Once a far-fetched scenario, the Mid-Columbia Conference adding a school from south of the border continues to look more like it could be a reality.
In an effort to avoid moving up to the Oregon Schools Activities Association’s (OSAA) highest classification in the 2018-19 school year and joining the distant Mt. Hood Conference, Hermiston High School petitioned to join the WIAA in January. Over the past couple months, the WIAA and OSAA worked to draft a document outlining the criteria necessary for a school to gain membership across state lines, and on March 18, the Washington association’s executive board voted in favor of the document on its first reading.
The proposed criteria haven’t been made public, but Hermiston Athletic Director Larry Usher said the two key components are that a school must be facing a hardship, and its current association (for Hermiston, the OSAA) must be on board with the school leaving.
With those parameters, the Bulldogs like their chances if the criteria pass through the final two readings of the WIAA’s three-step approval process.
“Right now, we are cautiously optimistic, and we’re just making sure that we dot all of our ‘i’s and cross all of our ‘t’s,” Usher said.
“We’re hopeful and optimistic that Reading 2 and Reading 3 are going to go just as well as the first one did.”
The stakes for Hermiston are clear, and they’re high. If it plays in the Class 5A Mt. Hood Conference against Barlow, Centennial, David Douglas, Gresham, Hood River Valley, Reynolds and Sandy — one of two main options the OSAA is considering for realignment — Usher says Hermiston teams would each travel about 3,000 miles per season just to play their conference games, which is not only a financial burden but would also cause student athletes to miss a ton of school.
“We’ve done our homework, and there are no hardships anywhere near ours,” Usher said. “And not just in the Northwest, we don’t think there are any on the West Coast.”
Comparatively, the Bulldogs would rack up just over 630 miles to play all eight MCC teams (about an 80-mile round trip per game). Hermiston would also enter the WIAA as a Class 3A team, which the MCC would gladly welcome.
Right now, it appears time is the biggest hurdle Hermiston must clear to gain WIAA membership. Usher said its petition to join for the 2018-19 season must be approved by June 1 of this year.
“If it doesn’t get done until the summer, then our joining the association for the ‘18-19 season will be effectively off the table,” he said.