Stillwater News Press

August 12, 2013

Stillwater High Pioneers join new athletic conference

By Nick Snow

STILLWATER, Okla. — With so much up in the air next season in terms of what’s going to happen in Class 6A, everybody is looking for a little security.

For Stillwater High School Athletic Director Tucker Barnard, that sense of security came Monday as Stillwater will join 12 other schools from seven school districts to form the Central Oklahoma Athletic Conference beginning with the 2014-15 school year.

“We are very excited about this new opportunity,” Barnard said. “Being affiliated with a strong conference was a goal of mine for the last three years since I’ve been here, and having the opportunity to join up with some schools of the caliber that we’re going to be in there with is very exciting for all of us.”

Stillwater will join Deer Creek, Edmond Memorial, Edmond Santa Fe, Edmond North, Moore, Westmoore, Southmoore, Norman High, Norman North, Mustang and Yukon as part of a 12-team conference that will have both varsity and sub-varsity competition.

But it wasn’t just a move to ensure Stillwater will face tougher competition. It also will help alleviate the headaches of trying to create a schedule from scratch for most Pioneer and Lady Pioneer coaches.

“It’s nice to know that there’s some security there,” Barnard said. “With football for example, it’s nice to know that we’re not going to be stuck without a game during nondistrict play. Each of the last two years we’ve kind of found ourselves in a sticky situation trying to get nondistrict games scheduled. This will be a way that we can secure that and that our kids are able to play the games that they’re allowed to play.”

A bunch of new teams may be making their way to Stillwater in the coming years, but that also could lead to the end of some rivalries — namely with Enid and Ponca City. Barnard said he’s hopeful to keep both rivals on the schedule for all sports across the board but a lot of it will depend on how the OSSAA decides to split Class 6A.

“We don’t really know how that’s going to work out, to be perfectly honest,” Barnard said. “Until we have some clarity on not only who is going to be in Division I and Division II, but who is going to be in the east and who is going to be in the west — if that’s how they decide to split it up. We could be in a district with Ponca and Enid or we might not. That remains to be scene, but we’ll know more about that this week.”

“I hope those rivalries are something that we can continue. It’ll be on a sport-by-sport basis and what the season and game limitations are for each sport, and it will be determined by how we make up the schedule.”

And even if those age-old rivalries become a casualty to Stillwater’s new conference affiliation, Barnard believes joining a conference will eventually pay off in the end.

“The conference as a whole is very strong,” Barnard said. “If you look at it across the board and all the athletic programs, you’ll see that there are a lot of state champions and a lot of state runner-ups that are being won by this group. It’s definitely going to be a tough conference for us, but that’s what we want. We want to be pushed. We want to grow our program and be competitive on a state level.”