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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What began with spring football and summer pride weightlifting, 7-on-7 passing leagues and team camps, ends Saturday.

Players on five of the six teams in this weekend's Oklahoma high school football championship games will have played at least 15 games. All six will have participated in months of the offseason work.

That's a lot of football.

And to think, in 1954 the people who ran state high school sports drew the line at 11.

“Too much football” was the proclamation when the Oklahoma High School Athletic Association, as it was called in those days, voted to cancel the 1954 playoffs.

That's right. You won't find a letterman's jacket anywhere with a legitimate patch that reads “1954 state football champs.”

The OHSAA felt there was “too much emphasis on winning” and “increased pressure on coaches,” when it voted in October 1953 to cancel the next season's playoffs.

On the Oklahoma Secondary Schools Activities' Association website, on the page listing past football champions, 1954 says, “No championship due to membership vote of ‘too much football.' Had regular season games only, but were reinstated the next year.”

The vote was taken the association's annual business meeting, but, according to reports, representatives from a large number of schools weren't present.

A Nov. 3, 1953, Daily Oklahoman column by sports editor John Cronley reported, “with more than 200 schools playing the grid game, only 122 votes were cast.”

The official vote was 78-44, in favor of not having playoffs.

Cronley's column went on to lambaste the association's decision.

“Where is the harm in giving the boys something extra to play for, a giant goal each year, an added incentive to strive for, an objective of which to be so proud if achieved?” Cronley's column asked.

“Why not decide on the field of battle just what teams are supreme? Isn't that the basic aim of all sports?”

Polls and the general sentiment of Oklahomans at the time were firmly for a playoff system.

A Nov. 15, 1953, column by Daily Oklahoman sports writer Lew Johnson said: “In our travels around the state, and during chats with coaches, players and fans, we have found the people to be angry and disgusted with the association.”

A Nov. 8, 1953, letter to the editor from Ada resident W.A. Hubbard called the football playoff system “the most progressive move made by the Oklahoma Highschool Athletic association in the past 20-odd years,” and the playoffs' abolition “the most retarding.”