By Dave Ruthenberg, Sports Editor
Enid News and Eagle
Are the days of the Jenks/Union Evil Empire coming to an end? Probably not, but they may find themselves in a different galaxy, opening up a world of championship possibilities for other schools such as Enid.
A proposal presented Wednesday to Oklahoma Secondary School Activities Association’s Board of Directors that would add Class 7A to high school football is getting a lot attention and may actually come to fruition.
“I’m hearing positive things about it, and that it may happen,” said Enid head coach Steve Chard.
The imbalance in what currently is the state’s highest classification (6A), where a handful of schools with robust enrollments have dominated the classification, could finally be resolved if the OSSAA’s Board of Directors takes up and approves the proposal at its December meeting.
If the Board approves it, the proposal would then go to a full vote of all 32 current members of 6A, including Enid. If it receives approval from a majority of the 6A schools, the new classification likely would be instituted in 2014 when new districts are established.
The proposal would send the 16 schools in 6A with the highest enrollments into 7A, while the remaining 16 would retain 6A status. Enid currently is 19th in enrollment in 6A and, under the proposal, would remain in 6A.
Both 6A and the proposed 7A would consist of two eight-team districts with 12 teams making the playoffs. District winners and runners-up would receive first-round byes.
The schools that would make the move to 7A would come from east schools Tulsa Union, Jenks, Broken Arrow and Owasso (the four largest) and the remaining 12 from the Oklahoma City metro area.
The 6A championship has been won by either Jenks or Union every year since 1996. Broken Arrow has the largest enrollment (4,586), followed by Union (4,237), Jenks (3,077) and Owasso (2,628). Enid has an enrollment of 1,678. The smallest school, in terms of enrollment, among current 6A members is Tulsa Washington with 1,287 students, or 72 percent fewer students than Broken Arrow.
It’s a ridiculous situation that has been crying for a resolution, but with the Tulsa area school systems not willing to build more schools to accommodate their burgeoning populations (something OKC area schools have done), there has been little hope for a solution until potentially now as it is felt that most 6A schools would approve the proposal.
It’s a plan Chard endorses. The Plainsmen have not won a state championship since 1983 and made it to the finals in 2006, falling to Jenks 28-7.
“I think you have to be careful about overreacting to it, but obviously the chance to win a title would be a more reasonable goal than it’s been, and I don’t think that’s a cop-out because there is no discrepancy enrollment-wise in any other class except ours (6A),” Chard said.
The Plainsmen head coach compares the proposal to a similar system in use in Texas where the top class is divided into two divisions for playoffs.
“That’s all we’re trying to do is balance it by enrollment,” said Chard, who believes there would be sufficient support among 6A schools if the proposal comes to a vote
“It’s a good, proactive move,” he said. “I hope it works out. I think there is good support for it and the reason some of the big dogs aren’t going to have a problem with it is because they are going to get a bye. I think it’s a win-win. Nobody is going to cry that’s it watered down anyway because all Union and Jenks have done is beat other, so that probably won’t change a lot.”
But it will give teams, especially those in the lower half of enrollment in 6A, some hope and avoid being hopelessly overmatched in district contests.
“I have no complaint about how it’s been, because nobody had a real good example of what to do,” Chard said. “There hadn’t really been a workable proposal that addressed it. It (the current proposal) will squeeze the numbers so you don’t have quite the discrepancy you have when Enid or Putnam City West or even Midwest City is playing Broken Arrow and you have a 4,000 student discrepancy. That’s comical.”
And he believes the plan will offer teams a chance to focus on a title as a realistic goal.
“It is disheartening on the east side to know if you don’t finish 1-2 every year you are playing Broken Arrow or Jenks in the first round, “ Chard said. “For guys like us and Bartlesville and Ponca City, it would not be so deflating to look at the season. It’s not going to hurt anybody. I think it’s a real neat idea and it’s only fair.”
Fairness and 6A football? What an odd combination. They may finally be on to something here.
Based on current enrollment, here is a breakdown of the schools that would comprise the proposed new classifications (current enrollment in paranthesis):
Proposed Class 7A
1. Broken Arrow (4,586)
2. Union (4,234)
3. Jenks (3,077)
4. Owasso (2,628)
5. Mustang (2,473)
6. Edmond North (2,069)
7. Moore (2,153)
8. Yukon (2,131)
9. Norman North (2,069)
10. Edmond Memorial (2,048)
11. Westmoore (1,982)
12. Edmond Santa Fe (1,973)
13. Southmoore (1,955)
14. Putnam City North (1,953)
15. Putnam City (1,732)
16. Norman (1,729)
Proposed Class 6A
1. Lawton (1,722)
2. Bartlesville (1,701)
3. Enid (1,678)
4. Sand Springs (1,550)
5. Muskogee (1,541)
6. Ponca City (1,478)
7. Choctaw (1,473)
8. Putnam City West (1,464)
9. Midwest City (1,443)
10. Stillwater (1,441)
11. U.S. Grant (1,415)
12. Sapulpa (1,393)
13. Tulsa Hale (1,359)
14. Lawton Eisenhower (1,339)
15. Bixby (1,336)
16. Tulsa Washington (1,287)
Ruthenberg is sports editor at the News & Eagle. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.