MuskogeePhoenix.com, Muskogee, OK

Prep Sports

January 14, 2014

OSSAA to hear proposal to divide all 6A sports

When Class 6A football takes the field in the fall, not only will the alignment be different than in years past, but it might provide an outlook on the competitiveness of all sports in the classification.

A proposal will be presented to the Oklahoma Secondary Schools Activities Association board of directors at Wednesday’s monthly meeting in Oklahoma City to divide the class 6A into two divisions for all sports.

“My personal opinion is that does the same thing for all the sports that it does for football,” said Muskogee High School fastpitch and slowpitch softball coach Keith Coleman. “It equals out the playing field for the gigantic schools and the smaller 6A schools.”

Dick Balenseifen, athletic director of the Putnam City schools, is leading the effort to divide the state’s 32 largest high schools into two divisions in all sports. He has gathered the required support of 20 schools to have the issue heard before the OSSAA board.

“You can say what you want about competing against Union, Jenks, Broken Arrow and Owasso,” Coleman said. “The truth of the matter is that Muskogee is closer in size to the smallest school in Oklahoma than it is to those four schools.”

Doyle Rowland, the MHS girls basketball coach, said the proposal did not come as a surprise when he heard about it.

“I wondered how that was going to pan out,” he said. “The inner city schools of Tulsa, it’s so easier for those kids to transfer to another school in that district or in the Tulsa area. It makes it tough on the rural schools like us, Sapulpa and those schools. That’s the only qualm I’ve got is about the transfers.”

On the boys side, MHS coach Josh Berry is quick to point out that the difference in state championships between the larger schools and the smaller ones is not as drastic. Of the 18 Class 6A boys champions, 11 have come from schools in the upper half of 6A, enrollment-wise.

“To me, basketball is a different sport than football,” Berry said. “It will help out some of the lower schools number wise. For basketball, the playing field is pretty even as far as being able to come home with a gold ball. I think it’s pretty much distributed throughout the state, unlike football which is only distributed through two teams.”

When Coleman was a graduate student at Northeastern State, he wrote a paper on the discrepancy in the number of state championships in 6A from the inception of the class in 1996 until 2006.

“Up to that point, the top four schools in enrollment had won 80 percent of all state championships,” he said. “That’s football to cheerleading. I’m all for it and I hope the leadership at our school is also.”

Coleman also pointed out that the top four schools’ down years pale in comparison to other 6A schools’ down years.

“When Muskogee has down years, in say football for example, they go 2-8, 3-7,” he said. “Whereas, when Broken Arrow has a down year, they go 9-4 and go to the semifinals of the playoffs. That’s the advantage.

“It’s not about winning titles. To win a title you have to play really well and coach really well. Those schools always have a chance to be in the hunt because of enrollment.”

Rowland’s group, coming off its fifth straight Bedouin Shrine Classic Large School title, gets its chance to show just how well it matches up against the bigger schools when the Lady Roughers travel with the boys’ team to Jenks tonight.

“The transfers makes it tough on the little schools like ours,” Rowland said. “Either way they want to do it, I’ll be okay. But it’s certainly worth taking a look at.”

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