1954 Oklahoma high school playoffs a victim of 'Too much football'

HIGH SCHOOL PLAYOFFS — The state athletic association voted to cancel the 1954 football playoffs because they felt there was “too much emphasis on winning” and “increased pressure on coaches.”
BY JASON KERSEY, Staff Writer, jkersey@opubco.com Published: December 7, 2011
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Between the 1953 and 1954 seasons, before Oklahoma had gone even one fall without high school football playoffs, momentum began building to get them back.

By the Oct. 29, 1954, association business meeting, the restoration of the playoffs in Classes A, B and C was No. 1 on the agenda.

Morris superintendent John B. Turner led the charge, speaking passionately at the meeting before the balloting. Turner first began lobbying for a playoff system in 1943.

Saying he represented the fans and student-athletes that weren't present, Turner went into an impassioned plea for the playoffs.

He blasted school officials for, “not supporting coaches who sweat for two hours every day, and thereby hold your jobs and get raises in pay for you by producing winning teams.”

He continued, saying that playoffs are, “a full expression of democratic process,” and that adding “manly competition in football stops juvenile delinquency.”

After Turner's speech, Classes A, B and C voted to restore football playoffs for the 1955 season.

Lineman Joe Rector and his Muskogee teammates never got to experience playoff football in high school.

The Roughers won the 1950 Class A state title, but were moved up to the new Class 2A with 15 other larger schools the following season, Rector's freshman year.

Muskogee and the 15 schools refused to participate in the “big-school” division playoffs.

“I vaguely remember the guys that were older than me going to playoffs and playing Ada and Chickasha,” Rector said.

“But it really didn't even occur to me that we weren't in the playoffs.”

The first Class 2A champion, Ardmore, was crowned in 1953.

But the next year, all of the postseason was off. Even when the Class A, B and C playoffs resumed in 1955, Class 2A stayed out of it.

The Class 2A playoffs were restored for the 1956 season.

Rector went on to play in college at Oklahoma, where he was a two-year starter, a two-time national champion and part of the Sooners' legendary 47-game winning streak.

But he still thinks about what might have been if his undefeated 1954 Muskogee team had competed for a championship.

“As I got older and talked to those guys who did go to the playoffs, it kind of made me mad,” Rector said. “It would have been interesting to see how far we would have gone my senior year. We thought we had a pretty good team.”

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