'Excited': All of Oklahoma's high school 11-man football state title games are headed to UCO
David Jackson talked for less than two minutes in announcing all of the state's high school 11-man football title games would be played at one location this year.
He used the word excited five times.
“Just excited to announce that the University of Central Oklahoma has stepped up and agreed to host those games for us and allow us to use that beautiful facility they have,” the executive director of the Oklahoma Secondary School Activities Association said. “We’re gonna get that chance to showcase all of our 11-man football games at that facility.
“We’re excited. We think our schools are going to be excited.”
I confess — I’m excited, too.
Not since the OSSAA’s contract with Oklahoma State ended five years ago have multiple title games been held at one location. Some were held on different days, so fans might be able to see two or three championship games. But they had to drive all across the state to different sites to do it.
What a hassle.
Now, go to Wantland Stadium in Edmond the first weekend of December, and you can see five games.
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Return the next weekend, and you can see two more.
What a deal.
It’s the kind of thing we’ve seen with high school basketball in the state for decades. The Big House has become the destination for teams, of course — players and coaches have their sights set on making it to Oklahoma City from the start of the season — but it’s become a destination for fans, too. People even take vacations to go to The Big House and see the games.
They started binge watching before that became a thing.
Football has tried to anchor its championships before, but getting deals done with the major colleges in the state has been difficult. OU, OSU and Tulsa have programs that might be done with the regular-season by December, but often, they’re prepping for conference title games or bowl games. They like to have the run of their own facilities. They don’t like to be told they can’t use something because of high school games.
Winter graduation ceremonies also create a logistics issue with congestion on campus.
Still, the state’s high school football coaches pushed the OSSAA for the past two or three years to getting all the title games in one location. Jackson joked that the Texas state title games all being a JerryWorld have swayed opinions — "Texas is too close to us," he said — but the truth is, this is a great move.
“To have a one-site championship, kind of a destination site, I think creates excitement for all classes and for the game,” said Justin Jones, head coach at Norman North and executive director of the Oklahoma Football Coaches Association. “Really what our association is about and every head coach that’s a member of the association is about is making this game great, giving our student-athletes a great experience.
“That’s what we feel like this is going to do.”
Is it a perfect set-up?
Of course not.
The Class 4A state championship game is going to be played at 1 p.m. on a Friday. No matter what time that game is played, fans of the two teams involved will be there. But the casual fans? Will they break away from work or school early to go?
Then again, there are quarterfinal and semifinal games during the state basketball tournaments played during the day on Thursdays and Fridays, and the stands aren’t empty.
Another downer — the footballstravaganza doesn’t include the two eight-man championship games. It’s not because the OSSAA excluded them; the eight-man coaches told the association they wanted their title games to remain at smaller stadiums such as Southwestern Oklahoma State in Weatherford and Northwestern Oklahoma State in Alva.
Still, having the eight-man games at Wantland would’ve been cool. Maybe things will go so well this year, those teams will want in next year.
The contract between the OSSAA and UCO is only a one-year deal, by the way.
“We’re going to look at this on a one-year basis, see how it goes, see if it’s a win for the OSSAA as well as for UCO,” Jackson said. “We’ll evaluate that and see if we can maybe come to a long-term agreement.”
UCO athletic director Eddie Griffin said, "We're looking forward to this one-year opportunity and then see if we can move it on to another four or five after that."
The draw for high school football fans should be significant. Edmond is centrally located in the state, making travel easier for more fans, and they can even make a weekend of it. Since Edmond is on the north side of the Oklahoma City metro, hotels and restaurants will be plentiful. Fans could even slip in a little Christmas shopping.
Championship Central is going to be great.
“It’s going to be an exciting time for Oklahoma football,” Jones said.
Jackson said, “We are excited to get this going.”
There’s that word again — then again, it’s hard to argue with it.
Jenni Carlson: Jenni can be reached at 405-475-4125 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Like her at facebook.com/JenniCarlsonOK or follow her at twitter.com/jennicarlson_ok.
The Oklahoma Secondary School Activities Association will hold all of its 11-man football state championship games at Central Oklahoma's Wantland Stadium this year. Here is the schedule of games:
Friday, Dec. 6
1 p.m., Class 4A
7 p.m., Class 6A-II
Saturday, Dec. 7
11 a.m., Class 3A
3:30 p.m., Class 5A
8 p.m., Class 6A-I
Saturday, Dec. 14
1 p.m., Class A
7 p.m., Class 2A