Whether you want to call it the Red River Rivalry, the Red River Classic, the Red River Shootout or what is now being called the Red River Showdown, a rose by any other name would smell as sweet. After all, it’s Texas-Oklahoma week at the State Fair of Texas in Dallas.
Yes, it’s time for another Red River Showdown. Undoubtedly one of the major rivalries in NCAA football, if not in all of American sports, the 115th meeting between the 11th-ranked Texas Longhorns and the sixth-ranked Oklahoma Sooners at 11 a.m. Saturday in the Cotton Bowl has the potential to be yet another instant classic.
Needless to say, Texas and Oklahoma have never cared too much for each other. For both teams, the rivalry remains bitterly emotional and territorial in nature relating to the two states’ proximity, past border disputes and economic and cultural differences. The Red River itself forms part of the boundary between Texas and Oklahoma, and at times has been the central cause of conflict between the two states, most notably the 1931 Red River Bridge War.
And make no mistake, when it comes to the Texas Longhorns, the Oklahoma Sooners have always been their biggest rival, not the Texas A&M Aggies.
“That game – the rivalry game for us has always been Oklahoma,” said DeLoss Dodds, retired UT Athletic Director during the formation of the Big 12 Conference in 1994. “The A&M game has been a great game and all of that. And we may play ‘em. But it’s not something that we have to do. I think the Oklahoma game is something we have to do.”
For years, the game had been dubbed the Red River Shootout, until it underwent its first name change in 2005 to the Red River Rivalry to commemorate the 100th meeting between the programs, citing the desire to change to a name with less violent implications. Then in 2014, schools jointly announced that the matchup would henceforth be referred to as the AT&T Red River Showdown.
Give me a break…or a buck, as the case may be.
In the rivalry that dates back to 1900, Dallas became the chosen “neutral” site due to being situated approximately halfway between Austin, Texas and Norman, Oklahoma – the locations of UT and OU campuses, respectively.
Since 1932, the game has been held at the Cotton Bowl in Dallas, during the State Fair of Texas. The designated “home” team alternates from year to year: Oklahoma in even-numbered years and Texas in odd-numbered years. Ticket sales for the game are split 50–50 between the two schools, with the stadium divided along the 50-yard line.
Speaking of the almighty buck…
In 2014, officials at both universities expressed the desire to begin rotating the game between each campus, wanting a venue with more seats producing more revenue. At the time, the Cotton Bowl only seated 68,252 while the Darrell K. Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium seats 101,000, and the Gaylord Family Oklahoma Memorial Stadium holds 86,112.
But tradition and neutrality prevailed as Dallas officials announced on June 10, 2014 that the football game between Texas and OU would be held at Fair Park through 2025.
In its purest form, the OU-Texas rivalry transcends time. In 2005, The Dallas Morning News asked the 119 NCAA Division I football coaches to identify the top rivalry game in college football. The Red River Rivalry ranked third, behind only Michigan–Ohio State and Army–Navy.
Since 1936, the first year of the Associated Press College Football Top 25 National Poll, at least one of the teams has come into the game ranked 70 times, including every one of the last 19 meetings. Texas leads the overall series, 62–48–5.
However, Oklahoma leads the series since World War II with a record of 36-35-3, and Oklahoma leads the series in the last 20 years with a record of 12−8.
For the first time since 1903, Texas and Oklahoma played twice last season. In the Red River Showdown, No. 19 Texas upset No. 7 Oklahoma, 48-45. But in the 2018 Big 12 Championship Game, the No. 5 Sooners returned the favor, knocking off the No. 14 Longhorns, 39-27, in Arlington.
Let’s take a trip down memory lane to recall a few of the legendary games:
1958: Oklahoma had won six in a row against the Longhorns and nine of the past 10 going into 1958. In Texas head coach Darrell Royal’s second season, the former Oklahoma QB ended the losing stretch with a 15-14 upset of the No. 2 Sooners.
1963: For the first time in the series, Oklahoma and Texas met in a No. 1 vs. No. 2 matchup. Texas won, 28-7, and didn’t lose the rest of the season. The Longhorns wrapped up the consensus national championship with a win against Heisman winner Roger Staubach and No. 2 Navy in the Cotton Bowl.
1976: Texas coach Darrell Royal accused OU and coach Barry Switzer of spying on practices. Before the 1976 game, President Gerald Ford visited with both Royal and Switzer, but there wasn’t much conversation. In the end, it finished in a 6-6 tie. It was Royal’s final Red River game.
1984: UT was No. 1; OU was No. 3. Oklahoma coach Switzer wore a “Beat Texas” cap and eventual longtime Texas coach Mack Brown was the Sooners’ offensive coordinator. OU led 15-12 late and appeared to possibly make the game-clinching interception in the end zone, but it was ruled incomplete. The Longhorns then kicked a field goal to secure the 15-15 tie.
2000: OU’s surprising march to a national championship included a shocking 63-14 drubbing of the Longhorns. Sooners RB Quentin Griffin tied the NCAA record with six rushing touchdowns. Oklahoma totaled 534 yards to Texas’ 154.
That started a string of five consecutive wins in the series. It took Vince Young to beat the Sooners, 45-12, in 2005 en route to the national title.
OU-Texas…as legendary announcer Bob Harris and the late-actor Jackie Gleason would say, “How sweet it is!” And when it comes to college football, it doesn’t get any sweeter than that.