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Trevino: Bedlam should continue for the growth of women's basketball in Oklahoma

Feb. 3—Shortly after Oklahoma State coach Jacie Hoyt began her postgame remarks, the section of Oklahoma fans inside Gallagher-Iba Arena overpowered her with their noise.

They were celebrating an 81-74 win in what could be their last Bedlam road game in a long time.

"It became something big — which I know it does in football and men's basketball and today it was women's basketball — but of course it's a fun thing," Oklahoma coach Jennie Baranczyk said. "We don't have to totally hate each other and disrespect each other."

But that's the thing about Bedlam. It's the most significant moment in the season.

It elevates the sport. And the only way to keep breaking boundaries is to keep the rivalry going.

With each game, teams and players have shown they'll rise to the moment. And just as important, the fans also rise.

More than 5,300 people attended the game on Saturday. The previous five Big 12 games in Gallagher-Iba Arena had an average attendance of 2,520.

"Our fans were incredible today, truly incredible, and I just hope they know how much it means when they show up like that," Hoyt said. "I absolutely love it here at Oklahoma State, and I want what we had today to be the standard."

Women's college basketball in Oklahoma could be at an inflection point with the potential loss of Bedlam and so many people within the game see it as such.

Athletic directors Chad Weiberg (OSU) and Joe Castiglione (OU) have a massive decision in front of them: will they break up Bedlam for the foreseeable future in women and men's basketball?

If it were up to Baranczyk, the women's game would be played again next year and beyond.

"I think it's important and not just for our university," she said. "I feel like we're ambassadors of our sport, and when you look at how many people came out today for women's basketball ... I think that's a big deal."

Hoyt wasn't as sold.

"I'm more in the mindset that I want that crowd when we're not playing (OU). That's what we're trying to build here," she said. "Let's be about women's basketball because we do have something special. So, I'm not really focused on that."

Women's basketball is possibly the fastest growing entity in college sports other than football. There were more viewers for the LSU-South Carolina women's game than for the Boston Celtics-Miami Heat NBA game on Jan. 25.

Oklahoma hasn't yet figured out how to best capitalize on the growing interest around the country. Maybe because it doesn't have a team like Dawn Staley's in Columbia, South Carolina, nor a player like Caitlin Clark at Iowa.

Until it does, Bedlam is needed.

"I think our main job is to grow the sport of women's basketball in the state of Oklahoma, and what a great day," Baranczyk said. "The crowd was great. There were a ton of people. There were a ton of young people able to watch both teams."

Oklahoma senior forward Skylar Vann was once just a kid from Edmond in the stands for Bedlam games. She said the rivalry is big for her team and for the future generations.

"Games like this, you never take it lightly. It's fun every time," Vann said. "Bedlam is one of the biggest games for Oklahoma people, and we know that firsthand."

Marcus Trevino is a sports reporter for The Stillwater News Press. He can be contacted at mtrevino@stwnewspress.com.