LaSalle, the 1954 NCAA basketball champion, and Texas-El Paso, the 1966 NCAA champion, will play OSU and OU in the All-College Classic on Dec. 20. Which would be a grand thing if it was Dec. 20, 1954, or Dec. 20, 1966.
But on Dec. 20, 2009, the Explorers and Miners, despite fielding solid teams in solid conferences, won’t generate any excitement downtown. Which is why it’s time to again call for a Bedlam All-College. An OU-OSU Christmas. Cowboys vs. Sooners at the Ford Center in December, a game which would serve as an appetizer to the two Big 12 showdowns later in the season. And finally, we have a coach who doesn’t summarily dismiss the idea. I trotted out this plan in 1998 and again in 2001; both times, Eddie Sutton and Kelvin Sampson shot it down. But Travis Ford, 16 months into his Oklahoma State coaching era, is intrigued by the idea. "It’s something to talk about,” Ford said. "I like the fact it does get some excitement in the month of December.” I have no idea what the other new face of Bedlam, Jeff Capel, thinks. He declined comment, deferring to athletic director Joe Castiglione. Which is a dodge; college basketball coaches control their own schedules. But Castiglione used the right word — "intriguing ... something to think through, for sure.” Excellent. Now we’ve got decision-makers at least willing to discuss something that would be great for college basketball in our state. "The fans would like it,” Ford said. "It would create some excitement.” Heck, you could play a women’s Bedlam and make it a doubleheader. Fans would pay steep prices; the schools could increase their season tickets by tying them into All-College availability. RPI and strength of schedule for NCAA Tournament seeding would be enhanced. Scheduling would be enhanced, since a Bedlam showdown would free the schools from playing a return game somewhere the next year. Both Castiglione’s and Ford’s only concern: They don’t want to take away from the two conference games already. "I can’t answer whether it would or not,” Ford said. I can answer. No way would it take away from Bedlam games later in the year; it would only enhance them. Bedlam already is one of college basketball’s better rivalries. A third game, played on the 38th parallel of the Ford Center, would elevate the series nationally. ESPN would eat it up. Think Red Sox and Yankees. The ancient rivals played 12 times a season, then several years ago baseball decided to get serious and start playing more games people care about.