Majors win streak just one casualty of OSSAA dead period

Enid Majors' Connor Gore is greeted at home plate by Maison Steelmon (14) after hitting a 3-run home run against DFW Twins July 19 during the Connie Mack Regional Tournament at David Allen Memorial Ballpark. The Majors were 19-2 prior to the OSSAA dead period, but lost five of their last seven games afterward. (Billy Hefton / Enid News & Eagle)

ENID, Okla. — The Enid Majors were on a roll, having won 11 straight games and were owners of a 19-2 record through June 25. Then everything came to a mandated halt due to the Oklahoma Secondary School Activities Association's newly imposed dead period. By the time play was allowed to resume, the winning streak was gone and the Majors finished the season losing five of their last seven games.

"The dead period obviously got us. We never got our momentum back," said former Enid Majors head coach Chris Jensen. "We were rolling. Not to say we were going to be world beaters, but I thought we would have performed better if we had a chance to play."

The Majors' winning streak wasn't the only casualty of OSSAA's dead period rule which prohibited contact between secondary school student athletes and coaches. The new rule also prohibited the use of any high school athletic facilities during the period of June 29-July 7. It was passed by a vote of 9-3 by the OSSAA board of directors.

OSSAA executive director David Jackson, responding to an email from the Enid News & Eagle, stated there was widespread support for the dead period among member schools.

"The Dead Period policy was developed and voted on by the membership of the OSSAA," Jackson said. "Those 482 schools voted overwhelmingly to 1. Have a Dead Period 2. When to have it. 3. How long it would last. It was decided last May, but was not implemented until this summer to allow adequate time to disseminate information."

But the rule unexpectedly impacted several activities that didn't appear to have a direct relationship to OSSAA governed high school sports.

"I agree maybe there needs to be a dead period, but they just grouped every sport into one," Jensen said, adding that some consideration should have been given to having a "different dead period for different sports. It's a tricky situation, but I felt baseball kind of took the brunt of it."

The dead period affected the Majors, even though they are not a high school team under OSSAA's jurisdiction.

"We do run the Majors' program through our baseball booster club, so it's connected that way," Jensen said. "I think there's three things if they explained it to me properly — having to do with being a school employee, using a school facility and involving a school student. If two of those things touch, the deal's off."

While the relationship seems a bit of a stretch for the Majors, it was even more so for the Bartlesville Indians baseball team during their 60th annual Glen Winget Tournament.

They were prohibited by OSSAA from playing their tournament games in their home stadium due to the fact Doenges Memorial Stadium also is the home ballpark for the Bartlesville High School baseball team. The Indians, though, merely lease the stadium. OSSAA's ruling forced the Indians to play their games at another site — Oklahoma Wesleyan's unlighted practice facility — but teams from Arkansas and Missouri were able to play at Doenges.

Similarly, the Three Rivers summer baseball team was forced to move its game against Shawnee.

While the rule did seem to impact summer baseball disproportionately, it was far from the only sport or sporting event impacted.

• USA Track and Field's junior Olympics regional in Catoosa was forced, with one week's notice, to find a new location for its event when OSSAA ruled it could not be held at Catoosa High School's track. Emporia State University in Kansas was able to provide a venue and save the event, which only comes to Oklahoma every four years. However, loss of the event cost the Catoosa area revenue from out of state visitors.

• The Firecracker swim meet in Edmond, viewed as a major tune-up for sectionals, took a serious hit when Oklahoma secondary school students were unable to compete as it was being held at the home pool for Edmond schools. Athletes from neighboring states and college age students were not impacted and were able to compete and take advantage of the tune-up meet.

• OSSAA's strict adherence to the new rule also impacted a 12U baseball tournament when one of the coaches was barred from coaching his son's team because his son is entering seventh grade this year.

While OSSAA has no exceptions to its new dead period rule, neighboring Kansas does. Kansas State High School Activities Association's dead period has an exception that, if adopted by OSSAA, would have allowed several of the impacted events to proceed without interruption.

KSHSAA's exception states "students may be permitted to participate in events/competitions at a school facility if an outside agency/group/organization leases the facility for competition and organizes the event."

OSSAA's Jackson indicated changes could be on the table for the future regarding the dead period.

"As far as revisiting the policy, it will certainly be an agenda item for our annual area meetings in October," Jackson said in his email.

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Ruthenberg is sports editor for the Enid News & Eagle.

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