By Dave Ruthenberg, Sports Editor
Enid News and Eagle
ENID, Okla. —
Weep not for the nearly departed, for their departure may only be temporary.
When the Tulsa Union Redskins left Enid Friday night with a 52-0 victory, it may have been the last time the Plainsmen will have had to face the football bullies of 6A, at least for a couple of years thanks to the new Class 6A split that will place Enid in 6A-II for the 2014-2015 seasons, while Union remains in 6A-I. And Friday night’s game was a glaring example of what is wrong in 6A that, unfortunately, will only be partially alleviated by the new 6A split.
Before anybody castigates the Plainsmen for the loss, or the fact that they have now lost 18 straight to the Redskins, a rather devastating fact was recently reported by Mike Brown at the Tulsa World newspaper regarding Union and its brother-in-arms, Jenks. Going back over the past 15 seasons, and excluding Jenks’ forfeit losses from 2008, Union and Jenks are a combined 130-2 in the month of October and both of those losses came in 2011 when Owasso beat Union ending the Redskins’ string of 14 district titles and Broken Arrow topped Jenks for a district title. By the way, for those noticing, yes, that’s all four of the largest 6A schools.
Consider though what that mark in October means. It represents complete and utter domination by the two schools in district play over every other opponent — opponents that are overwhelmingly outmanned, outspent and as a result, outclassed on the gridiron. Over the past 17 years, the Class 6A crown has been worn by either Jenks or Union.
Union has more than 4,300 students. Compare that to Enid’s approximately 1,730. Union’s enrollment is double that of 22 other current members of 6A and the numbers lend themselves to an enormous advantage over the majority of 6A schools. For years there have been cries for the Tulsa schools to split as the schools in the OKC metro have done. Clearly, that’s not going to happen — they don’t want to give up their obvious advantage despite the fact that Union could easily split and not have to build a single building since it already is so large it has separate campus buildings, one for freshman and sophomores and one for juniors and seniors.
Money also flows freely into the Union athletic coffers, with the school making more money from football gate receipts in a season than most 6A schools’ entire annual athletic budgets.
On Friday night, Union arrived with a roster of 151 players. Nobody on Union plays both ways, while nearly every Enid player plays both sides of the ball. The advantage is their players are fresher. Of course, Union also has the advantage of drawing from a large urban base and will likely always possess a talent advantage, but with its current numbers, that advantage is of preposterous proportions.
You won’t hear most 6A football coaches complain publicly because it would come off as sour grapes, and most will cite the company line about Union (and Jenks) having great championship traditions, but scratch the surface and you will find near agreement outside of the Big 4 of the futility and ridiculous prospect of competing against the likes of Union.
While splitting 6A is a start, and may be the only step realistically able to be undertaken, it does not solve the inequity. Next year there still will be at least 12 teams that are in the same boat against the Big 4, and while Enid will be spared facing Union in 2014 and 2015, current enrollment projections indicate Enid likely will be bumped back up to Division I in 2016 and will have to again contend with either Union or Jenks on a regular basis, making Union’s departure from Enid’s schedule only temporary.
The solution remains elusive outside of splitting the schools.
Some have suggested just letting the Big 4 compete among themselves and schedule a bunch of non-district games to fill out their schedules, maybe with teams from outside of Oklahoma, but that is unlikely to happen as when that does occur, schools like Union, which was hammered 44-20 on the road against DeSoto, Texas, to open the season, don’t particularly enjoy having the shoe on the other foot.
Apparently, it’s a lot more fun to strut around as the big bully on the block, claiming championships, no matter how hollow those titles may be.
Ruthenberg is sports editor at the News & Eagle. Contact him at email@example.com.