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Conference realignment has taken its toll on the traditional landscape of college football. Conferences and rivalries that were once beloved have shifted into occasional nonconference matchups. It took a decade to get Oklahoma and Nebraska on the books for their home and home in 2021 and 2022.
Other major rivalries haven’t fared so well.
Oklahoma State President Kayse Shrum didn’t mince words about her disappointment in the University of Oklahoma’s “lack of engagement and transparency” when the news broke last summer. Shrum was noncommittal to continuing Bedlam in August and Cowboys head coach Mike Gundy stated that he didn’t think it would continue when speaking to the media in November.
“I don’t think it will. I just don’t think there’s a business side of it that…I don’t make that decision. I guess Dr. Shrum and Chad Weiberg, they could do whatever they wanted or the board. I don’t know who’s involved in this. I don’t think it’s a realistic thing that it’s going to happen based on the business side of power-five conference football in the Big 12 or the SEC. That’s just my opinion on it. I mean, I could be wrong and I’m not getting that from anybody. I’m just answering the question you asked me,” Gundy said.
Oklahoma State athletic director Chad Weiberg took a “maybe” approach back in December, citing the potential conflicts of nonconference games as schedules are created years in advance.
It’s a game that Joseph Harroz and the University of Oklahoma want to continue, but it takes two to tango. While Gundy has his doubts and Shrum may not be eager to play in the same sandbox as Harroz, another old rivalry, which has been renewed provides a glimmer of hope for the future of Bedlam.
“The Backyard Brawl.”
Former Big East league mates Pittsburgh and West Virginia will renew the once-storied rivalry in 2022 and it will run home and home matchups for the next four seasons. According to ESPN’s Heather Dinich, the two sides added four more years to their agreement to run from 2029 through 2032.
While the conference realignment that occurred a decade ago hit the Big 12 significantly with the losses of Nebraska, Texas A&M, Missouri, and Colorado, the Big East was put in a worse situation.
The ACC came for Pittsburgh, Louisville, and Syracuse. The Big 10 added Rutgers and Maryland. The Big 12 took West Virginia to give them an east coast presence. Cincinnati, Connecticut, Temple, and South Florida were relegated to Group of Five status in the American Athletic Conference.
What we knew of the Big East was no more. And the “Backyard Brawl” a game played between schools just 75 miles apart on Interstate 79. Pittsburgh and West Virginia have met 104 times in their history.
Norman and Stillwater are just 80 miles apart and the two sides have done battle on the gridiron 106 times.
The games and their histories are too similar.
The two sides in the Backyard Brawl provide a glimmer of hope that Oklahoma and Oklahoma State will be able to figure out a scenario where Bedlam continues even after the Sooners and the Longhorns depart for the SEC. The game means too much to the state and to the two schools.
The rivalry could turn petty and go the way of Texas and Texas A&M who will be forced to play nice when they meet in the SEC. Or Oklahoma State and Oklahoma could use “The Backyard Brawl” as a springboard to a renewal of common interest in one of the state’s biggest and most important events.
Eventually, cooler heads will prevail and the two sides will work out an agreement to keep the game going long after they are no longer conference bunkmates. And when that day comes, the reaction will be one that fits the moniker of the game…
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