I respect the hell out of the Tulsa World.
Any publication that dedicates the resources it does to high school coverage and employs the likes of Barry Lewis and Mike Brown for those purposes gets more than a tip of the cap from me.
Heck, even its managing editor - Mike Strain - is a one-time preps writer for The Oklahoman who once donned football pads and practiced with the Bray-Doyle Donkeys for a story.
It’s good people.
With that said, I’m going to disagree - quite respectfully - with an editorial the newspaper ran Dec. 2 regarding the state high school football championships.
In case you weren’t aware, the OSSAA announced last month the University of Central Oklahoma’s Wantland Stadium in Edmond would be the host site for all 11-man football title games this year.
Five of those games will be played this weekend, two on Friday and three Saturday, in what will be a long-awaited buffet of football for Oklahoma fans.
Photo by Russell Stitt/www.stitt.smugmug.com
It will be reminiscent of the years when Boone Pickens Stadium was the host for all the title tilts.
However, Wantland might prove an even better atmosphere as the size of the fan bases won’t be engulfed in an oversized stadium.
It’s the OSSAA’s well-played response to public outcry - from coaches, member schools, fans, etc. - to “do it like Texas.”
In the Lone Star State, AT&T Stadium, the home of the Dallas Cowboys, is the host site for all of its title games. The stadium will host three championship games a day for four straight days beginning Wednesday, Dec. 18.
The attendance for last year’s 12 championship games was 228,105, which was an average of just over 19,000 per game.
Now, Oklahoma isn’t going to touch those numbers.
Population differences alone tell us that.
The fact high school football is a different beast in Texas than anywhere else in the world is another reason.
However, that doesn’t mean Oklahoma can’t strive to at least be “like” Texas.
OSSAA Executive Director David Jackson said as much in the press conference announcing the deal with UCO.
“A lot of our members see what goes on in Texas at AT&T (Stadium),” Jackson said. “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.”
The OSSAA approached UCO, a central location, and the university apparently jumped at the chance to bring in thousands and thousands of fans to its campus over two weekends.
What’s important for this to work is that everyone is on board.
That means no “but if” scenarios.
In some instances when the games were to be played in Stillwater, IF two Tulsa-area teams were matched up against one another, they sometimes met up at Tulsa University’s Chapman Stadium.
That’s not the case this year.
Jackson said the OSSAA’s talks with the Oklahoma Football Coaches Association, one of the strongest groups pushing for this, led them to this path.
“One of the positives 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.”
So when Jenks and Owasso play at 8 p.m. Saturday, they, along with their fan bases, will be making the trek down I-44 to Edmond...not the much shorter drive to the Tulsa campus.
The World feels it’s unnecessary.
“The unified, central location makes sense, except when it doesn’t,” the editorial states.
The World’s piece brings up some good points, which you can read for yourself in the link above.
But I feel it misses the point as a whole.
(Ed. note: Michael Swisher is speaking solely for himself in this column. His views don't necessarily represent those of the entire Skordle staff nor would he dare speak for fellow Skordler Ben Johnson who lives in the Tulsa area and might very well be violently shaking his head while reading through this column.)
To build Oklahoma’s state title games into an event in which even the casual fans want to attend, we’ve got to start somewhere.
This is the start.
If that means two Tulsa-area teams need to travel to Edmond to serve the greater good, then so be it.
This is good for football in the state of Oklahoma.
We’ve clamored for this.
It came to a head last year when title games were spread all across the Sooner State and played virtually at the same time, giving nobody a chance to take in multiple games.
Now we can.
It’s our chance to inch closer to the Texas model.
Heck, it’s our chance to inch closer to our own basketball model.
Small schools don’t care who they’re playing if they make it to the Big House in March.
Large schools aim to get to the Mabee Center, which appears to have cemented itself as the long-term site for 5A and 6A.
There wasn’t an uproar when the El Reno and Piedmont girls - representing schools separated by 20 miles in western Oklahoma - met up in Tulsa to decide last year’s 5A roundball champ.
Heck, Norman and Norman North girls met for the 6A state championship. I think they’re fairly close, yet in Tulsa they played.
Hennessey and Rejoice Christian played for the 2A boys gold ball. Stillwater would have been a great location.
But of course not…because The Big House is an experience.
We’ve made it that way over years of tradition building.
That’s why I support the move by the OSSAA, even if it inconveniences a few of our larger brethren.
This is a step in the right direction for fans, for football, for Oklahoma.
I hope we keep moving in this direction for years to come.