In regard to the ineligibility issue, there is no doubt this was a black eye to our football program, to our school system and to the community of Durant. We first learned there would be an appeal made by the parents and Durant I.S.D. to the OSSAA regarding that organization’s eleventh hour decision. The player was ruled ineligible the morning prior to the last regular game of the season against Ardmore. The OSSAA was tipped off by an anonymous e-mail on the Monday prior to the Ardmore game. By the beginning of the week following the Ardmore game, Dr. Jason Simeroth, Durant Independent Schools superintendent, decided not to appeal. He admitted some mistakes had been made by his staff in completing the necessary documentation needed in order for “the player” to transfer from the Texas school system to Oklahoma.
Obviously, whoever sent these e-mails was more worried about how good the Durant Lions were with “the player” on the team than they were about the integrity of the Oklahoma public school system and more specifically, Durant schools. The timing of this concern just coincided with the last game against Ardmore deciding which one of the two teams would advance to the state playoffs. This is mentioned not to make excuses for our school’s mistakes in the student transfer procedure, but to chastise those who profess to be for the betterment of Oklahoma schools, but who withheld their complaints until the all-important last game of the year. If this appears to point a finger to someone from Ardmore, then you read me correctly.
What happened Friday after the OSSAA’s ruling made me very proud of our community. At this point, I feel someone from Ardmore attempted to take away the football players’ ability to show on the gridiron which team was the best, while pitting one community against the other. “The player’s” parents asked Tom Marcum, attorney with the Burrage Law Firm of Durant, to help them in this matter. Tom presented the case before District Judge Mark Campbell and asked for a temporary injunction against the OSSAA’s ruling so “the player” could play that night.
Under the “irreparable damage” doctrine, which meant if “the player” would be ruled eligible once his case was formally presented to the OSSAA the following week after the Ardmore game, then it would be too late. The damage would have been done by not allowing him to play in this last game, which would decide who advances to the state playoffs. Judge Campbell ruled in “the player’s” favor and he played that night. In a very close game, Ardmore won and it rightfully advanced to the playoffs. Our kids put up a great fight, despite many starters being injured and others getting injured during the game. In fact, many players kept putting themselves back in the game in order to “gut it out” for their team. I know of no better compliment to a fellow team member and coach than an injured player putting it all on the line regardless of the personal pain they feel.
On Nov. 24, 2009, Mike Herron, President of the Durant Gold Ball Club, and I met with Dr. Simeroth to express our concerns about how this matter has tarnished our football program and school. As previously mentioned, Dr. Simeroth admitted to us that mistakes were made and that he, as the Superintendent, must take full responsibility for them. He informed Mike and I that policies and procedures have since been implemented so this will never happen again. We told Dr. Simeroth that as members of this community and supporters of Durant football, we expect our school officials to be honest and forthcoming when mistakes happen. He agreed and said that he would be willing to talk to the membership of the Durant Gold Ball Club and anyone else who wanted to hear from him directly about this entire situation.
I hope that this community can forgive, but not forget. We have come a long way in demanding excellence from our school system, both academically and athletically. I know those winless and one-win seasons are still fresh on our minds. I think Head Coach Byron Cordell and his staff have made us all proud. The Friday night lights in Durant have become an event you do not want to miss. This was the first year since Coach Cordell came here four years ago that we did not make it to the state playoffs.
There was much grumbling and “Monday morning quarterbacking” that came to my attention this year. A losing year will cause that and it is expected — I have done it myself. I have even expressed some of it to Coach Cordell. That is what is so special about athletics and especially football. We all are part of what makes a great team. Do not think for a moment that if our community did not expect to win that we would. It just does not happen that way. We must continue to put high expectations on our kids, teachers, coaches and administrators. If not, how else do you expect them to be successful? Durant citizens must continue their quest to be the best. How our student athletes perform on the field is a reflection of who we are. But, if we expect honesty and forthrightness from our school officials, we must expect the same of ourselves as parents, fans, and citizens. If any of you have a complaint or suggestion for any of our school officials, let them know. Talk things over, you may see things differently after gathering all the facts. After this, if further action is needed, then get involved to make positive changes. Please do not think things are going to improve by just complaining.
On behalf of the Durant Gold Ball Club, we are proud of what our young men have accomplished this year. They were a very exciting team to watch. We expect great things from our team next year. And for any returning players who may read this article, the Gold Ball Club would like to say “we have your back.”
Vann Dixon, Treasurer
Durant Gold Ball Club