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Oil Bowl's likely end follows decline of all-star football games

Despite its rich history, it looks like the Oil Bowl as we know it is through. In recent years, the popularity of games like the Oil Bowl and the OCA All-State Games have taken a dive, beginning with freshmen eligibility in college football.
by Ryan Aber Published: March 16, 2013

FOOTBALL OU UNIVERSITY OF OKLAHOMA BARRY SWITZER B 1977 27.jpg: Caption reads "University of Oklahoma coach Barry Switzer, far right, talks to three OU recruits at Oil Bowl workouts Wednesday. From left, they are Keith Wilson, Putnam West; Byron Paul, Altus; and John Higginbothan, Hugo." Photographer unknown. Date photo was taken unknown. Photo published in The Daily Oklahoman 8-4-1977.

“We still have fun at ours and still get alternates to come out and occasionally Tulsa will let someone play.”

Bassett said the OCA is still committed to its game, though. The OCA all-state game is held in conjunction with its coaches clinic every year.

“We're not having them to make money anymore,” he said. “We're just having them for the kids and coaches to have that experience.”

The decline in popularity might stem from that 1972 season.

Future OU star Joe Washington, who had starred at Port Arthur (Texas) Lincoln did not participate in the game.

Before that season, the NCAA made freshmen eligible for varsity football competition for the first time.

“Joe knew he had a shot to play as a freshman so he didn't take that chance,” Owens said. “I didn't think I had any shot to contribute as a freshman so I went ahead and went down there.

“Since then, so many freshmen have that opportunity to play early that they want to get on campus and don't want to take the chance of getting hurt as well.”

Before the rule change, the Oil Bowl had regularly seen crowds of 15,000 or more. After the 1972 game, the Oil Bowl drew a crowd at least that large only once — in 1974.

In addition to freshmen being made eligible, college coaches actively discouraged players from playing in all-star games, especially ones played so close to the start of fall practices.

Now, many players are opting to begin college during the summer, limiting even more the number of high-caliber Division I players to play in the games.

Still, for the players that played in the Oil Bowl, the game remains special.

“I was disappointed to hear that it's ending,” Owens said. “It's lost its luster some the last few years but it's still a great event for the players to be a part of.”

by Ryan Aber
OU Athletics Reporter
Ryan Aber has worked for The Oklahoman since 2006, covering high schools, the Oklahoma City RedHawks, the Oklahoma City Barons and OU football recruiting. An Oklahoma City native, Aber graduated from Northeastern State. Before joining The...
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