WILSONVILLE – North Salem High School’s petition to the Executive Board of the Oregon School Activities Association to move down a classification and play against smaller schools was unanimously approved Monday.
That means beginning with the 2018-22 time block, Salem’s oldest public high school will no longer compete in the state’s highest classification.
North Salem will remain in the Greater Valley Conference, which includes Salem-Keizer public schools McKay, McNary, South Salem, Sprague and West Salem, through the 2017-18 school year before moving down.
In theory, it provides North Salem with a better opportunity to be competitive athletically in sports across the board.
“I definitely see both sides to it,” said first-year North Salem athletic director Brodie Cavaille, a North graduate who participated in football and baseball during his high school days. “It’s a number game.”
Cavaille noted that North is not fielding a varsity girls basketball team this season, electing to play junior varsity and freshmen schedules. There are 14 girls in the program.
The Vikings also have struggled in football, winning the Mayor’s Trophy in their rivalry against South Salem last season for the first time in nine years.
“(North coaches) have the knowledge to coach them up,” Cavaille said. “They don’t have the kids to coach up in some of those programs.”
Four schools petitioned to move down a classification – North Salem (6A), Warrenton (3A), Illinois Valley (3A) and Myrtle Point (2A).
North Salem and Illinois Valley were unanimously approved during Monday’s OSAA Executive Board Meeting because they met all four criteria:
- More than 50 percent of its students must be eligible to receive free or reduced-lunch.
- The school’s team sports – football, volleyball, soccer, basketball, baseball and softball – must have finished in the bottom 50 percent of the final OSAA power rankings at least 75 percent of the time in the previous three years.
- The school’s teams must have finished in the bottom 20 percent of the final rankings at least 50 percent of the time.
- The school’s teams had a winning percentage of 25 percent or less at least 40 percent of the time.
“Essentially it’s been a rubber stamp if they meet all four (criteria),” OSAA executive director Peter Weber said, adding that schools seeking to move up a classification have been approved upon request.
In the past three years, only North Salem’s baseball team had a .500 record among the OSAA-designated team sports.
McKay also met the OSAA qualifications to play down, but did not petition the OSAA to be reclassified. Schools are can only petition to move down one classification.
“At one point we thought we were together with (McKay) on this,” Cavaille said, adding that McKay has a higher student enrollment than North Salem.
Cavaille was initially opposed to moving down a level, in part because of the traditional Salem rivalries, but had a change of heart when evaluating the numbers, both in terms of win-loss records and the number of athletes participating in sports.
He said reaction from student-athletes and parents has “been all over the place.”
“Our point of view from my coaching staff and myself and those who work in the building at North Salem, and the community that we have spoken to is we want our kids to be successful,” Cavaille said. “Not just in the classroom, but also on the courts, on the fields and in their extracurricular activities.”
To be determined is what league North Salem would be part of beginning with the 2018-19 school year. The OSAA Classification and Districting Committee is considering six and five classification options with a decision likely coming in October.
In a best case scenario according to Cavaille, North will move down to 5A or 4A and could be in a league that includes Canby, Central, Dallas, Silverton and Wilsonville.
“The big goal is to put ourselves in a situation where we have like pools of athletes,” Cavaille said. “And I don’t mean by talent. I mean by numbers.”
ghorowitz@StatesmanJournal.com, 503-399-6726 or Twitter.com/ghorowitz