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OSAA redistricting will help balance.

Byline: COMMENTARY By Steve Mims The Register-Guard

The deed has been done.

The Oregon School Activities Association went ahead with major changes for next season by approving a six-classification system that is here for at least the next four years and maybe well beyond that.

So what can we expect now?

The quick answer is more champions. Two more classifications equals two more state champions in most sports. (The OSAA could combine classifications in some sports as it currently does in golf and tennis). Eight more leagues will bring us eight more league champions in every sport.

Remember, the impetus behind the OSAA decision was competitive balance, and more winners shows competitive balance.

Put simply, the OSAA board felt that some schools were not getting a chance to be competitive in leagues with much larger schools, so they added a couple of classifications to better separate some of the "haves" and "have-nots". While many in the Midwestern League do not believe that is as big of a problem locally as it is elsewhere in the state, the facts show that South Eugene and Sheldon were pretty dominant last season.

That's not to say that the other schools were not competitive, but the figures show that those two schools were at the head of the class, with Churchill close behind.

Out of 19 varsity sports, Sheldon won or shared nine Midwestern League titles and South Eugene won five. Do the math and the Irish and Axemen combined to win 73.7 percent of the league titles. Those two finished first and second in nine different sports, meaning they swept the top two spots 47.4 percent of the time.

Churchill equaled South with five league titles while the only other school to win a championship was Willamette, which shared the girls basketball title with Sheldon.

So the most obvious change that the six-classification system will bring is the opportunity for some of the local schools that have been finishing behind Sheldon and South to win some league championships.

Consider that a benefit to Marshfield, which would have won nine league titles last year in a Midwestern League without South Eugene and Sheldon. In football, volleyball, girls track and both boys and girls golf, cross country and swimming the Pirates finished behind the Axemen and/or the Irish.

North Eugene would have won the boys basketball and girls soccer titles, Thurston would have claimed the boys track title and Springfield would have won boys soccer.

There have been sports such as swimming, soccer, cross country and track and field that have been recently dominated in the Midwestern League by Sheldon and South Eugene.

There were some schools that had no chance to win a league title in those sports, but now, who knows?

New champions are coming in those sports as well as football, where Sheldon has ruled for the past five years, and golf, where the Irish have swept the boys and girls titles in four of the past five seasons.

Now, what about the Irish and Axemen, who were championship contenders in almost every sport in the league except wrestling and softball during the past few years? What are their chances in the new Southern Oregon Conference?

At first glance, the answer seems to be better than some might think.

While Roseburg, South Medford, North Medford and Grants Pass have been the dominant foursome in football in the SOC, a deeper look at the conference shows that some of its most powerful programs are dropping down to 5A.

How about some trivia.

Question: What SOC team won the most league titles last year? Answer: Ashland, six.

Question: What SOC team has won the most league titles during the past three years? Answer: Ashland, 16.

Question: How many SOC championships did Grants Pass win last season? Answer: None

Surprised? Here are the figures to back it up.

Ashland won the SOC title in boys soccer, boys swimming, boys tennis and both boys and girls golf, while sharing the girls basketball title.

Crater won four league championships and Klamath Union won one, so the four schools dropping down to 5A won or shared 11 of 19 league championships last year for an astounding 57.9 percent.

North Medford led the 6A schools with four league titles, Roseburg had three and South Medford won two.

So, while South and Sheldon might not be likely to reign above the SOC quite as often as they have in the Midwestern League, those two schools will still be among the favorites in almost every sport.

The sport everyone associates with the SOC is football, and that conference is usually considered the state's best along with the Metro League. That debate has to lean even more toward the SOC next season when Sheldon and South Eugene join the league.

Consider that Roseburg, South Medford, North Medford, Grants Pass, Sheldon and South Eugene have a combined record of 27-7 in league play this season and all have qualified for the playoffs.

Sheldon is likely to take a 46-game league winning streak into the SOC next season, and it is safe to say the Irish will have a tougher time keeping that streak alive. (For the record, the streak does carry over to the new league as it becomes a league winning streak, not a Midwestern League winning streak.)

The positive tradeoff for South Eugene and Sheldon of playing in a tougher league is that they will certainly have better stadiums to visit.

Medford's Spiegelberg Stadium is arguably the finest football stadium in the state, while Grants Pass has a beautifully renovated stadium and Roseburg's Finlay Field has a classic look. While fans of Sheldon and South have a right to complain about the longer road trips, they will be rewarded with a great football atmosphere when they reach their new destinations.

While Sheldon and South find themselves in a whole new world, the Sky-Em League will hardly notice a change.

Six of the current eight schools will remain together at the 4A level with Creswell and Siuslaw moving out and Sisters moving in.

Siuslaw had become a regular title contender in the league, and it figures that Sisters will fill that role now as the Outlaws have become a solid 3A program in the decade or so since the school opened.

Over on the coast, North Bend has become the powerhouse of the Far West League and won 11 of 19 league titles last season.

Now they will be challenged for supremacy by Siuslaw.

Creswell had a hard time being competitive in any Sky-Em sport other than boys basketball recently and is a poster child for the need to improve competitive balance. The Bulldogs should benefit from their move to a new 3A league because instead of being the second-smallest school in their classification they are now the fifth-largest school in the class.

Creswell is done battling the Marists and Junction Citys of the world, so the Bulldogs figure to be more competitive, but realize that they are moving into a difficult league with the likes of Toledo, Harrisburg, Regis and Santiam Christian. Regis has been a 2A power in almost every sport, and Santiam Christian is a school on the rise.

Monroe ends a longstanding rivalry with Harrisburg by moving into a 2A league that has combined schools from the Trico, Big Fir and Southern Cascade leagues.

The Dragons will continue to face Central Linn and Oakridge, and will introduce themselves to Oakland, Glendale, Riddle, Yoncalla, North Douglas and Canyonville Christian.

The Mountain West League hardly changes at all now that Mohawk was able to stay there.

Mohawk, Crow, Lowell, Mapleton and McKenzie all moved down from the Trico League in recent years and formed good rivalries with one another and Triangle Lake in recent seasons.

Those schools that moved down from 2A all found success in their new league and some have even won state championships at the 1A level.

That is called competitive balance, and it is the model that the OSAA figures a few more schools should be able to follow with two new classifications.

CAPTION(S):

Sheldon High School's football team is likely to take a 46-game league winning streak to its new league next year.
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Title Annotation:Sports; Despite the increased travel distance, the changes for next year should be a positive for most teams
Publication:The Register-Guard (Eugene, OR)
Date:Nov 1, 2005
Words:1373
Previous Article:Sheldon rolls past Colts.
Next Article:Usual suspects rounded up for soccer playoffs.


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