DALLAS — Broken Arrow native Daniel Harrison is a die-hard Oklahoma football fan, and a staunch traditionalist as well.
Even small, subtle changes to the Sooners' uniforms — a gold patch and gold outlines around jersey numbers — for this weekend's Red River Rivalry clash with Texas nearly sent the 28-year old into a fit of rage.
“I think it looks awful,” Harrison said. “They shouldn't touch the jerseys. I don't care if recruits like alternate jerseys.”
That respect for OU's hallowed football tradition is why fans like Harrison will continue to begrudgingly accept 11 a.m. OU-Texas kickoffs, just as long as the annual rivalry game remains at Dallas' Cotton Bowl Stadium during the State Fair of Texas.
Five of the last six Red River Rivalry games have kicked off at 11 a.m., and circumstances beyond either university's control make it likely the game stays there for the foreseeable future.
The rivalry's pageantry, tradition and championship implications would seemingly make it perfect for prime time, and television networks have asked many times for that to happen. But both schools remain firmly opposed to an evening kickoff.
With alcohol readily available around the State Fair all day, the emotions the game brings out on both sides and the thousands upon thousands of folks clustered in the area — most of whom aren't ticket holders — both OU and Texas view a kickoff after dark as a disaster waiting to happen.
The schools would prefer a 2:30 p.m. kickoff. ESPN/ABC owns first-tier rights to Big 12 football games, though, and its other obligations make that window almost impossible to clear nationally, meaning a midafternoon start would likely limit the game's reach to a regional television audience.
“I understand why they moved it,” said 26-year old OU graduate Jason Downing. “It just kinda sucks.”
Downing, an Ada native who now lives in Tacoma, Wash., will attend his eighth straight OU-Texas game Saturday. He said he typically rides a DART light rail train to the game to avoid traffic.
“A lot of the DART trains that go to the Fairgrounds stop in downtown Dallas,” Downing said. “I remember in 2009, we had to switch trains in downtown Dallas, and it was so impossible to get on one. By the time we got down there, it was just completely packed.
“Everybody has to get there so early in the morning.”
The next year, when the game kicked off at 2:30 p.m., Downing said the DART system was much less crowded.
Downing and his friends are staying Friday night in nearby Farmers Branch, because he said a DART ride from the suburbs to the Fairgrounds isn't as bad.
Still, the 11 a.m. kickoff requires fans to wake up early, leaving them little time to enjoy the fair before the game. For those who choose to not pay for a hotel room Friday night, the day becomes even more taxing.
“I'm not really in the mood to have a corn dog at 8 in the morning,” Harrison said with a laugh.
Downing said he brings 5-Hour Energy shots to the 11 a.m. games, but is still usually too exhausted to spend much time walking around the Fair postgame.
“By the time the game's over, you've been up so many hours already, the game's so intense and you're just exhausted afterward,” Downing said.
Regardless, most fans seem willing to deal with all those inconveniences to keep the Red River Rivalry at Cotton Bowl Stadium, even if a move to state-of-the-art AT&T Stadium in nearby Arlington might help alleviate them.
“It wouldn't bother me tremendously if they ever decided to put it in JerryWorld,” Harrison said. “It's a nicer stadium. It's a little bit up to date as far as bathrooms, concessions, stuff like that. The only problem I would have is that the game would lose its luster without the fair. That's what that whole game is built around.
“There's no other college football atmosphere like it.”