Though in and of itself rests no trophy it holds, Sequoyah High School had returned to a familiar plateau of success a year ago in May when it wrestled our “School of the Year” nod away from Fort Gibson, which had let the dust settle on it for six consecutive years.
In a shortened 2020, Sequoyah rode the cross country, fastpitch and basketball to a second such title, which measures program-wide athletic success between area schools.
It was looking as if the Indians were getting set to hold on to it for a while, just as they did from 2003-08 with only Oktaha (2006) running interference.
The Cherokee Nation under the leadership of Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin, may come off looking like cutting-edge leaders if the Oklahoma Secondary School Activities Association’s house of playcards collapse. That hasn’t happened, and even if there is a delay of sorts thrown into the equation, a complete cancellation of everything still seems further down the road.
It’s a risk the Nation has taken on, and it could backfire in a big way.
“We may be the first school to cancel athletic activities the first nine weeks, but we do think other schools will also consider it and make tough decisions, and we hope they make decisions based on safety and the good of everyone,” Cherokee Nation Chief of Staff Todd Enlow said in a statement provided by CN.
“We know that some students will be disappointed, but we hope they will understand we have to think about our parents, our coaching staff and entire community.”
It’s certainly understandable that CN, which obviously governs more than education, would be concerned about their elders, which with it possesses the largest cultural influence and appreciation for preserving its history.
But on the other end, you have kids in a school with its own history, one well-developed over the last two decades.
Hopefully, leadership has a better line of communication with them than with the outside world. We pitched questions through Julie Hubbard, who oversees CN communications, starting with whether this nine weeks could be shortened based on improved health figures, or whether a two-week football season would even be attempted.
We asked because school begins there Aug. 24 — well, actually that date was clarified to Aug. 17 on Friday by Enlow, according to the Tahlequah Daily Press. The nine-week period would end Oct. 19. Volleyball and fastpitch softball seasons would in effect be canceled according to those dates with playoffs already in play. Cross Country regionals are Oct. 24. Three football games fall outside that time frame, Oct. 23 against Webster, Oct. 30 against Checotah and Nov. 6 versus Seminole. Other district games which will not be played are against Lincoln Christian, Westville, Locust Grove and Stigler. Keys is also a non-district opponent now without a game.
None of those questions, best answered by a school administrator, were answered.
Pat Moore, hired recently as superintendent and boys basketball coach, left and returned to Anadarko Riverside. The athletic staff was to divert all questions through the CN. The lone question any of them answered was that of Chad Hendricks, who quashed a rumor that he had resigned as head football coach, which would have been just a month or so after approved having left Checotah.
One question has an answer through the OSSAA: The kids have options.
All students have places of established residence somewhere, even if they were boarding at the school. According to the OSSAA eligibility guidelines, there is hardship waiver criteria for students to continue a program at another school if their current school has dropped an activity that the student was actively involved in previously. Once the student establishes eligibility at the other school, their eligibility remains there.
Hopefully, the kids and their families know this. The coaches who were thrown a potential career curve certainly know, even if not a single one is happy with it.
Tahlequah High obviously stands to gain. Fort Gibson, Hulbert and Keys too, if the transfers start happening, all being surrounding schools. Who knows, maybe Muskogee welcomes some. The Roughers’ home softball opener was supposed to be against Sequoyah on Aug. 13.
“They could be a Class A school with 100 kids in no time. It’s sad,” said a one-time Sequoyah coach of a program that’s been a 3A powerhouse in softball, cross country and basketball.
It’s an obvious possibility of what they face. And a potentially devastating one to a program with a great deal to be proud of.
A complete collapse of fall sports statewide is the only life raft in sight. Chances are, there’s not a whole lot of people rooting for that.