By Gabriel D. Brooks Longview News Journal Dec 1, 2010
Finding a place to play a high school football playoff game is often a tricky proposition. I suspect it's not as easy as the majority of on-lookers believe.
Such is the cause of the statewide outcry launched from West Texas to the Hill Country to — yes, of course — the Metroplex concerning Longview and Mesquite Horn playing their Class 5A Division II Region II final in, gasp, Louisiana. If you have a Twitter account and follow anything related to Texas high school football, you've undoubtedly been exposed to the hate-filled vitriol electronically spewed at everyone possibly involved in determining that a game of such magnitude be played outside the state's borders.
The initial reaction consisted mostly of proud Texans voicing their displeasure of their great game stooping to the level of being played in Louisiana. Never mind the fact our neighbors to the east produce more Division I FBS recruits per capita annually than any other state.
After the shock wore off, critics pointed to Shreveport's casinos and hotel accommodations, railing against the site because it would take Texas money out of the state to boost the Louisiana economy.
There were people out there who thought Horn head coach Rodney Webb, Mesquite ISD athletic director Steve Bragg, Longview head coach John King and Longview Director of Extracurricular Activities Pat Collins were in cahoots in a wool-over-the-eyes interstate commerce bamboozling.
Still, the discourse raged on, ranging from why didn't the two agree to Trinity Mother Frances Rose Stadium in Tyler, to why didn't they choose SFA, to how dare Longview not simply go along with SMU because Highland Park is so much nicer than Shreveport (the same Highland Park proponent called Longview's decision-making "arrogant." Oh, the irony).
In short, here are the whys: (A) Webb did not want Rose Stadium. He told ESPNDallas.com why Monday — "We played there twice in my three years at Horn and our headphones did not work either time." (B) SFA's hosting defending national champion Villanova on Saturday in an FCS playoff. © Why didn't Longview agree to SMU? Uh, the same reason Horn didn't agree to Independence Stadium.
The bottom line is Independence Stadium could have been avoided had Horn's decision makers agreed to Kincaide Stadium, which King said was the first option explored. Webb declined despite the fact that Horn's campus is 19.5 miles from Kincaide Stadium, according to Google Maps. Webb, however, acknowledged Longview's recent Kincaide success and did not want to face the Lobos there, King said.
King explained that the next option was selecting home-neutral sites — Webb opted for SMU's Gerald Ford Stadium while King opted for Shreveport's Independence Stadium. The coin flip went in Longview's favor.
Shreveport it is.
It's the nature of the coin-flip beast. If you can't agree on a site, then aren't comfortable with potential home-neutral sites, you're left flipping for two sites that force the loser of the flip to drive through the winner's town to reach the location.
In other words, no blame rests with Longview for taking this game out of state. Horn declined a 20-minute drive knowing it could result in a three-hour trek.
But don't blame Horn, either. All it did was lose a flip. It happens to everyone.
If there's blame to assign for what has become a statewide high school athletics controversy, give it to the outsiders who have no dog in the fight nor clue of the details.
After all, there is a precedent for two Texas teams playing at Independence Stadium: Texas High beat Highland Park there in 2006.
Maybe that's why the Metroplex disapproves.