Berry Tramel: Why OU and Texas are joined at the hip

The facts show that the Sooners and Longhorns have been successful together as a result of being in the same conference. Splitting up Oklahoma and Texas would have been bad for both sides.
by Berry Tramel Modified: June 26, 2010 at 6:38 pm •  Published: June 26, 2010
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The universities of Oklahoma and Texas joined the league together and prospered.

Then OU got an itch and moved on without the Longhorns.

The year was 1920. Woodrow Wilson was in the White House. The Reds didn't yet know their World Series title was a fraud. The 18th Amendment gave women the right to vote.

And the Sooners left the Southwest Conference for the Missouri Valley, which became the Big Six. It was a mistake then to split from Texas; it would be a mistake now.

Amid the turbulence of conference realignment earlier this month, Oklahomans adopted a common belief that the Longhorn brass had become some sort of puppeteer, making the Sooners and other Big 12 South schools step to their command.

Not altogether true but not altogether false, either.

OU fans responded in choruslike fashion. Tell Texas to go jump in the Red River while flying a kite. The Sooners, they said, should have joined the Pac-10 anyway after the Longhorns lost interest, or taken the SEC's offer and absconded with Texas A&M.

That's why cool heads are assigned to run universities. For separation from Texas — the school and the state — would have been madness.

Texas the state is pivotal to OU's academic mission. OU gleans thousands of students from Texas high schools; many of those Texans return to their homeland as distinguished alumni, who would not be thrilled by routine OU-Mississippi or OU-Arizona State games.

This is not an Oklahoma-Nebraska rivalry that interacted only on a November football field. OU and Texas alums share the same cities and same office buildings, be it Oklahoma City or Tulsa or Houston or San Antone or the battleground of Dallas.

Texas the school is pivotal to OU's athletic hopes. And vice versa. Since the bitter rivals became conference cousins again almost 15 years ago, their athletic fortunes have soared. Which means mostly their gridiron glory.

Both OU and Texas have posted a century of football excellence. But only now, joined at the hip by conference ties, have the Sooners and Longhorns both consistently been great at the same time.

UT was dominant in the 1920s, then faltered. OU became dynamite in the late '30s. Texas asserted itself in the '40s under Dana X. Bible, when the Sooners stagnated under Snorter Luster. OU became a dynasty for the ages under Bud Wilkinson in the '50s, when UT dipped far.

Bud disciple Darrell Royal took Texas to its greatest heights in the '60s, while OU stumbled. The Sooners rebounded with their own greatest decade in the '70s, while the Longhorns started sliding, trends that continued in the '80s.

Neither program was worth beans in the '90s. Then the Big 12 formed, and you know the rest.

Bob Stoops and Mack Brown have pushed each other to where both programs now reside in college football's inner circle of success.

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by Berry Tramel
Columnist
Berry Tramel, a lifelong Oklahoman, sports fan and newspaper reader, joined The Oklahoman in 1991 and has served as beat writer, assistant sports editor, sports editor and columnist. Tramel grew up reading four daily newspapers — The Oklahoman,...
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