Claremore Daily Progress

April 12, 2013

COLUMN: Devalued titles only make it easier for Jenks, Union

CLAY HORNING
CNHI News Services

NORMAN — The revolution arrived quietly, long before Thursday.



Thursday was only the day it became clear, when OSSAA Class 6A member schools voted for the lesser of two evils, a plan to separate Class 6A high school football in the state into two different 16-team and two-district divisions, a Class 7A in everything but name, rather than an even nuttier idea to not separate into two divisions, yet somehow determine two state champions via two different playoff brackets.



Now, winning either one of Class 6A’s state football championships is akin to being best on your block.



Only a short time ago it appeared the Sooners were headed to the Pac-16 conference, and that the SEC might pluck off an additional two teams and create its own 16-team conference.



Now, to win a Class 6A football championship you need only best 15 other programs (or 14 in the lower division, while U.S. Grant is on sabbatical).



A state title if you say so.



Worse, it does nothing to slow down the advantages of the enrollment machines that are Broken Arrow, Union, Jenks and, more and more, Owasso, too.



Instead, it magnifies them.



The consensus is this was done in response to the east side behemoths’ dominance. Only Jenks or Union has claimed a state football championship in Oklahoma’s largest class going back to 1996.



Only it’s laughable.



Before, in addition to the Edmonds, the Moores, the Normans and a a rare big season out of Putnam City North and each other, the Trojans, Redskins and their ilk also had to worry about a really good team from Lawton, Midwest City, Muskogee or maybe Tulsa Washington stepping forward.



Only now, every Lawton school, every other Tulsa area school as well as the Bombers and Roughers are off the big four’s radars. And Norman High, the last team in big-division Class 6A, if the new plan was enacted today, could be the first school in lower-division Class 6A as soon as 2014.



Not only that, but you’ve now robbed the Normans, the Edmonds and Moores the full pleasure of knocking off Jenks or Union. Now, the state title any one of them might claim, fighting an uphill and against-the-odds campaign along the way, will only be in a quest to be the best among a group of schools only twice the size of the Mid-State Conference.



It won’t be the same.



The real selling point for the new plan? That’s easy, even if nobody’s talking about it.



It’s for the vast majority of Class 6A programs that have been competitive but not that competitive or not competitive at all.



Now maybe Enid, Sapulpa, Stillwater or Ponca City can threaten the second-round of the playoffs. Now maybe Putnam City, Putnam City West, Choctaw or Sand Springs can hang in the playoff hunt longer. And maybe just a little success can drive those programs’ numbers higher, incite fan interest to be greater and, just maybe, make everybody healthy enough to go back to a 32-team Class 6A sometime in the next 10, 15 or 20 years.



Too bad.



Nobody’s selling the only reason this plan might be worth buying.



Now it’s easier than ever for the dominant to remain dominant, no easier for those on the next rung to challenge and twice as hard for them to win any playoff game. At the same time, winning a state championship remains more difficult than winning your district.



Barely.



Also, the behemoths have even less reason to split themselves up — fast fact: three NHSes make up less than one Broken Arrow and two Norman Norths, Edmond Memorials, Westmoores, Edmond Santa Fes, Southmoores, Putnam City Norths or Putnam Cities still don’t make up one Union — unless they do it to create shorter road trips.



The season ends a week earlier, too. So basketball coaches will be happy.



I guess that’s something.