Discover more from Oklahoma Columnist, by Clay Horning
High school sports in our state deserve better
The OSSAA governs them and stages championships; it does not celebrate them, promote them, keep records of them or make them easy to cover. Somebody needs to.
One more high school story.
Or, perhaps, a prescription for more high school stories. Because there could be and should be so many more.
I might be an expert.
I’ve covered preps in this state, every sport, every class, dang near every venue, over the last 30 years, beginning Sept. 2, 1993, my first day at The Woodward News.
All that and between last Wednesday and Saturday, I covered state tournament basketball in Oklahoma City, Yukon and Norman. Wrote about 4,000 words, but who’s counting.
At the Class 3A championship, Millwood over Community Christian, the boxscores handed out along press row did not reflect the correct final score, 53-50, but a 53-51 final score. That’s because the apparent fourth-quarter 3 CCS’ Cade Bond knocked down to pull the Royals within 49-44 was instead ruled a 2, his toe on the line, making it 49-43.
The funny part?
It never got changed, in real time or after the game. Additionally, the stat-keeper sat in the middle of press row, across the court from the scorer’s table where the actual, literal and official book, which recorded points but nothing else, was being kept. Though there was no controversy attached to the final result, isn’t it odd the level of coordination between the scoring table and the person punching in each shot, rebound, foul, steal and assist for the benefit of covering media and perhaps posterity was zero?
Nobody who covers high school sports in this state is surprised by this, because it’s always been like this: haphazard, on-the-fly, on a shoestring.
Indeed, the entity that stages state championships, the Oklahoma Secondary School Activities Association, may be under the impression it’s a miracle a boxscore that included all the ancillary stats is being produced at all and it may be right, because while such boxscores were being produced at State Fair Arena and Lloyd Noble Center, they were not being produced for every state tourney game.
Not only were those numbers not being kept in Yukon, nor was space allotted where a sportswriter, any sportswriter, could set up and see the whole court. I got lucky, snagging a radio table because just one of the teams brought radio for the game I was covering.
Nor is it about catering to sports writers, though one would hope the OSSAA would like them to be there. The utterly incomplete operation has other consequences, too.
It means if you were wondering where CCS’ Bai Jobe’s 40 rebounds over three games in the Class 3A state tourney ranks all time, there’s no way to know, because those numbers have never been kept.
They were not even kept this year. Though one overworked person feverishly punched in the numbers in the quarterfinal and championship rounds played at State Fair Arena, in which Jobe grabbed 16 and 10 boards, the 14 he grabbed in the semifinal round at Yukon were kept only by me.
Think of the 2021 Class 6A girls state tournament, historically claimed by Norman High, whose players finished their unbeaten season while encountering racism at the state tourney.
Should those players get back together in 10 or 20 years, they might like being reminded not only who scored the points, but who grabbed the rebounds and assisted and blocked the shots. Yet, unless maintained internally, they’ll be unavailable.
That’s just basketball.
It is the same for football, baseball, volleyball, softball, golf and tennis. The timed and measured sports, track and field, cross country and swimming are a little different, barely.
It’s only history but history matters.
Seems like somebody should be in charge of keeping it.
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Making it easier to follow high school sports throughout the year and making coverage of it easier when it’s time to determine champions is something else, entirely.
The OSSAA manages to keep coaches’ polls in some sports, but not others, like football. The Associated Press keeps a media poll, but not every media entity has access to the AP.
From state tourneys and championships, you’d think the OSSAA would send out results and highlights on social media; perhaps short wrap-ups from each contest. If not that, it could live tweet the games and, from that, media unable to attend could take it and build stories.
The Woodward News could keep track of Vici, Leedey and Taloga at the state baseball tournament, or The Daily Ardmoreite could keep track of Plainview, Sulphur and Davis in whatever championship competition the Indians, Bulldogs and Wolves might find themselves. Yes, those outlets would like to be there, but times are tough for print media and it’s hard to be everywhere.
It would help, but the OSSAA Twitter feed issued zero tweets from March 7 to March 11, and on March 12, Saturday, the day state titles were decided, while posts celebrated the winners of 3-point shooting contests determining which schools would receive $1,000 from the state’s energy industry for science and math supplies, there was not a single post about any of the games, who won them or how they won them.
Maybe the OSSAA has interns producing quick 200-word stories from each state-tourney contest, then e-mailing them out; or, better, simply posts them to its website, allowing strapped newspapers and other media to create stories, their own social media posts, radio updates, you name it.
What Oklahoma has is a very small organization, that counts among its employees almost no communications professionals — Van Shea Iven is only one guy — that governs high school sports and stages championships in those sports.
What it doesn’t have is even the beginning of a communications and marketing strategy — to say nothing of game operations — designed to keep high school sports relevant throughout the fall, winter and spring seasons, or even to help build interest in the championships in those seasons.
It is an issue of scope and imagination, of which there is little and none.
You know what there’s more and more and more of? The coverage of prospects and recruiting. Who’s going where, who’s thinking about going where, and who might go where. There is no end to it.
More ink, airtime, and digital space is bound to be spent following where Millwood’s Chance Davis — the freshman who beat the buzzer and CCS Saturday afternoon — might eventually play “at the next level” than for the heroics he offered delivering the Falcons their first gold ball since 2012 and their 16th since 1976.
But that’s not high school sports. That’s college sports. That’s later. That’s projection. That’s speculation.
Davis’ shot from the right corner, avoiding overtime and making history, was magical. CCS’ comeback that made it necessary was fantastic, too. It was just one moment and young athletes in this state create multitudes of them every year, in every sport.
Somebody should be responsible for getting the word out, for charting the moments, for making them easier to be seen and reported upon.
High school sports in Oklahoma need a champion. All they have right now is an old organization from a bygone era that keeps things straight and stages championships, even as it keeps no real records of them.