Umatilla Superintendent Requests Split EOL

WILSONVILLE – Citing travel distance and loss of instructional time in the classroom, Umatilla is asking to Oregon Schools Activities Association to slice the Eastern Oregon League down the middle.

The request came in testimony provided by Umatilla Superintendent and OSAA Executive Board Member Heidi Sipe during a board meeting on December 13.

Sipe was speaking to the board, requesting both Umatilla and Riverside be provided an exemption to play down to the 2A level. Citing her experience as a robotics coach, Sipe asked the board to consider coopertition, a concept in which “teams compete, and compete fiercely, but they also cooperate”.

In a prepared, written statement provided to and read during the board meeting, Sipe said, “We’ve tried to work out regional travel but have found some members of our league unwilling to cooperate. Burns has assured me they’ll work with us this round if Umatilla remains in the league; however, they’re but one team. I’d love to think that all teams would be willing to keep others in mind but too often I see teams only thinking of their Colley rankings and their own bottom line. While there’s a place for such strategy and planning, it should never be at the expense of kids or programs.”

Nyssa Superintendent Darren Johnson and Vale Superintendent Alicia McBride were provided copies of Sipe’s statement and asked for comment as Sipe declared “some members of our league unwilling to cooperate”. No comments were provided.

In an email to on Dec. 27, Sipe stated both Vale and Nyssa had made contact with her regarding her public statement and “I was a bit upset to hear from both Nyssa and Vale today regarding this.”

Sipe continued in her email stating “I’m unsure what I said that gave you the impression that we’ve had scheduling issues with Nysa and Vale due to Colley but that’s incorrect.”

Sipe’s proposal states “If average league travel exceeds 100 miles per team and there is a regional divide in which at least half of the league’s teams are an average of 50 miles or less in distance, the league must agree to a regional playoff model to reduce travel if two or more teams request such.”

Sipe’s plan would place Riverside, Umatilla and McLoughlin in the EOL West. Nyssa, Vale and Burns would be placed in the EOL East. At the end of a season, a state playoff berth would be determined only after the top team in the east played the top team in the west. As with other playoff scenarios, we can assume this would take place at a neutral site.

EOS will take this year’s fall season as an example. In volleyball, Burns (29-3 overall, 10-0 league) would have faced Irrigon (5-13 overall, 4-6 league) prior to the first round of the state playoffs. The winner of the match would advance to state.

Under the 2021-22 makeup, football and soccer was under special districts, not the Eastern Oregon League.

Sipe ended her presentation to the board requesting “language that requires leagues with travel concerns to work together, even when they don’t want to, because coopertition is good for kids.”