Hindsight 20/20 after weather puts freeze on game attendance

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By Traci Chapman

teaser.qxdHindsight was 20/20 for administrators after frigid temperatures and freezing rain hallmarked the Friday playoff game between Mustang and Broken Arrow high schools.
Social media was buzzing with parents and others who complained it was a bad decision to hold the 6A quarterfinal playoff game between the Broncos and Tigers on Friday as scheduled. The schools had the opportunity to postpone the game to Saturday.
The decision was ultimately made by Broken Arrow, whose team traveled to Mustang Friday afternoon for the game. On Monday, Broken Arrow Superintendent Jarod Mendenhall took to the Internet himself to apologize for the district’s choice to play the game Friday night.
“While Oklahoma weather is notoriously unpredictable, district administrators should have erred on the side of caution and requested a delay of the game,” Mendenhall stated in an open letter posted to parents. “Other districts chose to postpone their games, and in hindsight, that would have been the best decision.”
Mustang Superintendent Sean McDaniel said Tuesday, while in retrospect, the weather was more favorable on Saturday, officials from both districts did their due diligence in making a decision about when the game would be played. Starting early Friday morning, Mustang staff and administrators kept in nearly constant contact with their Broken Arrow counterparts, advising them of local conditions.
“We kept our eye on it through the day – we heard they were leaving at a particular time, and we talked to them probably every 15 to 30 minutes, even after they left,” McDaniel said. “Our deal was we had driven our roads in our area and we felt like for our folks on our side we were OK. Our biggest concern was their driving the interstate coming to us.”
OSSAA, which oversees Oklahoma high school sports, leaves the decision about game cancellation to the teams involved, McDaniel said. While the roads were officials’ primary concern, conditions worsened through the evening, as the team – and the relatively small amount of spectators who braved the weather – endured freezing rain and wind chill. According to the National Weather Service, the wind chill during the game dropped to about 12 degrees.
Many other schools delayed their playoff games to Saturday, while a few other games were also played Friday night, officials said. The Oologah High School team was on its way to Oklahoma City when the buses were forced to turn around because of freezing rain, officials there said.
Mustang’s Nightriders marching band initially sat in the stands to provide moral support, but students were forced to leave the game after valves on players’ instruments froze and precipitation threatened to damage some instruments. Broken Arrow’s band and pep squad left at halftime, as did many spectators, officials said.
Although Broken Arrow prevailed in the game with a score of 43-20, it was spectators’ inability to watch the game at Bronco Stadium that bothered McDaniel, he said.
“Now that we have all the information, the way the weather turned out on Saturday – I regret that there were some who couldn’t attend that could have attended on Saturday,” the superintendent said.
“Moving forward, I want to assure you that we will take every measure to make sure this mistake is not repeated,” Mendenhall wrote.