DALLAS — Many of the characteristics that have made Oklahoma vs. Texas one of sports' greatest, most nationally appealing rivalries — the emotionally charged environment, the State Fair of Texas and the crowd's 50/50 split between crimson and burnt orange — are also complications, keeping the game far from primetime.
Many of the Sooner faithful who will head south on I-35 to witness this year's Red River Rivalry game don't like that it begins at 11 a.m.
For lots of them, it means either paying for a hotel room Friday night, or waking up to make the long trek in Saturday's wee hours, when legions of Sooner fans create heavy traffic.
And even once they've arrived, fans are left with little time to enjoy the fair before kickoff — and might be too tired for it after the game ends.
Joe Castiglione has a message for those disgruntled fans: He hears you.
“We try to balance all the different demands, requirements and commitments that we've made in doing what's best for our universities and the people we serve,” said Castiglione, OU's director of athletics.
“It's not gonna be perfect.”
The Red River Rivalry's uniqueness, tradition and stakes — both teams are usually ranked, and several recent championships have hinged on the game's outcome — make it seemingly ripe for primetime.
But that's not happening, at least not anytime soon, Castiglione said.
“Both universities unequivocally oppose an evening kickoff,” he said.
“We get requests all the time from the television networks to move the game into primetime. ... We've reached conclusions consistently that it's just not something we want to do.”
The Cotton Bowl sits in Dallas' Fair Park, and the OU-Texas game is always played on a Saturday during the State Fair of Texas.
That means thousands of Saturday fair patrons who aren't OU-Texas ticketholders — including supporters of both schools, and non-football fans alike — are clustered together in high density.
With the emotions this game can bring out in both OU and Texas fans — and the alcohol available for purchase all day at the state fair — keeping any potential problems in the light of day is preferred.
Parking demand would also be much more difficult to accommodate at night.
“There are just too many issues to address that the needle has never moved in terms of discussing that kickoff time,” Castiglione said.
The schools would actually prefer a 2:30 p.m. central kick, he said.
“This game has such national appeal, that when possible our television rights holder wants to put it on a national platform,” Castiglione said.
ESPN/ABC has first-tier rights to Big 12 football games, and the network's other agreements make clearing the entire United States during the 2:30 p.m. window impossible, Castiglione said.
That leaves 11 a.m. and primetime, which the schools won't agree to.
Anything could happen in the future, which is why school leaders still frequently think through and discuss the game's evening issues.
“Who knows what might happen down the road?” Castiglione said, before quickly reiterating that he can't make any promises.
“(TV executives) still ask, just in case we've changed our minds. But we haven't.”
Fans ask him about the game's kickoff time, too. Many of those folks are the same ones passionately speaking out against OU-Texas ever moving to any other venue.
For the forseeable future, though, if fans want to maintain the rivalry's current uniqueness and atmosphere — impossible to replicate away from the Cotton Bowl during the state fair — they'll have to accept the early kick.
“I appreciate fans asking those questions,” he said. “We do think through all of that.
“But at some point, you have to decide if you could handle some of the tradeoffs for that time.”