April 19, 2011
To say that the Cotton Bowl -- the stadium, not the game -- has seen its best days already is an understatement. The grand old concrete stadium in Dallas' Fair Park neighborhood received the ultimate insult in 2010, when, for the first time, the Cotton Bowl Classic (that's the annual football game) was played at the new Cowboys Stadium, not the Cotton Bowl itself.
While the stadium still hosts the annual Red River Rivalry game between Texas and Oklahoma and now is home to the TicketCity Bowl, it can hardly be considered a Titanic site of the college game, as it once was.
Yet, the Cotton Bowl can still be culturally relevant in Texas football if it expands what has already begun as an optimistic slate of high school football games. The stadium has hosted Dallas ISD-sited games for the Texas high school football playoffs since the mid-1970s, but it's now expanding its football offerings, helping get the high school season rolling in August with a face-off between Dallas (Texas) Jesuit Prep and Flower Mound (Texas) High in a game called the North Texas Classic.
Landing the North Texas Classic is a big step in the right direction for the Cotton Bowl, which could easily slide into a role as a neutral stadium for face-offs between some of the Dallas-Fort Worth area's top teams and other traveling national titans. The 2010 North Texas Classic was played at Pizza Hut Park, the home of MLS' FC Dallas, between Colleyville (Texas) Heritage High and Duncanville (Texas) High.
While Pizza Hut Park might provide a slightly more appropriate stadium size for a North Texas Classic face-off, the Cotton Bowl can use the event to help position itself for future hosting of flagship games for program's like Euless (Texas) Trinity and even Arkansas titan Shiloh Christian School. Given the history and size of the venue, it's not a stretch to think that almost any high profile program would be excited to play there, particular if a game against Trinity, or Allen (Texas) High, or Southlake (Texas) Carroll -- to name just a few -- is in the offing.
Will the officials who run the Cotton Bowl see their future the same way? Who knows. The stadium is still owned and run by the City of Dallas, so it would take a major effort of metropolitan ingenuity and organization to pull off such a prep football coup. Still, an event like the North Texas Classic should put a bug in the ear of those in the Dallas-Fort Worth area that the opportunity to co-opt a historic stadium for their own big game use is out in the open.