Bill Haisten: Why does Booker T.’s football team only have 50 players? | OK Additional preparations

The quote of the week was provided by Eli Brown III, who recalled his experience from 1996 to 2000 as a student-athlete at Booker T. Washington High School.

Plus, Travis Hill’s Muskogee team is a surprise at 3-0 and what’s up with Broken Arrow at 0-3? Barry Lewis and Patrick Prince chat.



“During that time, 80 percent of Tulsa’s basketball talent was walking the halls of Booker T. Washington,” Brown says. “Our first year team had almost 22 children. We had about the same number in the JV team, then 15 varsity guys. Coach (Nate) Harris could do a platoon system – replace all five guys at once, and there would be no dropouts.

“We had guys who couldn’t make the team here, but they went to other schools and started. Booker T. was so talented in those years. Athletes everywhere. When I was a freshman, Ryan Humphrey was a senior. Fifteen or 20 Division I varsity coaches would be at our training.

Today, Eli Brown is BTW’s head basketball coach. With Class 5A resources and far less manpower than was the case when BTW won state titles in 1995, 1996, 1997 and 1999, its Hornets compete in Class 6A – the most major state classification.

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When the 2017 Booker T. Washington football team won the 6AII title, 80 players were on the roster. In 2021, coach Jonathan Brown had a roster of 40 players.

Fifty kids are playing Booker T. football this season, and they’re doing it because 80-player rosters are common in 6AII. Choctaw currently has 85 college players and a freshman football class of 45 athletes. Sand Springs has 83 college players and 41 freshmen.

The 2022 Hornets have 112 fewer college players than the Broken Arrow program.

“A few years ago, and even with our 2017 championship team, we didn’t have a lot of guys going both ways (playing both offensively and defensively),” Jonathan Brown said. “You could have a special player – like a Dax Hill or a JJ (Hester) or a Gentry Williams – playing both sides, but for the most part we had enough guys that we could keep our players fresh.”

Last year’s Hornets had 15 players playing on both sides of the ball.

“As far as people going both ways, we’re level 5A,” Jonathan Brown said. “Players don’t usually go back and forth in 6A.”

The 2022 Football Hornets are 1-2 after shaking rival McLain 51-8 last week. In losses to Bentonville West and Del City, Booker T. Washington scored a combined total of just 13 points.

“It’s frustrating, for sure,” Jonathan Brown said. “I love these kids so much, but would I like to have 80 players? Yeah. We just do our best with the kids we have.

Several former Hornets are now thriving at other schools. If they hadn’t left Booker T. Washington, DJ McKinney and Jaiden Carroll would be seniors in the Hornet’s backfield. Instead, McKinney has been fantastic at Union. As a junior last season, Carroll was the difference maker as Jenks won the 6AI Championship.

When the Presley family moved from North Tulsa, it had a long-lasting effect on two programs – Bixby’s and Booker T.’s.

“Massive impact,” said Jonathan Brown. “Historically massive.”

During the 2016 preseason, Brennan Presley participated in a few practices with the Hornets. Brennan and Braylin were supposed to be Hornets, but the family made the decision to move.

For Bixby Championship Teams, Brennan Presley was State Player of the Year in 2019 and Braylin Presley earned that honor in 2020 and 2021.

“A numbers game”

“Football is a numbers game,” said Gil Cloud, who retired last year as the Tulsa Public Schools athletic director. “When schools compete with other schools that have 3,000 to 4,000 more students, the playing field is not level.”

As Eli Brown III stared in amazement at photos of the new Union football facilities, he recited the registration figures for super heavyweights Union (4,525), Broken Arrow (5,559), Jenks (3,558 ) and Owasso (2,880).

“These are teams we have to play against,” Eli Brown said.

In football, class 6AI is occupied by the 16 largest high schools in the state. The next 16 are in class 6AII. According to the Oklahoma Secondary School Activities Association, Booker T. Washington’s 1,284 enrollment ranks 31st in Oklahoma — barely ranking the Football Hornets in 6AI and the Basketball Hornets in 6A.

If BTW had 30 fewer students, the Hornets would be in Class 5A.

Academically, U.S. News & World Report ranks BTW as the #1 public high school in the Tulsa area. BTW’s college readiness score is by far the best in the region.

Students in the Tulsa Public Schools District cannot simply enroll in Booker T. Washington. As BTW is a magnet school with high academic standards, students must apply for admission and must meet specific criteria to qualify.

There is an admissions mechanism known as “Principal’s Discretion”. TPS athletic director Mick Wilson said 5% of places in each senior class, junior class, sophomore class and BTW freshman class are reserved for students “at the director’s discretion.”

These students may not meet or exceed the target on academic requirements, but they are generally accepted because they are academically close and known to be strong kids.

Occasionally, these “director’s discretion” students are also talented athletes. It can make a difference if a child is a particularly gifted athlete, but the 5% limit doesn’t allow for a large influx of new students who could push the roster of soccer players from 50 to 65.

Declining turnout is “a national trend,” Wilson reports.

“It’s not just a problem in Tulsa,” he said. “I think it’s a problem in Dallas, Memphis and Little Rock. I think city football has real problems at the moment. Oklahoma City has the same issues. People moving to suburban areas – that could be part of the problem.

“We (at Tulsa Public Schools) have nine high schools, and some of our counterparts are districts with one high school — and we compete with that high school.”

At all 10 TPS colleges, Wilson says, football attendance is up this year.

“It’s a good problem when we’re short on football helmets,” Wilson said, “and we’re struggling to find football helmets for our kids. That’s a pretty good sign.”

Expectations don’t change

With undersized but relentlessly aggressive players last season, Eli Brown III’s Hornets were 24-3. As he begins the countdown to the start of preseason basketball practice on Oct. 1, Jonathan Brown’s Football Hornets were the No. 1 ranked team of the preseason in 6AII , but stumbled to a 1-2 start.

BTW is disabled this week. Next week, in the District 6AII-1 opener for both teams, the Hornets will visit Bartlesville.

Says Jonathan Brown: “That’s what we have at Booker T. now: we’ll always have kids like Dax Hill and Micah Tease – guys who are good enough to play in Alabama or Michigan – but we don’t have any. not that much. those mid-level guys that give us depth. They are the ones who give us 15 to 20 plays per game when we can rest the starters.

If you accept a head coaching position with Booker T. Washington, you accept the glory of the job – along with the challenges and expectations.

In football, the Hornets have nine state titles. In men’s basketball, there have been 16 championships. In 2019, the Bryce Thompson-Trey Phipps Hornets were 6A champions.

Expectations never waver: BTW is meant to win and compete for titles.

Each of the Browns is a former Hornet athlete. Eli was a graduate basketball player in 2000. In the 90s, Jonathan was a BTW All-State football player. At Tennessee, he was Peyton Manning’s teammate and an All-SEC defensive end. In the 1998 NFL Draft, Jonathan was a third round pick of the Green Bay Packers.

With far fewer players and assistant coaches than most of their opponents, Eli Brown and Jonathan Brown as Hornet head coaches should win like BTW legends Nate Harris and Ed Lacy. The Browns, however, say there just aren’t as many viable football and basketball athletes at BTW as there were just a few years ago.

Eli Brown: “You used to see little kids playing basketball and football all the time. You don’t see as much of that now. When they get to high school, they have no (sports history). That’s part of the problem.

Jonathan Brown: “Eli and I have been walking these halls constantly for the past two years trying to recruit kids to come out for football and basketball. We just don’t have the guys – the male athletes – walking around the building that we had before.

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