STILLWATER — Classes were canceled, businesses were closed and officials warned of dangerous travel conditions across the state Thursday.
But in Stillwater, Bedlam football must go on.
Despite a weather forecast of bitterly cold temperatures and possibly snow during Saturday's matchup between Oklahoma State and the University of Oklahoma, athletics officials say not playing is not an option.
“Football was meant to be an outdoor sport, so we will make every effort to play the game as scheduled,” said Bob Burda, assistant commissioner for the Big 12.
Forecasters predict the temperature at kickoff will be 12 degrees, with a wind chill of zero to 2 degrees. Only the most die-hard fans will endure it.
Games have been delayed due to lightning, but Burda wasn't aware of a Big 12 football game ever being canceled because of the weather. However, the commissioner has the authority to cancel a game, and a school's athletic director could ask to delay or relocate, if circumstances posed a threat to the players' safety.
Gary Shutt, a spokesman for Oklahoma State University, said athletics officials have been meeting to prepare for Saturday's weather but there has been no discussion of postponing the game. Meantime, OSU and OU canceled Friday classes.
“The game is on. We will prepare for it. Fans should dress accordingly. It's going to be very cold,” Shutt said.
OSU staff stocked up on snow shovels this week to clear the field, if necessary, he said.
Storm dredges up
Ice Bowl memories
It's not unusual for football — professional and college — to be played in the cold or snow. When the Sooners played Kansas State on Nov. 23, it was about 22 degrees.
Remember the Bedlam matchup dubbed the Ice Bowl? In 1985, the teams met on a field of sleet and ice and played through the most miserable conditions. Players struggled to keep their footing. Band members' instruments froze. Blankets and clothing stuck to the bleachers.
By the end, 20,000 fans remained — down from the 35,000 there at kickoff, but still a crowd.
Saturday is expected to be even colder. “Yet, invariably, there will be somebody shirtless, sitting in the stands,” Burda predicted.
The forecast for the 11 a.m. kickoff Saturday calls for a temperature of 12 degrees. It could climb to 20 degrees during the game. The windchill factor will be about 2 degrees. Winds will be 10 to 12 miles per hour and there should be a light snow cover left over from precipitation Friday.