By Lance Rinker
Texas Longhorns vs. #11 Oklahoma Sooners
Saturday – October 11 – 11:00 am
Cotton Bowl – Dallas
Considered one of the greatest rivalries in all of sports, the Red River Rivalry has certainly captivated audiences worldwide. But the importance and value of the annual University of Texas-University of Oklahoma matchup goes beyond how many people watch.
This rivalry is known by many different names, including the Red River Showdown, the Red River Shootout, the Texas-OU Game, or even the OU-Texas Game. The name is derived from the Red River that forms part of the boundary between Texas and Oklahoma that has in the past caused conflict between the two states, most notably the 1931 Red River Bridge War.
The matchups over the years have been legendary, with the annual battle swaying back and forth like a swing in the wind. Storylines such as Texas coach Darrell Royal taking on his mentor, Oklahoma coach Bud Wilkinson and Barry Switzer, when he coached Oklahoma, going up against Texas running back Earl Campbell, whom he tried to recruit.
Then of course there was the record-setting matchup that saw Oklahoma quarterback Jason White shred the Texas secondary with a barrage of passes, leading to a 52-point margin of victory and the Heisman Trophy for White.
But the football programs themselves exude excellence, regardless of all-time standings, point differentials or even the storylines.
OU has supplied the NFL with more than 360 players all-time in the draft, the fourth highest total of all schools. The program also has groomed 38 first-round picks, including three No. 1 overall choices in quarterback Sam Bradford (2010), running back Billy Sims (1980), and defensive end Lee Roy Selmon (1976). Brian Bosworth was the No. 1 pick by the Seattle Seahawks in the 1987 NFL Supplemental Draft.
The Longhorns have had more than 330 players’ names called on draft day, including a record 17 players drafted in the 1984 draft alone. The program also has had at least one player selected in 75 consecutive drafts from 1938 to 2013, which is a record.
Among those draft choices, 43 UT players have been selected in the first round with three of those former Longhorns – Kenneth Sims (1982); Earl Campbell (1978), and Tommy Nobis (1966) – earning the honor of being the first players selected overall.
The historical and economic factors involved with this intense rivalry shouldn’t be ignored either.
Oklahoma and Texas have played at Fair Park since 1929. The significance of that location has to do with the stadium, the Cotton Bowl, being halfway between Norman and Austin, with Dallas serving as a huge alumni base for both schools.
Adding to the game’s pageantry is the fact it always takes place during the State Fair of Texas. Three trophies are exchanged depending on the outcome of the game.
There’s a gold, 10-gallon cowboy hat called “The Golden Hat,” the Red River Showdown Trophy kept by the student government of the winning school, and of course the Governor’s Trophy. The state governor on the losing side presents something to the other, usually a slab of the finest steak in the state.
The fans in attendance always are perfectly defined by color, with half-crimson, half-burnt orange taking place on their respective sides of the stadium and split down the middle at the 50-yard line. The game has been a sellout every year since 1941, with capacity for the Cotton Bowl Stadium currently at 92,100.
Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings is a huge fan of the rivalry himself, and appreciates what it brings to the city of Dallas.
“The Red River Shootout is important to Dallas because it has been part of the culture here for nearly 100 years and it brings millions of dollars in economic impact to the city every year,” he said. “The rivalry between the Longhorns and Sooners is special because Fair Park is almost exactly halfway between the two universities and the game is played at such a fantastic venue during the State Fair of Texas.”
Each school receives direct payments of $500,000 for playing in Dallas, along with a split of the ticket sales. Dallas officials have estimated that the game provides an economic boost of more than $20 million in Dallas County each year.
To show how committed the city was to keeping this rivalry in Fair Park, it spent $57 million on improvements that were completed in 2008. The upgrades amounted to a major overhaul, with the addition of 16,000 more seats and the installation of new scoreboard.
In 2012, the universities re-negotiated terms and demanded the city make more improvements to the recently-refurbished stadium. The city once again responded in kind by spending $25 million to spruce up the amenities.
The stadium’s entrances now feature new floors with Cotton Bowl logos. New banners and signage are more pronounced and placed more frequently throughout the stadium. Exposed pipes in the concourse ceilings are enclosed and there are twice as many televisions near the concessions stands.
Facades cover the outside of the end zone stands, better blending the stadium with its historic surroundings. The press and game-official rooms were updated and expanded, and nearly 340 club-level seats were installed, providing prime seating for boosters.
The 109th edition of this classic football clash will take place on Saturday, Oct. 11 with a kickoff time of 11:00 a.m. Oklahoma is the home team for the 2014 game and will wear its white jerseys. The Sooners will occupy the sideline below the press box. OU always is the home team in even-numbered years.
In an atmosphere that arguably is more unique than that found at any other game, this rivalry is one that marks time and gives players and fans alike experiences for a lifetime.