ENID, Okla. —
The Oklahoma Football Coaches Association and the 8-Man Football Coaches Association are pushing a plan that would boost the number of schools allowed to play 8-man from the current 76 (actually 75 played in 2012) to 96.
Eight-man would be divided into three classes of 32 teams each. Currently, Class B has 40 teams, while Class C has 36 (35 played last fall).
“It would allow some of the larger schools to play 8-man if they wanted to,’’ said Deer Creek-Lamont’s Michael Thompson, the executive director of the 8-Man Coaches Association. “It would give 8-man a chance to grow, but protect the smaller schools.’’
Thompson points out flexibility is needed with more charter and private church schools joining the Oklahoma Secondary School Activities Association.
“We don’t want to disrupt anything,’’ Thompson said. “We just want to allow room for growth.’’
There were six private church schools playing 8-man last fall, three in Class B and three in Class B. First-year Crossings Christian played in Class A.
Having eight-team districts would allow for more flexible scheduling.
Some traditional rivalries have had to go by the wayside because of 10-team districts in Class B
Having nine-team districts in Class C causes a number of headaches when a team is on its bye week. They are usually forced to schedule a game from an often far-away district which is having a bye. That has resulted in Deer Creek-Lamont playing Forgan in the regular season the last two weeks.
“That’s a little further than people like to drive for a regular season game,’’ said Thompson, who doubles as the DCLA principal.
Thompson points out the landscape of 8-man can change because of economic reasons.
Wakita reached the Class C state finals in 1998 and came within a whisker of beating Balko for the championship. But there’s not even a Wakita High School now.
Freedom, under Andy Claborn was 11-1 in 1985 and 1986, but the Eagles haven’t had a team since 2003. They were 7-4 in 1999.
Now, there’s a question of whether 96 teams would want to play 8-man. Former 8-man power Cashion has done quite nicely in Class A, advancing to the state semifinals. That area is growing and the Wildcats could find themselves in Class 2A some day.
Morrison, which invented winning in Class B, hasn’t lost a step in 11-man, winning a state championship a few years ago.
Some schools that would be small enough to play 8-man, still prefer the 11-man game.
Woodland, though, did go down to 8-man after winning a state championship in Class A.
Pioneer would be a prime candidate to move back.
The Mustangs have had three straight losing seasons since moving back up to Class A in 2010 — 4-6, 4-6 and 2-8. Of course, Pioneer had three straight losing seasons in its last three years of 8-man. Pioneer’s reasons to move back to 8-man might be financial. They would be back with traditional rivals Waukomis and Garber among others. Of course, in Pioneer’s heyday, there was criticism the Mustangs should have played 11-man because they were a 2A basketball school.
One question would be does Class 3A, 2A and A need to be any smaller? There are 58 teams in each class. More than half the teams make the playoffs. Six districts have seven teams and only two have eight.
Thompson said a survey of coaches indicated a 146-34 vote in favor of the proposal.
Thompson also said he doesn’t know when the proposal may be voted on by the OSSAA’s board.
Campbell is a News & Eagle sports writer.