A board hangs in Carl Albert baseball coach Wayne Dozier's office, marking the countdown to the games limit set by the Oklahoma Secondary School Activities Association.
“There's always some ways to misinterpret the way they've got some of the tournament stuff written, so it's very confusing and you have to stay on top of the situation,” Dozier said.
The rule — which allows teams 22 games and three tournaments during the season — came into the spotlight this week when Wright City was found in violation of the rule and the OSSAA ruled the Lumberjax would have to forfeit their Class A state tournament opening-round game to Sterling.
School officials went to court in McCurtain County, where a judge granted the team a temporary restraining order Wednesday. Two days later, the judge again ruled in Wright City's favor.
Friday, OSSAA officials suspended the state tournament and announced their intention to appeal the decision with the Oklahoma Supreme Court on Monday.
OSSAA Executive Director Ed Sheakley made the decision after consulting with board members and staff.
“We disagreed with the judge's ruling and made the decision that appealing was the best way to go forward,” Sheakley said.
How quickly the case moves forward — and how quickly the state tournament can resume — remains in question.
“I don't actually know a lot about the appeals process now,” Wright City superintendent David Hawkins said. “I don't actually know what takes place, so I don't know what to expect.”
This will be the fourth time in the last decade that the OSSAA has taken a case to the Oklahoma Supreme Court after lower courts decided against the organization.
Twice, the court has ruled for the OSSAA. In the other case, the team affected was knocked out of the playoffs before the court heard the case.
The most well-known came in 2005, when Shawnee's Tucker Brown was given a two-game suspension that would've taken him out of the Class 5A football semifinals and possibly the finals if the Wolves had advanced.
That battle went for about three weeks before the court ruled in favor of the OSSAA. That ruling came nearly 10 days after the state Supreme Court initially agreed to hear the case.
A similar timeline for the Wright City case could push the resumption of the Class A state baseball tournament into the middle of May.
“It's going to get played,” Sterling coach John Morgan, whose team was scheduled to open the tournament against Wright City, said. “The state tournament's going to get played, I assume. I just think we'd all like to know eventually, and that's just me.”
More than a year ago, the OSSAA's board of directors voted to allow Guthrie to continue in the football playoffs after using an ineligible player for eight games.
Instead of forfeiting the games, Guthrie suspended its coach for eight games — stretching into the 2012 season — and went on to win a state title.
That ruling led to questions about whether the precedent had been set to alter the OSSAA rules to allow teams to continue.
Wright City, though, focused more on a recent baseball decision to make its case in front of a McCurtain County judge last week.
Last season, Guthrie and Sand Springs reached their games limit before the end of their district schedule — the first year for district play in Class 6A and 5A.
Those teams were allowed to compete in the postseason, without their head coach, while forfeiting the district games that would've put them over the limit.
In those cases, though, the teams had not actually exceeded the games-played limit. Wright City exceeded the limit by two.
“My heart goes out to those kids and to the coach,” Guthrie baseball coach Jon Chappell said. “I wouldn't wish that on anybody. I know how much coaches put in time and effort and the hours they put in with these kids. I know there's got to be rules and I understand that.”
In similar situations last fall, four softball teams — Catoosa, Edmond North, Inola and Stillwater — were forced to forfeit playoff games after exceeding the games limit in that sport.
“Every scenario in every situation has its own twist or its own turn,” Chappell said. “And I know that the (OSSAA) has a tough, tough job. I know they do.
“Believe me, I have read those rules. To say that I can't mess up again, I could mess up tomorrow. It's a tough, tough situation is all I can say.”