A.

“Aside from that,” Codding says, “we feel good about where we’re at. And we’re excited to not be relegated to the kids’ table anymore when it comes time for season-end (state) awards and stuff.

“We feel we’re right there.”

Another 4A school will be changing classifications as well — in the opposite direction.

After competing in the 4A Sky-Em League since Oregon expanded to six classifications in fall 2006, La Pine will drop to 3A and become a member of the new South Valley Conference this coming fall.

“Overall, I think the community’s excited, the school’s excited to be going down and playing what we think are in communities that look a lot like La Pine,” says Rusty Zysett, La Pine High’s athletic director. “When we drove into Cottage Grove (a Sky-Em League opponent), that didn’t look a whole lot like La Pine. It looked like a university compared to us. We drive into Glide (a member of the South Valley Conference located east of Roseburg), that looks a lot like La Pine. We’re excited to be playing some of those schools again.”

Zysett concedes that the Hawks might be logging more miles on the road at the 3A level, but he calls it an acceptable cost for being able to compete against programs of comparable size. And with mostly Willamette Valley schools making up the South Valley Conference — similar to the Sky-Em — La Pine will not have to adapt much to a different travel schedule.

“Going to Glide is kind of like going to Elmira,” Zysett observes. “Going to Harrisburg is kind of like going to Junction City. Pleasant Hill … is kind of like going to Cottage Grove. It’s all very similar. We lost the Central Oregon connection by not being in the same league as Sisters, but they were not in the Sky-Em League that long.”

And that is not the end of the changes involving Central Oregon schools.

At the 4A level, Crook County will jump to the Tri-Valley Conference in the fall, joining another Central Oregon school in current TVC member Madras. Class 2A Culver, a Tri-River Conference school in 2013-14, joins the Rolling Plains League. And at 1A, Redmond’s Central Christian will leave the Big Sky League for the Mountain Valley League, where it will join current Central Oregon MVL members Gilchrist and Bend’s Trinity Lutheran.

Gone are the much-maligned special districts and the hybrid leagues. Just ahead is the new world, where a new era in Oregon prep sports is about to begin.

—Reporter: 541-383-0307, glucas@bendbulletin.com.