By Michael Kinney
The Moore American
The Oklahoma Secondary Schools Activities Association on Thursday changed the face of Oklahoma high school football.
With two options on the table, members voted 25-5 in favor of playing for two state championships in the state’s largest class. The move impacts all area high schools.
The dramatic alterations don’t come without critics.
"I don't believe any of the options were very good," Moore athletic director Chad Mashburn said. " We have catered to a few schools to get their way. This does not make it a level playing field."
Starting in 2014, class 6A will be split into two divisions consisting of 16 teams each. The larger schools will play in Division I and the smaller schools in Division II. The divisions will be split into two districts with the top four finishers from each district advancing to the postseason.
Each division will crown its own state champion in football, meaning class 6A will have two title games.
“I did not like either plan,” Westmoore head football coach Billy Langford said. “I did not talk to many coaches on this side of the state that liked either one. I think all that has been done is water down the state championship."
If their average daily enrollment stays where it is Southmoore, Westmoore, Moore, Norman and Norman North will all be placed in Division I with the larger schools. It includes Jenks and Union, which have won every football state championship since 1996. Their success may have been a catalyst for the changes.
“I know it had a huge impact,” Norman's Greg Nation said. “People think it all boils down to the fact that they are such big schools enrollment wise, which is true. But they also do things the right way with their feeder programs, middle school athletic programs and getting the community support and everyone buying into their vision. You can’t take that away from them. Their vision for the future involves every aspect of facilities for academics and athletics, which puts them in front of the pack.”
The smaller division will feature schools such as Midwest City, Stillwater, Lawton, Lawton Eisenhower and Muskogee. Many of the teams that have struggled to win games in 6A over the past few seasons will be in Division II.
“The schools that are winning the lower division state championship will love it,” Langford said. “The rest of us will probably feel the same way we feel about it now.”
Despite the dominace of Jenks and Union over the past two decades, several area coaches liked the current format of all 32 teams fighting for one gold ball.
"I just really think it takes something away from class 6A state championship," Langford said. "Now you just have to be the best of 16 schools. I do not believe a change was needed. The discrepancy between numbers of students from the top to the bottom still has not been addressed. There is still a huge difference between the top of the upper division and the bottom of the upper division."
The member schools could have voted for a second option that would have kept Class 6A divided into four districts, with two teams from each district advancing to the larger school playoff bracket and two teams from each district advancing to the smaller school playoff bracket.
However, the voters decided to go another way. What wasn’t an option was keeping the system as it had been since the formation of Class 6A: Thirty-two teams comprised of four districts playing for one state championship.
While Southmoore, Norman and Norman North voted for Plan A, Westmoore and Moore voted for Option B.
“I don’t believe any of the options were very good,” Mashburn said. “We have catered to a few schools to get their way. This does not make it a level playing field. Five years from now coaches will see it as a mistake. The problems will change and they will want to go back to the old way of doing it.”