"You just... you ain't getting' it. You don't understand. This is the only thing you're ever gonna have. Forever, it carries you forever. It's an ugly fact of life. Donnie, hell ... it's the only fact of life. You got one year, one stinkin' year to make yourself some memories, son. That's all. It's gone after that. And I'll be damned if you're not gonna miss it."
The above quote comes from Tim McGraw's character in the high school football drama "Friday Night Lights."
Seems a bit extreme right? What parent in real life would hold their child's high school football career in such high regard? Telling a 17-year-old kid this moment would be the best time of his entire life is far-fetched.
Or is it?
Tulsa's high school football season has been marred in controversy. Suspensions, forfeitures and illegalities plagued what is normally a highlight in T-Town.
"I can't tell you how many people told me when the Jenks deal went down, it was the just the tip of the iceberg and they were correct," Don King said. King has covered high school sports in Tulsa for almost 35 years. He can be heard on 1430am weekdays from 2-6pm.
The Oklahoma Secondary School Activities Association has been busy. Their fight against big business athletic programs is akin to putting out fires as opposed to fire prevention.
They act on tips. My guess is the tip hotline is buzzing these days. It would be impossible for OSSAA to fact check eligibility for all 345 Oklahoma high schools participating in football.
The problem with acting on tips is obvious. Who tipped off the OSSAA on Jenks or Tulsa Washington? A former disgruntled employee with an ax to grind? A rival school looking to sink the competition?
Errors are made. Each school season produces an infraction or two during the calendar year? The flood gates really opened up this season.
No one is giving the athletic departments a pass here. Run a tighter ship with less emphasis on the almighty high school football program and no one will waive a finger in your direction.
Some of the blame should be placed on overzealous parents. Caring for your child is a good thing. Just do not place your hopes and dreams on their achievements.
Action and Reaction.
High school athletic directors are on the hot seat. The schools on our side of the state appear under more scrutiny than the west side.
Have the programs overreacted to the OSSAA probes by tightening the grip on information dispersal?
"We've noticed the schools are being much more cautious about information concerning student-athletes," Brad Heath who acts as editor for VYPE Magazine. "Access to them is not as tight as it is when something tragic happens on a campus, but you do get the feeling it's not as relaxed as if was before all of this started."
For those unfamiliar, VYPE Magazine profiles high school athletics. They specialize in feature stories. The magazine started in Green Country and now has franchises across the country.
The school administrators understand the magazine's goal is not hard-hitting, breaking-news, gotcha pieces. That does not stop people from telling the magazine when they believe other schools have broken the rules. VYPE chooses to ignore the claims.
It has become apparent schools and parents cannot control themselves when high school football is involved. Maybe it is time OSSAA steps in with clear regulations on an obvious flaw in the system. Transfer eligibility.
"The OSSAA has to institute a 60-mile radius non-transfer rule. If a student-athlete transfers within 60 miles, he must sit out so many non-conference games.
"That might make the parents think twice. It's not the kids at fault. It's the parents' mentality that their kids must play for a big school to get recruited. That's ludicrous," King explained.
The players soak up the parent's mentality. Players are now lashing out against former coaches. Fair or foul?
"The student-athletes are penalized and yet they are innocent in most of this," King said.
Maybe that is the answer. If rules and guidelines do not deter rouge athletic programs from cheating, perhaps the realization that they are jeopardizing innocent student-athletes will change their minds.
Adults should know better. Administrations teach right from wrong in the classroom, perhaps they should carry the message to athletics.
Moving your child from one school district to another guarantees nothing. For every Kejuan Jones, there are dozens of players who gain zilch.
Many feel a college scholarship is worth the risk. There may be some who feel "Little Johnny" can make it to the National Football League and become the family's cash cow. Good luck.
There are ten current NFL players that once played high school football in the state of Oklahoma. In other words the chances of a high school football career leading to riches are slim.
An education on the other hand is priceless.
"It's unfortunate that these things have taken place, but it has forced all of the schools to look at their athletes and pay closer attention to grades. That's the most important thing for these athletes. You can't forfeit your education," Heath said.
This is not "Friday Night Lights" or "Varsity Blues." Shenanigans like this make us 'Forget the Titans.'
High school football in Tulsa sparks great debate. Let's keep the egos in check and limit the debate to on the field product.
Do it for the kids.
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