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Proposed prep play plan may save plenty.

Byline: Steve Mims The Register-Guard

The latest plan for hybrid leagues in high school sports would reduce long-distance bus rides and, according to a district administrator, could save the Eugene School District up to $100,000 annually in travel costs.

"Every time you eliminate a six- or seven-hour bus ride, you've saved a job," school district athletic director Tim Carmichael said Friday. "This is a no-brainer, because in our world one bus ride equals one assistant coach. In this scenario our district could probably save a couple of science teachers.

"We will eliminate $100,000 in transportation costs."

The Oregon School Activities Association's classification and districting committee released its latest proposal for prep sports competition in the state on Friday. The committee is preparing a recommendation for consideration by the OSAA board in October, with changes to take effect in the 2010-11 school year. The long commutes required by the league arrangements implemented in 2006 have drawn vociferous criticism from many Eugene parents and school officials as disruptive and expensive.

The latest proposal reflects discussions between OSAA officials and athletic directors from the Midwestern and Southern Oregon leagues. It proposes hybrid leagues designed to put schools from different enrollment classifications but nearby geographic areas together in an attempt to reduce travel expenses.

"The committee continued to have consensus agreement that the hybrid approach for some areas of the state appears to be a better way to address travel issues than traditional alignments in which all leagues are limited to schools of the same classification only," the report said.

The proposed Midwestern League hybrid would consist of 6A schools South Eugene and Sheldon along with 5A schools Willamette, Churchill, Thurston, Springfield, North Eugene and Marist. The proposed Southern Oregon hybrid consists of 6A schools Roseburg, South Medford, North Medford, Grants Pass and Crater plus 5A schools Eagle Point, Marshfield and Ashland.

Schools from the Midwestern and Southern Oregon hybrids that are in the same enrollment classification would compete against each other for playoff spots. However, those schools would play each other only in varsity games, and only in some sports, during the regular season.

In that system, local freshman and junior varsity teams would no longer travel to face teams in the southern part of the state.

Carmichael, who serves on the classification and districting committee, said that could mean savings for the district.

"All sub-varsity sports would be played locally. All individual sports would be played locally," Carmichael said.

"You would save about 75 percent of transportation costs in my mind because you are not going to take the wrestling team or swim team or tennis and golf out of your area in the regular season. You would also not be missing as much class time and you're not telling sub-varsity parents they have to go to Medford and watch their kid play at 4 p.m."

The draft plan devised by the athletic directors would have Midwestern League varsity teams in football, soccer, volleyball, basketball, baseball, and softball play each Southern Oregon school in the same enrollment classification at least once. Except in football, Midwestern League teams in those sports would play every other team in their own hybrid as well. Those sports would compile standings during the regular season as they do now to determine playoff spots.

In varsity cross country, wrestling, tennis, golf, track, and swimming, schools in the same classification would meet at a postseason district tournament to determine playoff teams. Those sports would no longer have to travel out of the area during the regular season.

Dave Hancock, the South Eugene athletic director and boys basketball coach, said there has also been talk about saving additional funds by having boys and girls basketball teams, boys and girls soccer teams, and baseball and softball teams play at the same site instead of opposite sites as they do now. Currently, if South Eugene's boys basketball team is home against South Medford, for example, then the girls team is at South Medford on the same night.

"I like the fact (that under the proposal) you don't have to travel for all sub-varsity games, and I also like if we play boys and girls basketball on the same night, because that cuts our trips in half and cuts our home games in half so we don't have to pay as much for supervision," Hancock said. "It makes sense, and it develops better school unity because the boys and girls' teams are able to support each other."

The two hybrid leagues would consist of nine 5A schools and seven 6A schools, based on current enrollments, although some could move up or down if their enrollment changes before the OSAA executive board takes its final vote on reclassification.

In addition to cutting costs, the proposed scheduling system was also created to clarify how teams would qualify for the playoffs. There were concerns that if Sheldon and South Eugene were the only 6A schools in the Midwestern hybrid, then only one of them would make the playoffs. After the athletic directors met with OSAA officials that worry was lessened by putting the 6A schools from the two hybrids together.

"Our question was `In the event that playoff spots are combined between the North and South leagues, would you let both South Eugene and Sheldon go to state if they were the only two 6A schools in their league' and the answer was `Probably not'" Carmichael said. "Then `Could the schools in the North and South hybrids at the 6A level combine playoff spots and perhaps play each other in some but not all varsity team sports. Would that be OK?' and the answer was `Absolutely' so we produced this outline."

The committee report says scheduling in hybrids would be left to each league.

The classification and districting committee's next meeting is slated for April 20, at the Oregon Athletic Directors Association conference in Sunriver. The committee has its final scheduled public meeting of this school year on May 11 in Wilsonville, although it could add more meetings.

The committee will look at updated enrollment figures in the fall before presenting its final recommendation to the OSAA board in October. The board will vote then on a reclassification system that begins a four-year block with the 2010-11 school year.
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Title Annotation:Sports; A Eugene school official says a hybrid league could spare $100,000 in transportation costs
Publication:The Register-Guard (Eugene, OR)
Date:Apr 11, 2009
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