One hundred years ago, in the year 1918, a flu pandemic killed more than 50 million people around the globe and an armistice declared on the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month ended World War I. In the United States, Daylight Savings Time was approved by the Congress. In Oregon, Republican incumbent James Withycombe was re-elected to the governorship, though he would die in office in 1919 just two months into his second team.
The year 1918 also was an eventful one in Oregon high school sports, as it represented the first meaningful attempt to organize the many school teams and laid the foundation for what today is known as the Oregon School Activities Association (“OSAA”).
Before 1918, Oregon high school sports were essentially unregulated. Some school teams played with current students and alumni. They took on other schools, played colleges and local YMCAs. Players were sometimes paid. Record keeping was spotty at best. There were no true state champions.
In 1918, administrators from 36 Oregon high schools met in Portland to discuss how best to address their shared recognition of the need for consistent eligibility rules for high school athletes. They concluded that an organization was needed to coordinate and regulate high school interscholastic competition and established rules on age, amateurism, attendance and scholarship. The resulting action was the formation of the Oregon State High School Athletic Association (“OHSAA”).
One year later, the OHSAA sponsored its first state championship, in boys basketball. Lincoln, which had been winning titles in the Portland League since 1907, was the first state champion. The undefeated Cardinals defeated Salem, 27-14.
By 1947, when the state association changed its name to the Oregon School Activities Association to reflect inclusion in the Association of activities outside of traditional athletics, such as choir, band, orchestra, solo music and speech, the OSAA was sponsoring state championships in athletics in boys track and field (commencement 1927), football (1940), men’s golf (1942), baseball (1946), boys tennis (1947) and wrestling (1947). The first championship for girls was introduced one year later, when the OSAA added swimming for both boys and girls to its docket.
By 1968, when the OSAA celebrated its semi-centennial, 239 member schools were in the Association, which administered 26 championships across four classifications. Volleyball came on board in 1974. Softball was added five years after that.
Today, at the ripe old age of 100, the OSAA is still growing and evolving. A total of 117 state championships in 19 sports and activities are administered over six classifications, including girls wrestling, which is new this year. There are 292 member schools.
From one state championship in one sport for 36 schools in 1918 to 117 state championships in 19 sports and activities for 292 schools 100 years later…what will the next century bring?
[Editor’s note: This “Centennial Story” is the first in a series of articles, which will appear several times each month, designed to celebrate and highlight the OSAA’s 100-year anniversary. To share story ideas, email John Tawa at [email protected]]