IRVING, Texas — In the days leading up to the 1976 Red River Rivalry, bad blood boiled to a point not even our nation's President could strike an accord.
Texas coach Darrell Royal accused Barry Switzer of spying on his practices, prompting both coaches to volley insults through the media. There for the pregame coin toss, President Gerald Ford failed to get either coach to talk to one another while meeting both before the game, which ended in a tie.
Now, another tie has ratcheted up the bad blood.
Texas fans continue to be incensed their Longhorns were passed over for the Big 12 Championship for a team they beat by double digits.
Sooner fans remain irate Texas tried to change the rules midstream, then claimed a Big 12 title it didn't even play in.
"Some of our fans are still bitter about things that were done," said Sooner quarterback Sam Bradford.
Tiebreakers and flyovers and asterisks and Jamarkus McFarland have left fan bases on both sides seething still.
"It's out there and you can't help but notice it," said former Texas football and baseball player Keith Moreland, now color commentator for the Longhorn radio broadcasts. "I cover other sports and do other things, but always, there's not a chance I can walk into any place with anybody who's known what I've done for the last 10 years that they don't ask about this particular rivalry and something that's taken place between last year's game and this point.
"It should be an interesting October."
Every time rising tensions begin to settle, another pail of gasoline, it seems, is tossed into the fire.
"Pretty sure people out there are still upset," said linebacker Roddrick Muckelroy, whose Longhorns were the featured event Wednesday during the final morning of Big 12 Football Media Days.
Among other things, the catalyst for all the acrimony was Texas' push the last week of the 2008 regular season to stay ahead of OU in the BCS via a political campaign that made the Big 12 tiebreaker feel like a gubernatorial race.
Numerous Texas students and boosters contributed to a fund that paid for a flyover in Stillwater before the Bedlam game carrying a banner with the inscription "45-35, settled on a neutral field" to remind voters of Texas' victory over OU in the Cotton Bowl. Texas coach Mack Brown also went on TV during the OU-OSU game to plead his team's case for several minutes, which wasn't received well by Sooner fans.
Later, unrelated to the tiebreaking controversy, a juicy New York Times article detailing the recruitment of high schooler Jamarkus McFarland to Norman suggested recruiting improprieties and questionable behavior on the part of Texas boosters. Longhorn coach Mack Brown later slammed the article as biased.
Finally, sparking an outrage among Sooner fans, reporters in Austin revealed in April that someone on the Longhorn football staff had put "2008" with an asterisk on a wall listing Texas' Big 12 championships inside the school's Moncrief-Neuhaus training facility.
The next day, the asterisk was taken down.
The bad blood, however, boiled yet again.
"It's going to be pretty rough this year, because of how much controversy there was last year," said OU defensive tackle Gerald McCoy. "Not with the players. But with the fans, it's going to be outrageous."
Said Bradford, "I'm sure this year when we meet in the Cotton Bowl, there's going to be a little extra added on it."