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Gasso: OKC, not OU to blame for Sooners' home field advantage

Oklahoma’s success at the Women’s College World Series has often drawn controversy due to the advantage that comes from playing in its home state.

Ahead of this year’s tournament, Texas head coach Mike White told the Austin American-Statesman that at some point he’d like to see the tournament held somewhere else.

“I’d love to see it rotate eventually, but probably not in my tenure as a coach,” White said. “We get it, but it is a huge advantage obviously for Oklahoma.”

Devon Park, formerly USA Softball Hall of Fame Stadium, first started hosting the WCWS in 1990. It’s the home of USA Softball and the National Softball Hall of Fame. It hosts between 150,000 and 200,000 fans over 30 weekends through various events every year.

Oklahoma head coach Patty Gasso was asked about White’s comments at a press conference on Wednesday and pointed to the groundwork Oklahoma City has done over the year’s to be able to host the WCWS every year.

“There’s nothing we can do,” Gasso said, referring to her softball team. “It’s not our fault. It’s no one’s fault. It’s the people of Oklahoma City that put in the money to make this happen. It’s a celebration of that.”

The stadium has undergone four phases of renovations from 2000 to 2020, increasing its capacity from 2,000 to 13,000. It’s played host to the largest crowds in the history of college softball.

Those renovations were funded by bond issues that were voted on by the city. Most recently, voters in Oklahoma City voted to pass a $27.5 million bond, which secured the venue as WCWS hosts through 2035.

“You can look at it any way you want,” Gasso said. “Someone’s going to have to put up big bucks to try to get it somewhere else.”

There’s little doubt that there are advantages to having the WCWS just a 25-mile drive from your home stadium.

With super regionals wrapping up on Sunday, several of the teams had a quick turnaround before the start of the tournament on Thursday. The Sooners don’t really have to worry about travel and it’s a familiar venue — they’ve hosted home games at Devon Park in each of the past two years.

The majority of the crowd is often wearing crimson and cream, making the games feel like super-charged Sooner home games.

Still, the amount that these advantages have helped the Sooners’ during their recent run is still up for debate.

“I’m sort of the one that looks at things of it’s a game,” Duke head coach Marissa Young said about the Sooners’ advantage. “The game doesn’t know. We have to show up and be able to keep our composure and play great softball.

“(It’s) no secret, it’s an advantage. A lot of these teams here, everyone but us, has been here before. That obviously works in their favor. At the end of the day it’s going to come down to how well we play and how gritty we are for seven innings.”

The Sooners open the Women’s College World Series against Duke on Thursday at 1:30 p.m. on ESPN.