Posted: Feb. 13, 2016. People and points. That’s what was missing at last year’s Oil Bowl.
The all-star game’s allure to the average fan isn’t quite the same these days, and 7-3 slugfests like in 2015 aren’t going to be bringing droves back to Memorial Stadium in 90-degree weather.
Gone are the days of a plethora of Division I athletes suiting up. It doesn’t seem like Oklahoma will be returning any time soon, either.
So this year’s Oil Bowl made other strategic changes in the hopes of landing more butts in the seats and conversely raising more money for charity.
Five of the six coaches working the June 18 matchup are either local or have local ties. If they have it their way, those coaches will also be working with mostly local players.
And the players will be working under rules that are designed to have offenses find the end zone more than once in 48 minutes.
While there could definitely be some Metroplex and Panhandle athletes filling the East and West Texas rosters, they aren’t getting the invites now.
The Oil Bowl committee’s thinking is that if more athletes within about a 70-mile radius play in the game, more fans from those nearby towns will want to watch.
Will it work? I could see a bump in attendance, although I think coming up with 72 total players will prove to be difficult without branching out a little bit. But there’s no question it’s worth a shot.
“I think it’s a good plan to stay within the Wichita Falls region,” said Childress’ Jason Sims, who will be the West Texas head coach. “It makes the names more recognizable, and it gives kids a chance to play in the Oil Bowl that wouldn’t have a shot in the past.”
Coaching the East this year are Henrietta’s Byron West along with Rider’s Marc Bindel (offensive coordinator) and Callisburg’s Ritchie Pinckard (defensive coordinator). Helping Sims are Iowa Park’s Aubrey Sims (offensive coordinator) and Holliday’s Frank Johnson (defensive coordinator).
Bindel has special memories of the Oil Bowl after playing in it. West represented Oklahoma in 1989 and was Texas’ head coach in 2011, while Bindel and Jason Sims have helped in unofficial capacities before.
So they’re committed to doing whatever it takes to give the all-star game an injection. Bindel and Jason Sims have started Twitter accounts to help promote the game as well.
“We’re trying to hype it up that way — release someone who’s going to play every two or three days,” said Bindel, whose East Texas team already has ex-Iowa Park/Bells quarterback Derrick Ponder and Burkburnett receiver Brandon Ingram. “I’m excited about it. I was fortunate enough to play in this game, so it’s always held a special place in my heart.”
The Oil Bowl was pushed back a week and won’t interfere with Childress’ Greenbelt Bowl, which will keep the all-star games from competing for the same players.
More importantly, the Oil Bowl committee and coaches ironed out some changes that can lead to more points. Since 2008, the winning score has been in the teens on four different occasions but reached 30 points only once.
Defenses already have a decided advantage before an all-star game’s kickoff because it’s more challenging to install an offensive game plan in a short time.
“We’ve agreed on some defensive rules to favor offense like you can’t rush more than four in the first three quarters,” Jason Sims said. “It’s going to give offenses an advantage and open up the game.”
I enjoy great defense like the next guy, but when quarterbacks are running for their lives and the punt-to-first-down ratio is nearly equal, that’s not an ideal situation.
I’m not sure how effective these changes will be, but the Oil Bowl committee should be applauded for trying to shake things up.
I’ll be camped out at Memorial Stadium on June 18, covering the game for this newspaper regardless of who’s playing and how exciting the game is. The question the Oil Bowl higher-ups want to know is will you be there, too?