The Enid News and Eagle, Enid, OK

February 28, 2014

Play all games at Arena

By Bruce Campbell, Staff Writer
Enid News and Eagle

ENID, Okla. — No doubt Friday night, teams that won in the area winners bracket finals were shouting “We’re going to the Big House.’’

The big house, being of course, the State Fair Arena and not the state pen in McAlester.

It might not be Madison Square Garden or even Gallagher-Iba Arena or Lloyd Noble Center, but there’s no place a small school player would rather play in the state tournament.

The Oklahoma Secondary School Activities Association made a positive step a few years ago when it moved all of Friday’s games to the arena.

It may mean a 10 a.m. start for some teams, but that’s in the middle of a day for farm families, whose days begins at sun up.

Now here’s another suggestion.

Move all the games to the Arena. This can be done for Class A and B.

It would mean adding a day to the schedule, but what’s wrong with that?

Think how much easier it would be on fans if all the games were played there the first round instead of being scattered around.

One class could play on Wednesday and the other on Thursday. Friday and Saturday would be the semifinals and finals.

It would be an atmosphere similiar to the NAIA tournament in Kansas City, which has marathon sessions from 10 a.m. to about 11:30 p.m.

Fans could buy an all-day ticket and see the state’s best players. That would be basketball heaven for fans, who schedule their vacations for the state tournament — there’s a good number of fans from non-participating schools who are there.

Those schools fortunate to get both a girls and a boys team in, could have their fans see them back-to-back, instead of having to go from one gym in the afternoon to another at night.

With one ticket good for all day, crowd control would be better. There wouldn’t be the pain of having to empty the gym after the afternoon session.

It would be wonderful just for people watching. There are no fans more loyal or more intense than those in Class A and B. It’s really a community team. Everybody knows everybody else.

For sure, it would be easier on media coverage.

The OSSAA has frustrated the sports staff of this paper by often scheduling our area teams at the same time. Three northwest Oklahoma teams could be tipping off at 7 p.m.

More smaller papers would be able to cover more games. Most small papers usually can afford to send only one reporter, who can’t be three places at once.

Our friends at the radio station wouldn’t have to worry if their lines were in place at three or four different locations.

More importantly, every player would have a chance to play in the arena.

With OSSAA rotating classes every year at the arena, it’s possible for one class of players to make the state tournament three times and never get to play there.

I once had a friend play in the state tournament for McGuinness. He didn’t play in the game, but he was saying how much fun he had warming up.

All players in the state tournament should have that feeling.

Campbell is a News & Eagle sports writer.