College Sports

Could Realignment End Oklahoma-Texas Rivalry?

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NORMAN, Okla. (AP) - The Oklahoma-Nebraska rivalry has already gone by the wayside because of conference realignment. Could the Sooners’ Red River Rivalry game with Texas be next?

If the Sooners and Longhorns end up in different conferences, Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops doesn’t see the annual October showdown as a must moving forward.

“I don’t think it’s necessary. No one wants to hear that, but life changes,” Stoops said Tuesday. “If it changes, you’ve got to change with it to whatever degree. If it works, great. I love the game. But if it doesn’t, it doesn’t. Sometimes that’s the way it goes.”

Oklahoma and Texas have been playing since well before they were conference rivals. They first met in 1900 and have been playing every year at the Cotton Bowl in Dallas since 1929. Last year’s game was the 105th meeting between the teams.

But if Oklahoma heads to the Pac-12 or SEC and Texas doesn’t come with, all that tradition could be washed away.

“Now that I’m 50, that’s how I see it. A lot of things change,” Stoops said. “All of a sudden, we weren’t playing Nebraska every year. And now they’re gone and we’re still here.

“Life goes on. People find other rivalries. You find other fun places to go and enjoy the game, enjoy the experience. I think it’s obvious we’ll always have a great product that’s exciting to follow. We always have great TV audiences. Whatever happens, we’ll adjust to it.”

University president David Boren said last week that Oklahoma had been in contact with multiple conferences and expected to decide within three weeks whether to stay in the Big 12.

Stoops said he thinks Oklahoma’s recruiting would only be hurt “a little bit” if the Sooners weren’t playing games regularly against Texas teams and that he is “not lobbying” for any particular endgame in conference realignment talks.

He said he wouldn’t want to face his brother, Arizona coach Mike Stoops, every year as division rivals in an expanded Pac-12 but he wouldn’t expect the university to make decisions based on his family’s preferences.

Oklahoma’s rivalry with Nebraska was once among the most prominent in college football. It was a Thanksgiving weekend staple in the days of the Big Eight, then got fractured when the teams ended up in different divisions of the Big 12. The split meant the teams only were required to play twice every four years, and they’re not scheduled to play in the foreseeable future with the Cornhuskers in the Big Ten starting this season.

A potential game around 2020 has been discussed but not finalized.

With Nebraska gone and Colorado now in the Pac-12, the future of the Big 12 was thrown into more doubt in the past few weeks after Texas A&M announced it will leave by July 2012 if it finds a suitable new league, presumably the SEC.

Also Tuesday, the chair of the Kansas Board of Regents says it would be best for Kansas and Kansas State to remain in the same conference, even if the Big 12 eventually falls apart. Ed McKechnie told The Associated Press the board prefers for the Big 12 to remain together, and “until something happens, I’m just not going to speculate on what else there could be.”

(© Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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