The OSAA is hopeful that practices for Season 2 will begin Dec. 28.
The OSAA is hopeful that practices for Season 2 will begin Dec. 28.

Responding to concerns about travel and transportation during the COVID-19 crisis, the OSAA will not require schools to participate in their assigned leagues and special districts in 2020-21.

The decision comes after meetings of the delegate assembly Monday and executive board Wednesday. The OSAA released an update Thursday that provided direction on scheduling and its impact on power rankings and potential culminating-week events.

In the memo, the board instructed schools to prioritize local and regional play, even if it means competing outside of a school's classification.

“I think many schools will continue to play in their league because their leagues make sense, but there are some areas where you may be crossing four or five counties within a league,” OSAA executive director Peter Weber said. “If you can play closer to home, that's probably a better fit at this point.”

The OSAA encourages schools to work collaboratively to fill their schedules. Many schools have been eager to complete their schedules but were waiting for information on culminating weeks, according to Weber.

“We don't have all those detailed out, but the thought is that we know that there are schools in areas, because the leagues are so spread out, that they may not be able to participate in their league schedule,” Weber said.

Recognizing that the change in schedules will reduce the number of in-classification contests, the OSAA has opted not to use its ranking system for 2020-21. The decision will remove the incentive to travel and boost a team's ranking.

“If I'm not worried about a ranking, and I'm just worried about playing in close proximity with local and regional play, then maybe people could get their scheduling going,” Weber said.

Scrapping the rankings, which have been used to seed the state playoffs, means that sports must devise a different plan to determine qualifying for potential culminating-week events. Contingency groups from each sport already have discussed forming committees – composed of athletic directors and coaches – to assume the task.

The culminating-week issue was one of the main topics of discussion for the delegate assembly.

“The messages that we got pretty loud and clear from those groups was wanting to have some type of meaningful event for kids,” Weber said. “They know that it may not look like traditional state championships. It may not be a state championship at all in some activities. The message was more about maximizing the participation opportunities.”

The OSAA is currently in Season 1, an open period for all sports that started Aug. 31 and goes through Dec. 27. Practice for Season 2 – which includes winter activities wrestling, basketball, swimming, dance/drill and cheerleading -- is set to begin Dec. 28.

Currently, the Oregon Health Authority prohibits contact sports. All winter sports, except for swimming, fall in that category.

The OHA also does not permit indoor sports competitions for schools with comprehensive distance learning. Under current guidance, the only winter sport that would be allowed is swimming for schools with hybrid or on-site learning.

The OSAA is hopeful to make a decision about Season 2 on or before the next meeting of the executive board Dec. 7. Weber said that “something will need to change” in the state guidance for all winter sports to participate.

“It's Oct. 15, so there's still time,” Weber said. “We know that schools and communities want to have answers to what everything is going to look like. Frankly, we would like that, too.

“Not that we want to push it off, but the longer you can wait and hopefully try to get to yes, the better off we are. If you can wait as long as feasible, I think the board is willing to try to do that.”