Future of 8-man football in question after recent OSAA proposal

·4 min read

Dec. 28—WILSONVILLE — The future of 8-man football in Oregon is currently up in the air.

The Oregon School Activities Association Football Ad Hoc Committee released its first proposal for the 2022-2026 football time block on Tuesday, Dec. 20, which suggested doing away with 8-man football among 2A and 1A schools. The public meeting on Dec. 20 proposed divisions of 9-man and 6-man leagues, which would alter the landscape of football in Union and Wallowa counties.

"It's a bummer they'd be getting rid of 8-man," Powder Valley head coach Josh Cobb said. "People are really starting to get behind this."

At the meeting, the OSAA Ad Hoc Committee met virtually and conducted a work session to begin the initial stages of reclassification. The committee also took into consideration the Oregon Athletic Coaches Association's small school survey, which took place in the fall and collected trends from the last five years of 11-man, 8-man and 6-man football.

After reviewing the information on hand, the committee came away in support of three divisions between 2A and 1A schools. Based on school enrollment, two potential sections of 9-man and one division of 6-man teams were drafted.

The potential divisions slated Enterprise, Cove, Elgin, Imbler and Union in the 9-man leagues, while Powder Valley, Wallowa and Joseph would play 6-man. The proposal raised eyebrows among several local coaches, such as Cobb and the 2021 1A state football runners-up Powder Valley Badgers.

"Eight-man just feels right," he said. "I see 6-man as a good thing for schools that truly don't have the student body."

The Badgers would be bumped down to the 6-man league, which Cobb is against, although Powder Valley could potentially request to jump up to the higher division. The Badgers are coming off an 11-2 season of 8-man football. There is no current deadline for teams to opt up or down in divisions, but the deadline will be determined at the next OSAA meeting in January.

"I don't want to play 6-man," Cobb said. "We have 30 kids on the team. There's not a participation issue."

OSAA emphasized in the proposal that participation in football was a key issue. The proposal noted that a transition to 9-man would allow easier scheduling between 9-man and 11-man non-league opponents, while the junior varsity levels could likely avoid cancellations if the roster size is smaller.

"The decreases in average team size over the last 10 years have been significant," the statement read.

The preference of keeping 8-man football was also expressed by Elgin head coach Kirt McClure. The Huskies are slated in the 9-man division, which could be a challenge for an Elgin team that had only 11 players on the roster. Even so, the Huskies went 4-4 in the regular season and earned a spot in the playoffs.

"I'm not really for it. It doesn't make sense to me," McClure said.

McClure expressed a similar sentiment as Cobb in that 8-man football has seen a bump in popularity in recent years. According to Cobb, many of the other 1A coaches he spoke with objected to the proposals. The 1A championship showdown between Powder Valley and Adrian on Nov. 27 drew a packed stadium at Baker Bulldog Memorial Stadium in Baker.

"Eight-man is growing, especially in our area," McClure said.

The proposals are still in the works but could be a looming issue for local coaches and supporters of 8-man football. The next OSAA Ad Hoc Football Advisory Committee meeting is set for 9 a.m. on Jan. 5, 2022, at the Holiday Inn in Wilsonville. The meeting's purpose is to gather public input on the proposed changes to 2A and 1A football.

"High school sports are all about opportunities for young adults. Six-man football takes two to three kids off the field per team — just don't see how that is beneficial," Cobb said. "Creating opportunities for kids to compete, promoting the desire to improve as a team and individually is the concept of high school sports."

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