'Leveling the playing field' can be problematic

The Oklahoman Editorial Published: May 15, 2013
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Something must be done!

With that as their rallying cry, some public high schools upset that private schools in Oklahoma were winning multiple championships in football and boys basketball worked to get the rules changed a few years ago. Private schools that enjoy sustained success in any sport now pay for it by getting bumped up to the next class — for example, from 4A to 5A. This was sold and bought as a way to “level the playing field.”

But further leveling efforts continue, and they have nothing to do with private schools. Beginning with the 2014 season, the state won't have 32 schools competing for the Class 6A football championship. Those schools voted recently to split into two, 16-team classes, because Jenks and Tulsa Union have combined to win every large-school title since 1996.

This means a team will soon be able to claim a “state” championship by being better than just 15 other schools. One 6A football coach whose team remains in the division with Jenks and Union put it well, saying the change stemmed “from the idea of ‘every kid gets a trophy.'”

Other sports like trophies, too. What's to keep those involved in sports other than football from demanding that changes be made to give them a better chance at some hardware?

Most of the spring sports championships were decided in recent days. Edmond North's boys golf team won the 6A championship for the ninth straight year. Should something be done to address that dominance? How about in 6A baseball, where Owasso went 36-0 this year and won its ninth championship since 1998? The Rams have reached the title game 15 times in the past 17 years.

The board that governs Oklahoma high school sports may find that trying to level the playing field is a never-ending exercise, one that may or may not leave the field in better shape than it was to start with.


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