The Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex embodies what amounts to a college football melting pot.
Its central location and cluster of corporate headquarters attract graduates, fans and boosters of colleges throughout the United States — particularly those in the Southwest.
This season's Cotton Bowl Classic — the area's premier college football postseason event — pits Oklahoma and Texas A&M, universities that boast two of the Metroplex's largest and most passionate alumni bases.
“It behooves the Cotton Bowl that they've got two fan bases with proximities that lend itself to an easy trip,” said Trae Anderson, the OU Club of Dallas president.
Which of the two schools is more prominent in the Metroplex? Different people — with different allegiances — give varying answers, but Texas A&M definitely wins the numbers game.
Oklahoma has around 20,000 graduates living in Dallas-Fort Worth; Metroplex Aggies nearly double that figure.
“I work downtown ... I don't see a whole lot of OU stickers on cars, but there are a handful,” said Misty Watkins, the Dallas A&M Club president.
The Aggies hold superiority in the Metroplex's public sector — Texas Governor Rick Perry and U.S. Rep. Jeb Hensarling, the Republican congressman for southeast Dallas County, are Texas A&M graduates.
Oklahoma fares better in the Dallas-Fort Worth private-sector; OU graduate Randall Stephenson is chairman and CEO of AT&T, the Cotton Bowl's title sponsor which is based out of downtown Dallas.
There are 20 Fortune 500 companies with Metroplex headquarters; of their chief executives, only Stephenson is an OU or A&M graduate.
Most agree the University of Texas has the majority of Dallas-Fort Worth's college football fans, but Arkansas, Baylor, Oklahoma State and Texas Tech — along with hometown schools SMU and TCU — are also well-represented.
“The pecking order is almost determined by the Big 12 standings,” said Chuck Carlton, who covers Big 12 football for the Dallas Morning News. “Not in terms of our coverage, but in terms of who's the loudest, who's the most vocal.
“You have this hodgepodge here in the Metroplex. On any given Saturday, you can see five, six, seven, eight different flags flying on cars in the morning as they're heading somewhere.”
When some of those cars are heading toward Cowboys Stadium in early January, it's a great thing for the area economy. Oklahoma State playing in the Heart of Dallas Bowl — played at the actual Cotton Bowl Stadium in Dallas — doesn't hurt, either.
But for the Cotton Bowl Classic, it couldn't get much better than a game pitting the Sooners with former Big 12 rival Texas A&M, which is wrapping up its first SEC season. A&M's Heisman Trophy winning quarterback, Johnny Manziel, adds even more intrigue and excitement.
“We have always been very successful in putting together the best possible regional matchups over the years,” said John Crawford, a past Cotton Bowl chairman and president of Downtown Dallas, Inc.
“But it also manages to bring in a national audience in some cases, like this year. This is not just a local game that we're teeing up here on January 4. This is a big, nationally televised attention-getter.”