The Edmond Sun
With scheduling concerns looming each year along with the lack of recognition of student players and coaches, seven districts decided to join together to form the Central Oklahoma Athletic Conference (COAC).
The districts include Edmond, Deer Creek, Moore, Mustang, Norman, Stillwater and Yukon all operating under the new conference as of the 2014-15 school year. These seven school districts represent 12 high schools. COAC will use the 2013-14 school year to elect officers, enact bylaws and schedule for the 2014-15 school year. The 12 schools will continue to include out-of-conference games on their teams’ schedules.
“About two years ago we started having discussions about what is happening in the conferences,” Edmond’s Athletic Director Mike Nunley said. “We started questioning whether or not we are getting out of our conference affiliation what we wanted.”
Nunley said all of the coaches agreed recognition of athletes and coaches and the ability to fill their athletic schedules was the most important thing and recognized these three areas were not being addressed in a way they wanted to address them.
“We had faded on the first two, and by forming the Central Conference we won’t have to run all over looking for teams to play the first three weeks of the season,” Nunley said. “We found the conferences we were in weren’t meeting those needs in boys and girls sports across the board. Not all of the schools had freshmen and junior varsity as well as varsity teams or they didn’t have both boys’ and girls’ teams.”
Nunley said most 6A schools (there are 32) will only play other 6A schools. One year the Edmond Santa Fe football team had to travel to Bastrop, La., to play a game and one time they had to play a school from Kansas City.
“We wanted to keep Edmond games and still fill schedules,” Nunley said. “When Memorial played Deer Creek last year (a 5A school) that led us to start having conversations about Deer Creek’s student population growth and the projection that it may be reclassified as a 6A school soon.”
Because football redistricts every two years, Deer Creek will be classified as a 5A school even though student population may push it up into the 6A range. Schools are classified a year in advance and keep that classification for two additional years.
Nunley said, “The school districts in the Central Oklahoma Athletic Conference have a regional aspect as to their location, they are relatively the same size, have relatively good following and all of the districts are interested in hosting events and want to share the responsibility and cost.”
Within the conference there are schools that share a natural rivalry, Nunley said. There is the Moore War in baseball, in swimming the Norman North boys and Edmond North girls and the intra- and inter-district long-standing school and district rivalries that have been around for years.
“We need to recognize who the outstanding conference coaches and students are,” Nunley said. “If Deer Creek and Edmond Santa Fe are first and second then we need to promote that and adjust. We need to learn from our mentors, the SEC and the Big 12.”
Nunley said in Oklahoma the Oklahoma Secondary School Activities Association determines who the district opponents are in football, soccer, regular wrestling, baseball and softball.
“Ten football games are set by the OSSAA a year and seven of those are set for the schools by OSSAA,” Nunley said. “Weeks one, two and three are up to the schools to arrange those games.”
He added other sports are just as important and coaches were having the same problems in scheduling because they needed to fill ninth-grade, junior varsity and varsity schedules.
Bob Diefenderfer, athletic director for the Deer Creek schools said, “I just feel there is a common vision here. For us it was simple. Since we are coming from 5A there is no guarantee we are going to be 6A in any sports next year. If we are going to project we might be on the line maybe number 30 to 34, but we may still be 5A in everything.”
Diefenderfer said the district will probably be 6A in some sports.
“I had told our suburban conference we would be looking for a 6A conference opportunity because of the way we are going in growth,” Diefenderfer said. “Then we started having the discussions about forming this conference. In one way or another teams are all leaving another conference.
“This fits the future needs of our student athletes very well. Timing was just about perfect for us. If we are 6A in anything thing next year it would be cross country, volleyball, track, golf, tennis or swimming.”
Diefenderfer said the district will be classified as 5A in football, softball, dual state wrestling, baseball and soccer this year and next year.
“These are done because in these sports you are locked in for two years,” Diefenderfer said. “In football we will be in 5A for three years because they plan a year in advance for the next two years.”
Diefenderfer said Deer Creek will have more chances to play 6A schools in the new conference.
“We will pick up non-district games in football and soccer,” Diefenderfer said. “It is a really good conference for Deer Creek’s future. The timing was good for us.”
Nunley said how the district schools were going to be able to build a schedule became a priority for him. “I had to find teams to play, leading to the next conversation. Before you knew it there were 12 of us sitting at the same table and the next thing we knew we had the new conference.”