High school football: Class 7A an awful idea
It was a busy week last week. College football hitting the homestretch. The NBA hitting its stride. College basketball tipping off.
I let an issue slide by without addressing it. But it’s so ridiculous, so asinine, that I couldn’t let go this absurd proposal of a Class 7A in Oklahoma high school football.
You’ve got to be kidding me.
The motivation behind the proposal is legit. The disparity in enrollment size among Class 6A schools is a concern. While the major suburban school districts in the Oklahoma City metro all have split into two or three high schools, none of the Tulsa suburban districts have done the same.
Which leads us to schools with enrollments of 4,586 (Broken Arrow) and Tulsa Union (4,237) competing in a class that includes enrollments of 1,335 (Bixby) and 1,339 (Lawton Eisenhower).
So the problem is legit. This proposed solution is awful. We do not need another class in Oklahoma high school football. Or any other sport. We’ve got too many as it is. Oklahoma now crowns eight state champions in football, including two eight-man champions, which is kooky.
The 7A proposal would split 6A into two 16-team classes, and each would quality 12 teams for the playoffs. Heck, at that point, just let everybody in.
There are two far-better ideas. One, I’ve been proposing for 20 years. It’s gotten no traction, probably because it doesn’t add a class and make it easier for anyone to win a state championship. The other, I’ll try out here for the first time.
The biggest competitive problem in Oklahoma high school sports is not the private school issue, which had everyone abuzz the last few years and has been addressed by bumping up a class successful private schools. That’s a bad solution, but it does address the clear advantages enjoyed by schools (private or public) that control their enrollment.
The biggest competitive problem is schools playing football games against opponents with more than three times their enrollment. So clearly, we need to eliminate some of the lower-enrollment schools in Class 6A and get them into a class with schools more their size.
My solution long has been to cut 6A to 24 schools. Go to four, six-team districts. That would give relief to eight schools — like Sapulpa and U.S. Grant, Stillwater and Tulsa Hale. It wouldn’t solve the problem for everyone. The 24th-biggest school in the state is Putnam West, with an enrollment of 1,464. But it would solve the problem for some.
After the 24, take the next largest 48 schools for Class 5A and the next 48 after that for 4A. That would then make 120 schools in 6A, 5A and 4A combined. Currently, there are 96 in those three classes. To bring it closer to the status quo in the middle classes, put 48 schools in 3A also. That would make 168 schools in 6A through 3A. Currently there are 154 schools in 6A through 3A.
The idea that Class 4A should have the same number of schools as 6A is just silly. Class 4A is a much more compact class in terms of enrollment. Currently, the biggest school in 4A is Ada (660 average enrollment). The smallest school is Cleveland (497). That’s not any kind of major disadvantage. In my plan, the biggest school in the new 4A would be Woodward (605); the smallest would be Inola (394). That’s about the disparity we currently have in 4A.
Without disadvantaging any school, we have given a reprieve to eight 6A schools.
Six-team districts would require more non-district scheduling, but in some ways, that would benefit most schools. They would control who they schedule — natural rivals, schools in geographic proximity, etc. And in the six-team districts, only two would make the playoffs. And that’s perfectly reasonable. Here’s the dark truth about Oklahoma high school football. The first round of the playoffs are a total joke.
Reader Don Rominger pointed out to me this week that of the 88 playoff games staged last week, the average margin of victory was 31.5 points. Forty-one of the games, almost half, were decided by at least 30 points, 26 by 40 points or more and nine by at least 50 points. I looked it up. Only 16 of the 88 games were decided by double digits. Only 30 were decided by less than 20 points.
Clearly, there are overmatched and non-competitive teams making the playoffs. Which means the playoffs have become bloated. Go to six-team districts in classes 6A through 3A — the routs were as prevalent in 6A through 3A as in the smaller classes — and make the regular season more meaningful.
The same general reconfiguration applies, except we limit 16 schools to Class 6A.
Take the bottom 16 in 6A and move them into 5A, with the upper half of 5A, forming a 32-team 5A. Then you could retain eight-team districts and keep four teams per district making the playoffs, if that’s so danged necessary. In that scenario, the biggest school in 5A would be Putnam West (1,464). The smallest would be Guthrie (888). There doesn’t seem too much unfair about that.
The next 32 could be 4A — Durant (849) would be the biggest, Broken Bow (571) the smallest.
The next 64 could be 3A — Tulsa McLain (566) would the biggest, Sequoyah-Tahlequah (343) the smallest.
The next 64 could be 2A — Jones (338) to Commerce (207).
Everyone else in Class A.
This isn’t rocket science, folks. There are ways to give relief to the schools that need it in Class 6A without bloating the classes and bloating the playoffs, two trends that have hurt the culture and quality of Oklahoma high school football over the last few decades.
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