Smaller 6A High Schools Separate

Wednesday, November 15th 2006, 10:40 am
By: News On 6

It's a new frontier in Oklahoma high school sports. 5 smaller schools are splitting from the Frontier Conference, which includes local powerhouses like Jenks, Union, and Broken Arrow. Sapulpa, Sand Springs, Stillwater, Ponca City, and Bartlesville will join up with Enid to create the new "Centennial" Conference.

News on 6 reporter Steve Berg says back when the Frontier Conference started, in 1981, Jenks and Union were closer in size to Sapulpa and Sand Springs. But obviously things have changed. And so the smaller schools say its time to change conferences.

Sapulpa's basketball team will play one more season in the Frontier Conference. And then, Sapulpa Athletic Director Tom Ballenger says it will be on to the Centennial Conference. "Looking at our situation, we realized that membership in the Frontier Conference really offered very little for us."

Specifically, he says Sapulpa has won just 2 conference championships out of the 120 or so since the conference began. In fact, the 5 western schools put together have won just 13 of the 120 championships. "And pretty soon, our kids just start to feel a little inferior. They start thinking, well we can't compete with these guys, so why are we even trying." He says they saw sports participation drop off between middle school and high school, which amplifies the disadvantage even further.

"They've got a lot bigger selection of athletes. A lot bigger." Caleb Taylor says he personally doesn't mind playing the powerhouse schools. But he thinks the change will be good for the fans and the younger students. "Everybody wants to see the program win, kids like to see us win. Y'know it gives them some opportunities. It's just a game to us."

Next year, the western schools and Bartlesville will join with Enid to form the Centennial Conference. Football and soccer are not part of the move, but all the other sports are. Taylor, who's a junior right now, will get to try it out next season in his senior year. "I think it's going to be a good thing. Finally give some of the smaller 6A schools a chance to compete with each other and see who's the best out of that group."

Of course, come "playoff" time, they'll still have to battle the big schools.