Hermiston, Oregon


The unique situation of a high school joining an out-of-state association took place in Washington this week (see WIAA release below) when Hermiston (Oregon) joined the Washington Interscholastic Activities Association (WIAA) as a full-time member.

Release below from WIAA on Hermiston-

6/5/2017 – RENTON, Wash. – The Washington Interscholastic Activities Association (WIAA) Executive Board took action to approve Hermiston High School’s (Hermiston, Oregon) application to join the Association, beginning with the 2018-19 school year. Hermiston will become the first out-of-state school to join the Association as a full member and has been accepted by the Mid-Columbia Conference.

The WIAA Executive Board formulated set criteria to be used as an evaluation tool for out of applications, working jointly with bordering state associations in Oregon and Idaho. The process, which began with the request by Hermiston in January, included gathering input from affected leagues and districts in Oregon and Washington as well as written support from OSAA.

WIAA Executive Director Mike Colbrese

“This was a unique situation for both Hermiston and the WIAA. The Executive Board worked closely with the OSAA and IHSAA to put measures in place to evaluate the situation at hand, and set a standard going forward.”

Hermiston would have faced a significant travel hardship based on the proposed changes to Districts and Classifications by the OSAA. Average travel for conference play was estimated at 404 miles round trip, per contest, as opposed to the average of 80 miles estimated in Mid-Columbia Conference play. The change will both reduced the amount of class time missed by student athletes, as well as limit the financial burden to Hermiston High School.

With the WIAA currently on a four-year classification schedule, Hermiston’s commitment will span through the end of the current cycle in spring of 2020.

Hermiston High School Athletic Director Larry Usher

“This move to the WIAA is the right thing for our students. Our situation will be much improved in regards to travel distance, lost instructional time, and budgets.”

Hermiston Schools Superintendent Dr. Fred Maiocco

“Hermiston is also tied culturally and geographically to the Tri-Cities of Washington. Our communities have a shared heritage dating back to the Lewis and Clark expeditions. This action by the WIAA permits us to strengthen and deepen the cross-border community partnerships which naturally exist between Hermiston, the Tri-Cities, and Walla Walla.”

Hermiston will be a full member of the WIAA for all sports and activities programs and will qualify for postseason play as a member of WIAA District 8. Action was passed Monday which approved the request of Mid-Columbia Conference Schools Chiawana, Hanford, Kamiakin, Kennewick, Pasco, Richland, Southridge and Walla Walla to District 8.

In a story today (6-6-17) in the Bellingham Herald, Canadian High Schools from British Columbia might be next in line to join the WIAA.

WIAA executive director Mike Colbrese:.

“The Board spoke briefly to the issue of Canadian schools joining the WIAA and feels that the criteria does address such situations, because each would be a case-by-case request.”

State associations accepting out of state schools is not unusual and does take  place across the country with stateline border schools in out-lying areas. Truckee High School (California) located on the eastern edge of the Sierra Nevada range , competes with schools from Reno, Nevada and the surrounding area and is a member of the Nevada Interscholastic Activities Association.  Also a member of the NIAA is Beaver Dam High School in Littlefield, Arizona, which is near the Nevada border.

Mt. Carmel

Another situation in the Midwest sees an Illinois school, Mount Carmel, compete in an all-Indiana conference (Big Eight: Boonville, Jasper, Mt. Carmel (Illinois), Mt. Vernon, Princeton, Vincennes Lincoln, Washington.) , but still retain its Illinois High School Association membership.

Tim Buss, District Superintendent of  Wabash CUSD 348

We were a part of the longest running conference North Egyptian Conference until it disbanded and we had no place to go and being an independent was not a great option for us. We got permission from IHSA to pursue an Indiana Conference so we did. It has been a great move for us. We play mostly Illinois schools for our non conference games. Our tough conference schedule prepares us for the Illinois State Tournament Series. We have had great success in that series and I believe it’s because the tough conference schedule we play in.

Both State Associations don’t have issues with the current Mount Carmel conference situation. Neither group has asked the Golden Aces to change associations and most likely neither want or are are looking to add out of state members.

Bobby Cox, Commissioner, Indiana High School Athletic Association

Mt. Carmel (Illinois) High School has never approached the Indiana High School Athletic Association with respect to joining the Association. Conversely, the IHSAA is not seeking membership of schools not residing inside the borders of our state.

What has occurred in Washington is unique. Similar to this scenario, I would have in-depth and extended conversations with the IHSAA Board of Directors along with Craig Anderson of the IHSA before entertaining any notion of accepting an Illinois school into the IHSAA membership. Even if these conversations were to occur, I sense it is highly unlikely that the IHSAA would accept an out-of-state school into its membership.

Current Indiana University All Big 10 and WBCA All-American honorable mention women’s basketball star Tyra Buss graduated and played for Mount Carmel during her high school career. Despite playing in the all-Indiana conference she was a two-time Miss Illinois in Basketball.  Girls high school basketball history in the Illini state would have been different had the Golden Aces been a member of the IHSAA.

In boys basketball this past season Coach Tyler Buss took Mount Carmel to the 2A IHSA State Basketball Championship game where they lost to Chicago Orr.

Matt Troha, Illinois High School Association, Assistant Executive Director

The IHSA by-laws would not allow for a high school from another state to join the IHSA. That could only be changed if a member school submitted a proposal to change that, and said proposal went through the Legislative Commission process and then passed via an all-school vote.

Also, according to Troha:

  • No special ‘hoops’ for Mount Carmel to jump through in playing Indiana schools in conference games as long as they are playing schools who are members of the IHSAA (which they are).
  • They would not need our approval to leave (IHSA).

Not every state is looking to add out of state schools in the future, but as the door opens around the country it might change how other associations view certain situations.  It’s another part of the changing landscape in high school sports.