A Rivalry That Never Grows Old

By Jan Hubbard

One of the realities of current youth is that most seem unimpressed by the enormity of tradition. In the distant days of my childhood, if someone said Texas and Oklahoma had been competing in football since 1900, we would have been overwhelmed. In 1900? Hell, refrigerators hadn’t even been invented.


The fact that the game will be 113 years old on Saturday and that the two teams have been playing in the Cotton Bowl since 1937 is an afterthought for much of the current generation. Don’t misunderstand. Fans of OU and Texas have the very healthy disdain for one another so that tradition lives on. But the fact that the two teams have played 106 games is not that big of a deal, which is reflective of the computer-quick, short-attention span generation. And, frankly, that’s OK.


But it is history that makes the rivalry so juicy. That and the fact that one state is quite a bit larger than the other and makes a big deal out of it. Texas is second in the U.S. in population and Oklahoma is 28th.  Texas is also second in land mass while Oklahoma is 20th.


Isn’t bigger better?


UT fans would say yes. And it helps their point of view that Texas has been more successful in the series with a 59-42-5 record.


But as OU enthusiasts point out, the Sooners are 8-5 under Bob Stoops and that includes handing the Longhorns two of the worst beatings in their history – 63-12 in 2000 and 65-13 in 2003.


Of such things, rivalries flourish.


One of the more interesting aspects of the rivalry is that OU does an excellent job of luring great players from Texas and it is not as simple as those players abandoning their home state. Consider those who live in North, Northeast or Northwest parts of Texas. Even though it’s in another state, Norman is much closer than Austin. Billy Sims home in Hooks, Texas, was 360 miles from Austin but 290 to OU.


Even from the fertile recruiting ground of Dallas – Norman is 189 miles and Austin is 195 according to Mapquest.


So it is not only not traitorous to go to the closer school, it’s just as or even more practical.


It is the mixture, however, of students and alumni of the two schools in Texas – particularly in a city as large as Dallas – that adds to the rivalry in a way experienced only partially by others.


There are matchups with a great history but I think the only one that really comes close to Texas-OU is Alabama-Auburn because in each of those rivalries, the schools are recruiting the same athletes in the same area. Even after the respective students graduate, they are all mingling with each other in cities all over the state.


The Michigan-Ohio State rivalry is similar to OU-Texas in that Michigan lures a lot of players from Ohio, which has more talented high school players. But alumni and students from the schools don’t mix in one state. So that somewhat negates the fact that Michigan always has more players from Ohio than OSU has from Michigan. The Wolverines list 24 players from Ohio on their current roster while the Buckeyes have only two from Michigan.


The difference is much greater here. On the current OU roster, there are 52 players from Texas. On the Texas roster, there are three from Oklahoma.


And that’s what makes the rivalry perhaps the best. That and history. The fact that the two have been playing so long simply makes it more intense.


When the two schools meet Saturday, they will know there is a history of despising each other, although they may not recognize that it has been for more than a century. But it is a permanent part of the makeup of the rivalry – and a feeling that has been and will continue to be passed from generation to generation.