Why Oklahoma high school hoops needs to add a third state weekend
Sometime after the first couple gold balls had been handed out last Saturday, my good fortune dawned on me.
Norman and Norman North had played for the Class 6A girls basketball crown, and the game was close until the end. The Class 5A boys title game followed, and Tulsa Memorial and Del City staged another dandy not decided until the fourth quarter.
Two games. Two battles. I was batting a thousand.
What a treat to see.
But while those games were played at the Mabee Center, there were equally fabulous games happening at the Big House in Oklahoma City. The Anadarko girls pressed their way to title over Muldrow, the Adair girls ended Christian Heritage’s chance at a three-peat, and the Howe girls and super scorer Jalei Oglesby upended top-ranked Dale.
What a bummer to miss.
Why does it have to be this way?
We have state title games being played at the same time in different cities. We have teams sharing the big stage when it could be theirs alone. We have fans being forced to choose where they’re going to go.
It’s ludicrous – and fixable.
On the first weekend of the year without high school basketball, I’d like to propose a change. Add a third weekend of state tournaments, and let us enjoy the best part of the season.
I’d set it up this way: leave the Class A and B tournaments where they are, first in the lineup. Leave the Class 5A and 6A tournaments where they are, too, on the following weekend, but under this new set-up, the state’s two largest classes would have that weekend all to themselves. The third weekend would Class 2A, 3A and 4A.
Why split them this way?
Those three middle classes have the largest number of kids playing multiple sports. These are the schools where you see lots of boys going from football to basketball and lots of girls going from volleyball or softball to basketball. Many miss the first few weeks of basketball because of overlap with their fall sports.
Mid-sized schools aren’t the only ones with multi-sport athletes, of course, but at the big schools, specialization is more common while at the small schools, a full slate of fall sports isn’t always offered. Many kids in Class A and B don’t have football or volleyball, for example.
But for the mid-sized schools, an extra week of regular-season games would be extremely beneficial. They could lighten their schedules early in the season when they might be working in fall-sport athletes or playing without them entirely. These schools would still have the playoffs structured the same as they do currently; they would just begin the postseason a week later.
As good as this change would be for teams, players and coaches, it would be every bit as good for the Oklahoma Secondary School Activities Association.
Basketball is the largest revenue sport for the association, but it could be even bigger with an additional state weekend. There would be no added costs — we’re not adding games or sites — but there would be a chance to draw more fans. You’d still get the fans of the schools, but you might also lure the casual fan.
The way things are now, the casual fan — someone who just loves watching high school hoops — must make a decision the second week of state. Tulsa or Oklahoma City?
Add a third weekend, and fans could go to one place and see every state final if they are so inclined.
And plenty of folks are.
The truth is, this isn’t really a radical idea. Playing state basketball over three weekends has been done before in Oklahoma. It was that way as recently as the mid-1980s.
No reason it can’t be that way again.
Right now, it feels like we’re in a rush to get the games over. Cramming 10 state tournaments into one weekend. Running title games on the same day at the same time. Why are we in such a hurry, especially when these are often the best of the best?
Let’s slow it down. Let’s spread this out.
Add another weekend of state, so we can savor the good stuff.
Jenni Carlson: Jenni can be reached at 405-475-4125 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Like her at facebook.com/JenniCarlsonOK, follow her at twitter.com/jennicarlson_ok or view her personality page at newsok.com/jennicarlson.