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Kevin on 7: Cowboys Stadium is not the Goal

By KVIA General Manager, Kevin Lovell

El Paso high school football teams have put their helmets and shoulder pads away now that Eastlake fell to Lake Dallas in a Class 5A regional semi-final game. Several El Paso teams did themselves proud this year. The most important test is victory against out-of-town opposition. Americas and Eastwood joined Eastlake in conquering foes from West Texas. J.J. Calderon from Eastlake, Patrick Melton from Americas and Julio Lopez from Eastwood are to be commended for their teams’ successes. Eastwood, in particular, played a whale of a game in losing 42-35 to Arlington Lamar loaded with Division I talent on a neutral site in Midland. Americas beat Lubbock Monterey at the Socorro Athletic Complex. Eastlake defeated Lubbock Cooper 24-21, also at the SAC.

Every coach’s job is to give its team the best chance to win. Why then (as ABC Sports Director Danny Mata told me) had Calderon, Melton and Lopez all potentially succumbed to the lure of playing at Cowboys Stadium?

In all but the first round of the Texas playoffs, head coaches from competing teams first decide if a game will be played at a neutral site or at either of the home team’s stadium. This is called the home and home option. As teams progress in the playoffs and face opponents from greater distances, most coaches understandably prefer to play in a neutral site rather than flipping a coin with a fifty percent chance of the game being played at your opponent’s stadium. Had Eastlake, Americas or Eastwood won their final games, each El Paso coach not only gave up the chance to play a home game, but incredibly had already agreed to play a Dallas Metroplex area opponent at Cowboys Stadium! I get it. Playing where the Cowboys play would be the memory of a lifetime but in doing so El Paso teams would be playing teams with players able to sleep in their own beds, players taking a short bus ride to Cowboys Stadium, and players who play in front of a considerably larger number of their fans. The teams that are regular playoff representatives have played in Cowboys Stadium before. El Paso teams playing there stand a reasonable chance of being awestruck. They will be far from home, facing daunting odds against a team that in almost all cases would be a heavy favorite at a true neutral stadium site. An El Paso team playing a DFW area team at Cowboys Stadium is anything but a neutral site game.

Canutillo coach Scott Brooks knows that. Last year the Eagles became the first El Paso team to win a regional championship. Brooks’ team won an unprecedented three games against out of town teams. In each case, Brooks insisted on playing a true neutral site game. Brooks told me he didn’t want to play the semi-final game at Cowboys Stadium. He and the Ennis coach agreed that Lubbock’s Lowry Field was a true neutral site requiring about seven hours drive time for both schools. Both teams even agreed to bus in the day of the game to save costs and make sure neither team had a competitive advantage. Brooks adds the Lubbock site gave his fans a chance to drive home after the game, saving hotel and other costs that would be considerably higher if the game was played much farther away in Arlington. Brooks told me that the Cowboys Stadium experience is not everything it’s cracked up to be. A coach who played there told Brooks the teams are bused to a stadium underground area and taken away as soon as the game is over.

I remember another El Paso team hurting its chances at immortal playoff success. The 1990 Andress Eagles under legendary coach Allan Sepkowitz were coming off a stunning playoff victory (on penetrations) over powerful Midland Lee. Andress succumbed to the lure of Texas Stadium where the Cowboys then played as its “neutral site” game. The result was a 49-7 thrashing by Arlington Lamar. The chances of Andress winning that game were not great, but they were all but eliminated by agreeing to play at Texas Stadium. Coaches Calderon, Melton and Lopez: if you are ever in a similar position, playing in Cowboys Stadium should not be your goal. Giving your team its best chance to win must be your highest priority.

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