Five years ago, when the OSSAA entered into its contract to hold the Class A-6A title games at Boone Pickens Stadium, there were hardly any high school stadiums that offered the quality now available at multiple sites around the state.
High school facilities have entered a different world, and the OSSAA is in position to help its athletes benefit from it.
Small-college stadiums offer geographic flexibility
The varied locations of the state’s small-college stadiums offer a great deal of geographical flexibility for the OSSAA in searching for championship game sites.
That becomes even more important for the smaller high school classes, which are spread farther into the rural areas of the state.
Southwestern Oklahoma State in Weatherford has been an ideal location for the Class B and C title games in recent years, since those games were not part of the OSSAA’s contract with Oklahoma State. And Southwestern could be an option for bigger classes if the OSSAA needs a location to the west.
Southeastern in Durant and East Central in Ada have both hosted playoff games in recent years, and Oklahoma Baptist, with its brand new stadium in Shawnee, was being considered last postseason.
Central Oklahoma in Edmond has fallen off as a regular location for playoff games, but could still be an option, with plenty of seating, both in the bleachers and the press box, and a high-quality scoreboard/video board.
Major-college stadiums still viable options for larger classes
The end of the contract with Oklahoma State’s Boone Pickens Stadium doesn’t automatically signal the end of major-college venues as state championship sites.
For instance, a Jenks-Union title game in Class 6A has had a strong turnout and incredible atmosphere at Tulsa’s Chapman Stadium.
At the Class 5A or 6A level, it’s feasible that Boone Pickens Stadium or Oklahoma’s Owen Field could be ideal sites, geographically, for a title game.
There’s no reason a Midwest City-Tulsa Washington title game in 6A Division II wouldn’t be suitable in Stillwater, or a Guthrie-Lawton MacArthur 5A final in Norman.
But in smaller high school classes, look for large high schools and small-college stadiums to become the locale of choice for the OSSAA.
It’s a tough line to walk, deciding between a big stadium or a big atmosphere. Is it better to have 50,000 empty seats for a Class A title game, but give the players the opportunity to play in a Big 12 stadium? Or is it better to have a standing-room-only crowd in a high-quality but smaller stadium?
Both offer a memorable event, but the OSSAA learned a lot with the Class A final between Hollis and Ringling last season. Played at Cache High School — a much easier drive for both schools than Stillwater would have been — the crowd was packed and the atmosphere was palpable.
The thought that Boone Pickens Stadium could be to football what the State Fair Arena is to basketball was a noble pursuit, but the flexibility the OSSAA will once again have offers the opportunity for a better overall experience.