By Dave Ruthenberg, Sports Editor
Enid News and Eagle
ENID, Okla. —
Faced with an opportunity to make a daring play Wednesday to bring a semblance of equality and fairness into Class 6A high school football, the Oklahoma Secondary Schools Activities Association (OSSAA) chose instead to punt, essentially pinning Enid, and nearly every other 6A school, deep in its own territory without much hope for advancing.
Following last month’s OSSAA board meeting, there appeared to have finally been a solution put on the table for the longstanding imbalance in 6A that has seen Tulsa Union or Jenks win every 6A football championship for the past 17 years, including this year’s 55-20 destruction of Norman North by Jenks in the title tilt.
The proposal would have split the 32 teams in 6A into two divisions of 16 for playoff purposes, creating a Class 7A for the largest 16 schools, while the remaining 16 schools (which would have included Enid) would retain 6A status. Enid last won a championship in 1983 and lost to Jenks in the 2006 title game.
It was a proposal that would have placed the so-called “Big Four” of Union, Jenks, Owasso and Broken Arrow in 7A along with 12 Oklahoma City area schools.
How big is the disparity in 6A? The largest school, Broken Arrow, has an enrollment of 4,586 students, while the smallest, Tulsa Washington, has 1,287. That’s a chasm of disparity. Enid sits at 1,678, which under the defeated proposal would have made it the third-largest school in a reconstituted 6A behind Lawton and Bartlesville.
Technically, the proposal is not dead, but it is clinging to life support after the board sent it into limbo, first by shutting the door on sending the proposal for a vote of its membership, and then dispatching it back to its originating Constitution and Rules Review Committee for further review and discussion, where it is more likely to languish and die than be revived. OSSAA associate director nearly confirmed as much by stating there was no specific timetable for that committee to reconvene.
Tulsa area schools put on a full-court press lobbying effort to kill the proposal, offering no real substantive reasons to block the proposal other than it would infringe on their monopoly.
“We’re not saying the recommendation isn’t valid,” said Union athletic director Emily Warren, who wrote a letter to the OSSAA board. Warren told the Tulsa World “our fear is that at Wednesday’s board meeting, they’re going to send it out for a vote.” Heaven forbid.
Jenks’ athletic director Tony Dillingham told the Tulsa World he didn’t want the board to jump into a vote ... “because we don’t feel it’s been researched enough.”
Seventeen straight titles should provide all the research needed as well as a clear indicator of the real motivations of Warren and Dillingham.
Just earlier this week, OSSAA Executive Director Ed Sheakley gave reason for optimism for the proposal when he indicated he felt it was “the best plan” going forward.
But in the end, the Tulsa power brokers won out and it appears OSSAA dutifully backed down.
So, the message is clear for future 6A football players in areas like Enid: Go ahead young man, suit up and play your heart out and leave it all on the field every Friday.
And leave those championship aspirations at home.
Ruthenberg is sports editor at the News & Eagle. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.