Van Shea Iven’s career started with a harmless phone call.
Following his freshman year at Oklahoma State, Iven called the KFOR sports department looking to help cover the summer’s All-State games.
What happened next was a comical but key moment in the development of high school sports television coverage in Oklahoma.
Bob Barry Jr. answered the phone and then asked Robert Allen — while Iven could plainly hear him — if a kid can come help him that week or if he needs to get rid of him.
“I heard the whole thing,” said Iven, a Pond Creek native. “Luckily, Robert hem-hawed around and told him to have me there at 9 the next morning.”
That started a long tenure with the station before Iven left to start the Oklahoma High School Sports Express, which ends its eight-plus year run Sunday night with its final episode at 10:30 p.m. on Fox.
Iven has accepted a position with the Oklahoma Secondary School Activities Association and he recently sat down with The Oklahoman to talk about his childhood, career and love for high school sports.
I had a great high school experience. We only had football, basketball, baseball and track, but in Pond Creek you did all four, which was fun. You might go to a track meet all day and then leave there at 4 and go play a baseball game in the evening, which was great.
I had no idea if I wanted to be a newspaper writer, if I wanted to be a coach, if I wanted to be a sports information director. I never thought about TV, that wasn’t even an option, and I kind of stumbled into it.
I had no clue that’s what I wanted to do. Still to this day don’t know if that’s what I wanted to do. I don’t know whether to thank Robert Allen and Bob Barry Jr., or to cuss them.
Bob Sr., to get a chance to work with him was fantastic and he was so good to me, just like a second dad. To get a chance to work with “Mr. Sports “in Oklahoma as far as television is concerned and then Bob Barry Jr., it was fantastic.
My favorite thing was always high school because I had such a good experience playing high school sports. I realized when the Hornets came here I could see the writing on the wall. I didn’t know it was going to turn into a full-time franchise, but there were rumblings.
I could see where high school was going to get left out. I had some coaches and athletic directors and parents always say you should do something like this, so I kind of got the ball rolling and talked to some people.
I was at Channel 4 for 17 years. I loved it. I could have stayed there 17 more. I could still be there today and not have any problems with it. But I wish I would have started the Express 10 years earlier.
The reason I started the show also was for the smaller schools and the smaller sports. To a slowpitch softball player’s parents in Hinton, them winning a state title in slowpitch softball is every bit as important as it is to the Jenks quarterback’s parents for him to win a state championship.
When you get to the smaller schools and show up for a game, the mayor may be taking tickets at the gate, the bank president may be flipping burgers in the concession stand and a farmer may be on the PA. Then when you go to the coffee shop on Monday morning, Tuesday morning, Wednesday morning and Thursday morning that’s all the talk. Everybody’s involved and everybody’s a part of it.
You don’t have to be Kevin Durant to play high school basketball. Anybody can go out and if you’re in the right situation, you don’t have to be a great player. An average player can play a huge role in high school basketball or any sport in high school.
It’s neat to have people come up and say they enjoy my show or something, but it’s also neat for me to get a chance (to do the show) because I know for this cross country kid at Plainview or this soccer player at Santa Fe South or this swimmer from Kingfisher this is probably their only chance to be on TV.
If I still wasn’t married or didn’t have a newborn, the Express would be starting Season 18 in August and I would be loving it. I still love it. I’ve got the last show Sunday night and I’m putting as much effort into it as I did the first show in 2006. I’ve had a chance to follow thousands of kids and get a chance to follow their careers, get them on TV and make them feel important, but now my job is more to make a 7-month-old feel important.
It sounds probably a little stupid, but if it’s just rocking him to sleep or taking him outside to grab a leaf on a tree, that’s pretty cool to me.