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Friday night frustration

OKC and Putnam City public schools want a different athletic classification to spur competitiveness on the football field.

Clifton Adcock September 11th, 2012

Alex Levescy knows about perseverance.

In 2010, U.S. Grant lost to Del City 49-0, a trouncing that OKC school officials say could have been averted under a new proposal.
Credit: Mark Hancock

The 19-year-old University of Central Oklahoma football walk-on told coaches that if they wanted him off the team, they’d have to cut him — he would not quit when things got too hard.

It was that attitude that kept Levescy on the field during his time at U.S. Grant High School in Oklahoma City.

During his four years at Grant, his team won two games, neither of which was against a district opponent. And he played under three different head coaches.

“It was tough every year. People were like, ‘I don’t want to play because y’all always lose,’” Levescy said. “I just went out and played my best.”

Grant isn’t the only team in Oklahoma City Public Schools with gridiron challenges. Some other teams in the district haven’t had a winning season in more than 30 years, according to Keith Sinor, the district’s athletic director.

Last season, for example, Capitol Hill High School’s football team scored 35 points total, while its opponents scored 535 points.

Now some area athletic directors are crafting a plan they say would even the playing field.

Getting tackled
Sinor and his counterparts in the Tulsa and Putnam City school districts are working on a proposal to submit to the Oklahoma Secondary Schools Athletics Association to let certain inner-city schools drop down one classification.

Sinor admitted the plan will be controversial, but said it is necessary.

“The whole purpose is to create a competitive balance on the playing field. Right now one doesn’t exist,” he said. “Our goal is to create a system that’s fair for kids. It gives them the opportunity when they take the field on a Friday night, that they have a legitimate chance of being competitive.”

Sinor said he anticipates getting the proposal to the OSSAA by next summer, when the association takes up realigning football team classifications, as it does every two years.

In 2011, the OSSAA approved a contentious plan that moved private schools up one classification in football. Sinor said his proposal is essentially the same thing, only it would shift specific inner-city public schools down a rung in classification.

The OSSAA has six A classifications for high school football, with the largest 32 teams being 6A, the next largest 32 being 5A, and so on. There are also B and C classes for smaller teams. While playoff games are regulated by OSSAA, schools can also belong to different divisions and conferences not governed by the OSSAA classification system.

Keith Sinor

The OSSAA classifies teams based on the number of students in the school, putting teams like Capitol Hill and Grant in Class 6A with football powerhouses like Jenks and Union, both of which are in the Tulsa area.

The proposal being developed by Sinor and others would look at factors — such as a team’s record over several years — and allow a team to drop down a class in a sport if it meets certain conditions. Under the plan, which would affect all high school sports, a team could be bumped back up later if its program improves.

Forward pass
Sinor said the idea is one of several steps the district is taking to improve community involvement and student participation in sports.

At the schools that would be reclassified under the proposed system, the football season is currently characterized by loss. Typically, several dozen players start out the season. As losses pile up, students begin quitting the team. By season’s end. Sinor said, a team’s roster is somewhere around 20, while their opponents’ rosters are well above 100 players.

“It’s not fair or right that we send kids out on the football field on Friday night playing against schools that have that much more participation than we do,” Sinor said. “When they look at it and see themselves getting beat 77-0, kids have to be pretty committed ... when it’s happening week in and week out.”

OSSAA Executive Secretary Ed Sheakley said he has not yet seen the proposal, but noted that just because a school is considered “inner city” does not mean it will be unsuccessful in athletics.

Moreover, he said that allowing a school to be reclassified because of certain circumstances would not be fair to others. Sheakley pointed out that it’s not only inner-city schools that have struggled with decades of losing seasons, but small-town schools, too.

“I don’t think you can segregate a certain group and say we’re going to have a separate playoff season for them,” Sheakley said. “I came from Blackwell, and Blackwell hasn’t had a winning season in 21 years and has gone through eight different coaches.”

If the plan is accepted, changes would not take effect until 2014.

As for Alex Levescy, he said he supports moving his alma mater’s football team to a lower classification. Still, he said he has no regrets about his days playing ball in high school, regardless of how the scoreboard read at the end of the night.

“I didn’t mind playing against the best in the state. I took it as a challenge,” Levescy said. “We may not have won, but I beat some of their players on the field, and it was an accomplishment to me.”

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