Bend high schools moving to new athletic league

Bend schools join Salem area schools in Greater Valley Conference

After a year of being bounced around from league to league, Bend’s three high schools — Bend, Mountain View and Summit — have been placed in a larger-school athletic conference with five Willamette Valley high schools, the Oregon School Activities Association executive board decided Monday.

Bend, Mountain View and Summit, currently three of the largest schools in the 5A class, will compete in the 6A Greater Valley Conference alongside five Salem-area schools: McKay, McNary, South Salem, Sprague and West Salem.

The change came after more than a year of meetings and proposals by the OSAA classification and districting committee, and another three hours of testimony followed by 90 minutes of deliberation. It will start with the 2018-19 school year and is approved for four years.

“It feels bad when nobody really wants you,” said Mountain View athletic director Dave Hood, referring to the fact that each 6A conference was clamoring to not have Bend high schools as league members to avoid traversing the Santiam Pass, especially during the winter season. “But I think everyone is excited to get on it and get going.”

“Competitively, this is a really good match-up,” Hood said. “Their schools are a bit bigger than our schools, but I think we match up competitively. It’ll be interesting to see what we can put together to keep things competitive and not travel quite as much. That’s going to be the big issue: How are we going to do this?”

Travel, including costs and time spent out of the classroom, has been a sticking point with each 6A conference that had been proposed to accept Bend, Mountain View and Summit as members. At just more than 130 miles away, however, Salem was the most ideal area for Bend schools to team up with as a 6A conference. The OSAA executive board voted 10-1 to adopt the final recommendation of the OSAA classification and districting committee.

“I don’t know if people (in Bend) are resting easier or if they’re relieved that we’re finally put with Salem,” said Bend High Athletic Director Dave Williams. “Logistically, for us, it’s a much easier travel itinerary. It’s a pretty straightforward trip (at) 2, 2½ hours (of driving).”

Currently, teams from Bend compete in the Intermountain Conference, which includes Bend, Mountain View, Summit, Redmond High and Ridgeview. In football, as part of 5A Special District 1, the three Bend schools have traveled to Pendleton (243 miles away), Hermiston (217 miles) and Hood River Valley (141 miles).

While area athletic directors can breathe easy knowing exactly what is in store for their respective schools, their work is far from done.

“Now, the real work starts,” said Hood, noting that there could be proposals to stack boys and girls events and have both teams travel together to minimize cost. Another plan could include having volleyball teams play two matches on Saturdays rather than having to travel twice in one week. Many from Salem have expressed discontent with adding the Bend schools to the Greater Valley Conference. During Monday’s executive board meeting, much of the testimony was from Salem residents and officials complaining about the change. But Hood said athletic directors in the Willamette Valley are eager to begin a new conference.

“We got an email after the last committee meeting (Sept. 25) saying, ‘Hey, we needed to support our community and our parents and our kids, but we’ve always felt that, competitively, we match up well. And we’re excited about forming a new league,’” Hood recalled.

Hood noted that the OSAA could be forming an ad hoc committee to create a different layout for football only. Basically, Hood said, the committee would reorganize the adopted classification model to create competitive balance among conference members.

Aside from that, however, the new six-classification model is complete, and Bend high school athletic directors are eager to begin their schools’ 6A futures.

“Obviously, we’re going to miss our IMC buddies,” Williams said. “But the three of us get to go and be with five new schools and create a whole new league with a whole new operation procedure. We get to map out what we want.

“Knowing we’re going to Salem and competing with those five schools is something that I’m looking forward to.”

— Reporter: 541-383-0307,