Tuesday, October 20, 2009

More Questions and Answers from the Koons Saga

In case you've been living under a rock for the last week, you know that Tuttle head football coach Phil Koons served a one-game, "self-imposed" suspension last Friday. The suspension stemmed from comments Koons made about game officials on a Saturday morning radio show.

After the Tigers' 7-6 win over Clinton, Koons said the officials were cheaters and had blantantly cheated Tuttle. The governing body of high school athletics, the OSSAA, gave Koons the choice of being suspended or suspending himself. He chose to suspend himself -- probably knowing the OSSAA would screw it up if he let them do it.

This got me to thinking: Have I ever seen an official cheat? No. I don't believe I have. I truly believe game officials are above-board. I believe they are impartial and set out to do the very best job they can, and I believe the good ones -- and yes, there are many very good ones -- deserve a lot of credit and praise, even if the call doesn't go my team's way. I've known a lot of officials, and the thought of officials cheating never crosses my mind.

Having said that, here's what I have seen: I've seen officiating crews that were so bad, you almost hoped they were cheating. At least then there would be some reason for their ineptitude. I was at a Rush Springs football game several years ago and watched an officiating crew take 10 minutes -- literally -- to spot the ball. The officials had blown two calls on one play and couldn't figure out where to place the ball after incorrectly marking off their own penalties. People were about to start coming out of the stands -- not because they were mad, but because they were afraid the officials wouldn't restart the game before sun up. Breakfast, you know, is the most important meal of the day.

Two years later. Newcastle at Kingfisher. Same officiating crew. I counted five missed calls in the first half, and I'm not talking about close calls either. Two of the calls led to Kingfisher touchdowns. And guess who just so happened to be on the sideline? Me. I know one of the officials. He happens to be the side judge, which means he has to stand close to the sideline. So, later in the game, when he's standing right in front of me and there's a break in the action, I explained one of the plays and asked what happened.

He remember the play. "I couldn't see it," he said.

"Now that I believe," I said.

He didn't ask for my suspension (though he did ask my opinion of several other calls he feared they had blown), but then again, I'm not a coach. I'm a journalist. We're allowed to question sports officials, and we understand there's a difference between questioning the abilities and motives of a sports official and outing a CIA agent. Some people don't.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

My Pick: Chicks Win, OU Loses

Wanna know what's ailing the Chickasha football program? Just look at the schedule. On second thought, don't. It's brutal. The Chicks are 2-4 going into tonight's game at Western Heights. They've lost to Shawnee, Weatherford, Duncan, and El Reno. Three of those four teams are unbeaten – and Duncan's only loss was to defending Class 5A champ Carl Albert. It's insane for Chickasha to play Shawnee and Weatherford in non-district, particularly at the program's current development stage. Replace Shawnee with Piedmont or Harrah -- and get Marlow back on the schedule. You don't try to gain momentum by running up hill. Get the program rolling again -- and then schedule the powerhouses if you want.

Now my picks for the weekend:

• Chickasha at Western Heights: I was impressed by the Jets when I saw them scrimmage Tuttle. Their skill people looked impressive and their defense seemed to know what it was doing. Surprisingly, Western Heights enters with just one win. Chance Thomas returns for the Chicks, which should help spark the running game. That would take some of the load off of a stellar passing attack that has thus far carried the load. Chickasha 35, Western Heights 28.

• Newcastle at Tuttle: This is known as a heated rivalry. Not sure why, seeing that Newcastle doesn't win this game but about once ever decade. Tigers stay perfect. Ethan Biddy 28, Newcastle 7.

• Bridge Creek at Hobart: The 'Creekers have won five straight. No need to stop now. Bridge Creek 42, Hobart 14

• Alex at Caddo: Not a good week to have Longhorns as a mascot in Oklahoma. Could be a trap game with huge outings against Fox and Ryan looming, but I doubt it. Alex 42, Caddo 28.

• Minco at Oklahoma Christian School: OSC has allowed just 57 points this season, and Minco's defense is stiff too. This should be a defensive struggle. OSC 14, Minco 7.

• Rush Springs at Elmore City: Raise your hand if you knew that the '80s cult movie FOOTLOOSE was based on a true story out of Elmore City, Okla. The Badgers are improved and ready to cut footloose. Elmore City 21, Rush Springs 14.

• Oklahoma at Texas: Everyone tells me that past performance and records and don't matter in this game. Talent does, though, and so does preparation -- and Texas is better in both categories. Sorry, I've seen'em both play. If last season's Sooners couldn't beat Texas, this version certainly won't. Texas 35, OU 14. Hope I'm wrong.

USAO Got a Good One

No shortage of intelligent, capable students grace your classroom when you teach at the University of Oklahoma. An incredible amount of incredibly smart students crossed my path during four semesters there. The brightest? Jessica Jackson. USAO did a smart thing recently and hired her as its new sports information director. Teaching her was almost like not teaching at all. She learned concepts so quickly that it was like having another computer in the room. Input the information and watch her immediately apply it. She'll do a tremendous job. She brings strong communications skills and a solid knowledge of sports. Hopefully she can escape the systemic political hogwash that inherently goes with higher education. After my seven-year stint (off and on) in higher education ended this summer, I found that I missed the kids but not the adults. It's good to have one of my students here. Welcome, Jessica.


Saturday, October 10, 2009

Observations from Saturday

Uh-oh. Did you watch the Colorado-Texas game? Did you see what Texas did in the second half? After a listless first half performance, Texas dominated the final two quarters ... BY BLITZING. It's sunday morning and the Longhorns are probably still chasing Colorado quarterbacks. Uh-oh. This does not look good for our Sooners as the Red River Rivalry approaches. Texas recorded two sacks, three quarterback hurries, and two interceptions -- one of which Earl Thomas returned for a 92-yard touchdown. If Oklahoma thought BYU and Miami were difficult to block, wait until the Sooners get a load of Longhorns rushing at them.

Other observations from Saturday:

• Anyone remember Julio Jones or Josh Jarboe? I do -- and I thought about them often Saturday as I watched Oklahoma receivers drop pass after pass. Jones and Jarboe were highly recruited wide receivers and Oklahoma commitments. Jones verbally committed to Oklahoma but eventually signed with Alabama. Jarboe lasted, what, less than one semester on campus and was booted for various rules violations, the last occurring when he made a throat-slashing gesture in a Youtube rap video. If you're wondering why Oklahoma's receiving corp is so thin, just think J & J -- Jones and Jarboe.

• What was up with that weird quarterbacking change for Colorado? Colorado coach Dan Hawkins benched his son and starting quarterback Cody Hawkins and inserted sophomore Tyler Hansen. Hansen was supposed to redshirt, and no one looked more shocked than him when he was sent into the game. Dan Hawkins is toast. I don't see how he can survive another less-than-stellar season.

Empire at Rush Springs

I think they'll be inviting me back to Rush Springs. Every time I go to a game at Lewis Field, the Rush wins. The Redskins are 2-4 after six games, and I've covered both of their victories. On Friday, they knocked off my alma mater, Empire, 42-0. I asked coach Tim Beard to take it easy on my school, and he assured me the 'Skins wouldn't if giving the chance. And yes, they were given the chance. They took advantage of three Empire turnovers and rolled to victory. Tim has done a good job in resurrecting the Rush Springs program. Rush is eight points removed from being 4-2. The 'Skins lost to Maysville by 6 and Wilson by 2.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

OSSAA Got Most of Jenks Punishment Right

Nothing like learning what you already knew. In journalism, we call such an act "getting confirmation." In Oklahoma sports, it's called catching Jenks cheating to win football games. Imagine, a high school powerhouse that never seems to lose ... is caught ... recruiting? If such insights continue to surface, we may learn that every team plays'em one game at a time and gives it 110 percent.

You've heard the story: Good out-of-state football player wanted to play at Jenks. Problem No. 1: He lived in Virginia, not Jenks. Easy Fix: Have Jenks football booster Clyde "Red" Smith house good out-of-state football player. Problem No. 2: OSSAA learns of good out-of-state kid playing for Jenks without establishing residence there. Easy Fix: Contest the ruling. We're Jenks, right? We always win. Problem No. 3: They didn't. The OSSAA hires an independent Tulsa law firm to investigate, and the firm not only upholds the suspension, but also finds other rule-breaking at Jenks.

No, you won't find Jenks' recruiting sins listed in the last book of the New Testament. There was no revelation in that news. Other than this: Jenks got caught -- and the OSSAA did something about it. Even more miraculous: The OSSAA got the punishment right. Almost.

The Association decided to:

• Suspend Jenks coach Allan Trimble without pay for the rest of the semester. This was a no-brainer. Even The Association couldn't screw up that. Trimble had already suspended himself. And if a program is caught breaking the rules, the head coach must go away -- at least for a while.

• Keep Jenks off of probation, which would have kept the Trojans out of the Class 6A playoff this season. No need to punish the student-athletes. The good out-of-state football player graduated in May. He's no longer there, so why punish those who remain?

• Review the suspension of Trimble in June. This is The Association saying, "We'll be watching - and it better not be business at usual in Jenks."

• Allow Jenks to keep all of its titles. Well, three of four ain't bad. I don't like this decision. If the Trojans played with ineligible players, and it appears they did as far back as '98, they should be stripped of the titles. One of The Association's top jobs is to maintain a level playing field for all competitors -- and it fails in nearly every attempt to do so.

But this is progress. It's game-changing. Now if we can just get The Association to do something about the private schools. Do you think they recruit? Maybe?


Hello. I'm Kelly S. Wray, the new editor of the Chickasha Express-Star. Visit my blog for news and sports updates and opinions.