558 N. Main St., Prineville, OR 97754 | (541) 447-6205
Joining Greater Oregon League would be a mistake
Crook County High School may have limited options
January 10, 2013
It’s time for the Crook County School District to seriously consider their athletic priorities.
Do we want to win or do we want to keep students in class?
Every four years, the Oregon School Activities Association (OSAA) looks at school size and league alignments and makes adjustments.
The OSAA Classification and Districting Committee is hard at work looking at proposals for the 2014-2018 time block.
Although it is still early in the process, the committee has recently released three preliminary draft proposals. The committee has six more meeting before a final decision is made with their final meeting set for Monday, Sept. 23.
A lot can change in that much time. However, one thing is certain. Crook County can either wait and see where they are placed and then live with the consequences, or the school district can be proactive and come up with a viable solution that is best for the school district, and acceptable to the other districts involved.
We can debate the relative merits of all three proposals until the cows come home, but the reality is all three are less than ideal. In addition, finding an alternative that is good for the Crook County School District and acceptable to other districts may be a tall order.
Currently, two of the three draft proposals place Crook County in the Class 4A Greater Oregon League (GOL). The third has CCHS playing larger schools.
For several years now, the GOL has had just four teams, and they desperately want new schools to join the league. Right now, they appear to be the lone Class 4A district that wants Crook County.
If you look at a map of Oregon, the reasons for that quickly become evident.
La Pine and Sisters currently travel across the Cascade Mountains to play in the Sky-Em League, while Madras also goes west to play in the Tri-Valley League.
Teams in those leagues reluctantly agree to travel over the mountains. However, convincing them it is a good idea to travel to Prineville will be a tough sell. It adds a minimum of 30 minutes of travel each way for those schools even in good weather conditions.
A Central Oregon league seems like a good option, but in order to get enough teams to form a viable league, it means placing larger schools in the league. Madras, Sisters, and La Pine have all made it clear that they have no desire to go up against the bigger Bend schools.
That means that unless Crook County can find a Class 4A league besides the Greater Oregon League that agrees to take them, the school district has two options — go to the GOL, or play up.
This is a debate that has surfaced periodically in the community for years.
In the past, Crook County went back and forth from the GOL to the Intermountain Conference. Moving down led to athletic success, but travel issues. Moving up led to easier travel, but more difficulty competing.
Both sides have solid arguments for what classification the school district should be in.
I know that this won’t be popular with a lot of people, but as someone who once played in the old GOL, I would much rather play up then play in the GOL if those are the only options available.
If Crook County joins the GOL, travel will be horrendous. The closest city in the GOL?to Prineville is Baker City, 195 miles away. It is 249 miles to Ontario, while Milton-Freewater is 258 miles away, and La Grande is a whopping 279 miles.
If our goal is to maximize school time and minimize travel, that is clearly not a good choice.
Meanwhile, playing with the Bend and Redmond schools may make it difficult to compete in some sports, but drastically improves the travel situation.
As I see it, the school district has three choices — go to the GOL, rejoin the IMC, or find another district that wants us. To me the choice is clear. Keep kids in class, minimize travel risks, and play with the big boys.
Agree or not, now is the time to have an open and honest discussion. Being Class 4A may be great, but is it worth the travel?
The discussion needs to happen now, or it will be too late. Without a unified voice from the Crook County School District, CCHS will be placed wherever the committee sees fit and I don’t think that’s what anyone in the district really wants.