#15 Texas and #13 Oklahoma meet at noon today in Dallas for the Red River Shootout (or Rivalry) for the 107th time. These two teams have had many meetings where both teams have been ranked higher than today, including eleven times when one of the two teams was ranked #1 in the country, seventeen games where both teams were in the top ten, and two #1 vs. #2 match-ups, but the game is still very relevant to the national picture, especially if you live in either Texas or Oklahoma.
When this game comes up every year, I think of two things: the Spying Scandal of the early 1970’s and the 2001 Roy Williams ‘leap’.
The former is an event that illustrates how different the college game is from the NFL. The NFL is very transparent. We know what the injury status is of every player going into a game. Training camps are open for all to see, and practices are thoroughly covered by reporters from a wide variety of publications.
College football is the exact opposite.
I graduated from an SEC school, and for a year, lived across the street from the football practice facility and about three hundred yards from the stadium. That field was on total lock-down at all times, and was surrounded by a twelve-foot-tall fence. Security was present at all times. The KGB would be proud. This is what college football is like during all preparation and just about all times with the exception of game-time.
In short, Darrell Royal accused Oklahoma coach Barry Switzer of spying on Texas practices. Switzer later revealed that spying had occurred, but of course, it was before he took over the program. Royal finished his career with an 0-3-1 record against Switzer.
The latter event was such a massive momentum swing that ESPN and ABC have used the image of it to advertise college football ever since. #3 Oklahoma held a slim 7-3 lead over #5 Texas with just over two minutes left. Oklahoma pooch-punted down to the Texas three yard-line , and pinned the Longhorns deep into the shadow of their own goalpost. Texas came out lined up in a spread formation, and the Sooners blitzed everyone straight up the middle. Roy Williams hurdled a blocking back, nailed Sooner quarterback Chris Simms as he was throwing, the ball fluttered into the hands of Teddy Lehman of Oklahoma who scored the easiest touchdown in history, and clinched the game for the Sooners.
They play the game for stories like these, and I keep watching, hoping that something like this happens every year.