In an effort to satisfy its membership and build up an atmosphere similar to basketball at “The Big House,” the OSSAA on Wednesday announced plans to consolidate all of its 11-man football state championships to one location this season.
The University of Central Oklahoma’s Wantland Stadium in Edmond will be the host site of seven title tilts over two weekends.
The announcement was made by OSSAA Executive Director David Jackson during a press conference at the association’s headquarters in Oklahoma City.
Joining Jackson were UCO Athletic Director Eddie Griffin as well as Justin Jones, executive director of the Oklahoma Football Coaches Association.
“The University of Central Oklahoma has some of the best facilities in the nation and will provide a first-class venue for this championship,” said Jones, head coach at Norman North High School. “The student-athletes, coaches and communities who are fortunate enough to make it to the state championship game will no doubt walk away with a once-in-a-lifetime experience.”
The OFBCA has long voiced its desire to host title games at one site since the OSSAA’s contract with Oklahoma State University ended in 2013.
The OSSAA has been receptive, but also faced an obstacle.
“A lot of our members see what goes on in Texas at AT&T (Stadium),” Jackson said, referring to the Lone Star State hosting all of its state championships at the home of the Dallas Cowboys.
“Where they (the membership) understand we don’t have an AT&T…they still wanted to at least pursue something that might work for us. But finding that one site was always the challenge for us.
Jackson and OSSAA staffer Mike Whaley entered discussions with the university.
“UCO was very interested when they were approached this time,” Jackson said. “The excitement that they have shown us in wanting to do this goes a long way because that shows they’re going to make sure our students have a great experience there.”
Jackson said the agreement is a one-year “trial run” but the hope is for a longer agreement. The desire is also there, he said, to develop an atmosphere that attracts the casual football fan, not just those of the competing teams, much like the state basketball tournaments in March.
“We hope that after we finish with this that we can both see this as a win-win and find a way to make it a long-term agreement because we like the prospects of that and what we can do in addressing what our membership is asking for,” Jackson said.
There will be no exceptions to UCO playing host, Jackson said.
For instance, if Jenks and Owasso were to meet up for the 6A-1 crown, they won’t be making the shorter drive to Chapman Stadium in Tulsa.
“One of the positive s that went in pursuing this was working with the OFBCA and those are a part of that,” Jackson said. “So when we hear from the OFBCA that ‘we’re interested in that,’ we take that as everyone is interested in that.”
Jackson noted that smaller schools from the same geographic region might also have to travel a longer distance to meet up.
“But when you have a chance to go to a great facility and you’re treated well, it eliminates a lot of that skepticism of travel a ways,” he said. “We plan on playing these 11-man football championships at UCO.”
The first two title games will be played Friday, Dec. 6: Class 4A is scheduled for 1 p.m. and 6A-II at 7 p.m.
Three gold balls will be earned Saturday, Dec. 7: Class 3A at 11 a.m., 5A at 3:30 p.m. and 6A-I at 8 p.m.
Class A and 2A, which have five playoff weeks, will decide their titles Saturday, Dec. 14. Class A is slated for 1 p.m. and 2A at 7 p.m.