Owasso recently knocked off Jenks, 14-6, for the Class 6AI championship in Edmond on Dec. 6. It had been determined several weeks before the playoffs started that all 11-man football title games would be played at the University of Central Oklahomaís Wantland Stadium.
But now that the season is over, one state senator is sounding off on the Oklahoma Secondary School Activities Associationís decision to force Jenks and Owasso play in a championship game at the other end of the Turner Turnpike.
Sen. J.J. Dossett (D-Sperry) has proposed a bill that he hopes will generate conversation in next yearís legislative session that would allow school districts to determine their playing destination.
Skordle contacted Dossett this weekend and wanted to ask Dossett a few questions.
What made you want to put together the legislation to present it when the legislative session starts in 2020?
Basically, it was the outcry from my community. There are some people that donít like the idea, or the ideas that I have brought up. I purposely wanted until after the game had happened. I filed it on Monday after the game, because I didnít want it be become a distraction. Thereís enough of an outcry and a complaint that have a good point on why we played the game where we did and why we didnít play it where we had the last five, six or seven years. It worked out great for everyone involved when it was played at the University of Tulsa. I had to bring it up; I had to bring up the discontent that my community, Jenks and a lot of the Tulsa area have with the decision that was made by a state-wide group -- that forced this decision on us and did not seek our input.
It was basically left to the football coaches association to make this decision, and most of the people involved werenít going to face the ramifications of their schoolís decision. It was made against the two schools that were playing and were against the decision that was made.
There should be a way for more flexibility with your local school districts that are competing in this situation to be able to not have to go play at a place that was deemed Ďthis is the state championship site,í especially when there were all the problems of playing late on a Saturday night. There were going to be how many teenage drivers on the turnpike late on a Saturday night in December? And, the stadium was nowhere near able to hold our crowd.
All of this put together, in my mind, says we need to do this better and there needs to be a way to do this better. There needs to be a way that we can go play this game somewhere else. I mean, we could have played at Broken Arrow and it would have been able to hold our fans. We could have played in a bunch of different stadiums here in the Tulsa area.
I heard there were 8,000 fans at the game at UCO, and at TU there would have been 20,000, so we stopped people from coming to the game by putting that distance barrier there. Nobody wants that; we want the community to come to the game, if possible.
What would you say to the people that say Senate bill 1111 is a waste of everyoneís time and could be spent discussing something else?
There are thousands of bills filled every year -- some of them get picked up and some donít. It doesnít waste any more time in committee or on the floor. Itís the legislatorís job to conduct the peopleís business, so if a community has an idea or wants to change something, itís the job of the legislator to consider it and go forward from that. And I agree, this is not the most pressing issue in the state of Oklahoma -- I 100 percent agree -- but if thereís a problem, itís the job of the legislator to address an issue that their community is considered about. Senate district 34 up here in north Tulsa County, where we live, we definitely had a concern on this issue. Therefore, itís my job to bring forth such ideas, if the people of my district are concerned about it.
As a former coach, I would like to mention this: I absolutely do not care where weíre playing. We donít care where we play because we were going to win, and thatís the mindset they have. I speak only, and exclusively, from a community standpoint. The community has an opinion on this, and I happen to 100 percent agree with them. If I were still coaching for the Rams, I wouldnít care one bit.
So youíre advocating to play the games at the University of Tulsa, if thatís a viable option?
You have to ask, Ďis this the best we can get?í and I donít think the current option is the best we can get. Weíve seen what good looks like, and it was last year, the year before and the year before, when two Tulsa teams make the championship game and we fill up Chapman Stadium. In my opinion, the OSSAA wins unless something crooked is going on over there. Because if weíre doubling the amount of people going to the game, they make more money -- or thatís how I understand it. I donít understand at all why you wouldnít let local school districts make the best decision for them. If Idabel and McAlester were playing for a championship, then they need to go play that at Eastern (Southeastern Oklahoma State) in Durant. No sense in making those schools drive to Edmond. There needs to be a way out for those schools to be play, and play where it makes sense for the fanbase and a public safety standpoint.
What are your thoughts on playing the Class 6A championship games in Tulsa during the week that they currently use as a bye week?
Sure, that would be an option. Theyíve done the bye week because of the amount of teams in the playoff. Honestly, the whole 6AII thing has been a disaster. Itís handed Bixby a bunch of trophies, and itís been really messed up for my community and I was still coaching when all of it went down. I was still coaching at Owasso at the time. Itís ridiculous for us to travel to Moore -- to play Southmoore or Moore -- and a team that canít even fill up the home stands and play on a Thursday night. Like, why are we doing this? Why arenít we playing Sand Springs or Bixby or Muskogee during the regular season, and then do something different for the playoffs, if necessary?
The initiative to have all the championship games played at one site was pushed by the Oklahoma Football Coaches Association, but itís sounding like not all coaches were onboard with that proposal. How do you think that could have been handled differently?
On how the coaches association makes decisions, I do not know. I hear a lot about Texas, and they like it and thatís fine. From my point of view, if two Houston teams make the championship in any given class, for them to go all the way to Dallas is wrong. I donít buy into the notion of Ďwell, Texas does it this way, so we should do it this way.í Itís the same way with basketball and the big schools playing in Tulsa. If Edmond and Putnam City are playing in the finals, then thatís the wrong decision. Iím not trying to whine; Iím trying to do whatís best for our kids.
What kind of reception do you think this will get when you present it to committee?
Who knows. On these things, you never know. We have these kinds of battles: Tulsa vs. Oklahoma City or urban vs. rural. I will approach other legislators from a straight forward standpoint and say our local school districts are better off when local school districts are making decisions. We donít need state-wide entities or state agencies making blanket decisions for everyone. I have 100 percent faith that the Owasso administration, athletic director, superintendent and all of the above -- and same at Jenks -- would make the right decision for their kids. But when we had that responsibility over to a group of people that arenít in our community, then you donít get as good of an outcome. Thatís the way I see this situation playing out here.
There are some that say the Oklahoma legislature should stay out of high school sports. How do you feel about that?
I absolutely agree, if everything is running properly. The legislature cannot determine how the OSSAA operates within, because itís an agency with itís own control. There are three things in the statute that says schools will not be part of an association that does this, this or this. What Iíve done is adding a fourth. All my bill does is add language that school districts would have flexibility to pick their own locations for championship games.