Union, Cove closing in on co-op
UNION — Union and Cove high schools are almost set to combine forces on the gridiron next fall.
School boards in both communities voted unanimously to approve a football co-op between the high schools. The Cove School Board approved the proposal by a 5-0 vote at a special meeting on Thursday, while the Union School Board voted 4-0 in support of the proposed co-op with their Union County neighbors Wednesday.
“I’m tickled. It is just good for the kids. Let’s do it,” said Union School Board member Mark Wing.
Union School Board member Tim Rynearson has a similar sentiment.
“I see it as an opportunity to do something which is mutually beneficial for the kids (at UHS and CHS),” Rynearson said.
The football players and staff at Union were surveyed earlier and everyone voiced support for the proposed move, said Union School District Superintendent Carter Wells. A similar survey at Cove High School also revealed support for the move, said Meg Moore, chair of the Cove School Board.
“I feel good about it. It really addresses the safety issue,” Moore said.
The Wapiti League and the Oregon School Activities Association now must provide votes of approval before the co-op is official.
The Union School Board voted to create the co-op at the request of the Cove School District. Cove officials made their request after the OSAA boosted Cove from the Class 1A level to the 11-man Class 2A level beginning with the 2014 season.
The decision, made in October, means Cove will be one of the smallest high schools in the state at the 2A level next fall.
Cove, which has about 98 students, faced the prospect of regularly playing 2A schools almost twice its size. This prompted concerns about the safety of players, which were expressed repeatedly by Cove community members, said Cove School District Superintendent Bruce Neil.
Cove officials considered two options to address the issue. One was to leave the class 2A Wapiti League the school has been assigned to play in and play 8-man football as an independent. The move would allow Cove to play more schools of similar size. Cove has been playing 8-man football since about the 1960s. The formation of a co-op with Union was the second option.
A Union-Cove co-op team would still play at the 2A level since the combined enrollment of the schools would be at or just below the Class 2A limit, according to OSAA calculations.
A Union-Cove co-op would compete against Burns, Elgin, Enterprise, Grant Union and Imbler in the Wapiti League. Individually, Burns has the top enrollment in the Wapiti League with 181 students based on OSAA calculations. Grant Union is second with 151 students.
Cove would would likely find itself outmanned against such schools on the gridiron. The situation would be compounded by the youth of the team next season. The majority will be freshmen and sophomores. A Union-Cove co-op would give younger players time to develop before taking on athletes from bigger schools.
“This will allow kids to compete against kids of the relatively same age and skill level,” Neil said. “They will learn and grow.”
Rynearson agrees, adding with more players a stronger junior varsity program could be established, benefiting young athletes from both schools.
Details remain to be worked out, including where games would be played, where practices would be conducted and how coaching responsibilities will be delegated.
“It is all positive but there are logistics to work out. The positives outweigh the logistics,” said Union School Board member Beth Stewart.