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OSSAA rule punishes success, but only for selected few

Oklahoman Published: March 19, 2014

The high school state basketball tournaments concluded last weekend in Oklahoma City and Tulsa. The Preston girls won their seventh state championship (the boys have won five). Douglas won its fifth straight boys title. Fort Gibson’s girls won the gold ball for the third time in four years. Tulsa Memorial won its second straight boys title and fourth since 2003.

These teams and others with great tradition can look ahead to trying to win another title next year. So can a school like Oklahoma City’s Bishop McGuinness — except it will have to do so in Class 6A instead of 5A, where it has played the past several years.

A rule approved by Oklahoma Secondary School Activities Association member schools in 2011 requires nonpublic schools to move up to the next classification if they meet certain carefully crafted criteria and reach the final eight in their sport in three out of five years. McGuinness, runner-up to Memorial, meets the criteria.

The rule followed a run of successful seasons by private schools in football and boys basketball. It stipulates that both genders get bumped up, not just the one having the success. So in the case of McGuinness, for example, the boys and girls basketball teams will be in 6A next season, even though the girls’ team won only a handful of games this year.

This change was pitched as a way to “level the playing field.” A simpler and fairer way to accomplish that would be to have fewer classifications, which would result in more teams in each class and thus make it more difficult for any team, public or nonpublic, to win a championship.

But few coaches and administrators would go for that idea. It’s easier to just punish the successful — but only some of the successful. Thus this half-baked policy will stay on the books, although it certainly isn’t very sporting.

by The Oklahoman Editorial Board
The Oklahoman Editorial Board consists of Gary Pierson, President and CEO of The Oklahoma Publishing Company; Christopher P. Reen, president and publisher of The Oklahoman; Kelly Dyer Fry, editor and vice president of news; Christy Gaylord...
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