NORMAN — OU officials have engaged in talks to possibly be switched to the Sugar Bowl, should the Sooners win the Big 12 championship outright and land the Fiesta Bowl host berth that goes with the conference title.
Call it desert fatigue.
The Sooners have played bowl games in Greater Phoenix four of the previous six seasons: 2006, 2007 and 2010 in the Fiesta Bowl, and 2011 in the Insight Bowl.
The only way the Sooners can earn the Fiesta Bowl automatic berth is by beating TCU on Saturday, coupled with a Kansas State loss to Texas.
If that scenario occurs, “probably a trade to the Sugar Bowl,” said an OU source.
Big 12 spokesman Bob Burda said he had heard those “rumblings” too.
“As you know, there is a provision within the BCS that once the selections are made, you can trade matchups,” Burda said.
A similar switch was proposed in 2007, when the Sooners won the Big 12 title and were headed to the Fiesta Bowl for the second straight season. Kansas, 11-1 and highly ranked, was an at-large pick of the Orange Bowl.
Bowl officials discussed an OU/KU swap but ultimately stayed with the assignments.
“At that time, the (conference) commissioners didn't have an appetite to move a champion out of a contracted bowl,” Burda said. “The landscape has changed. There are new faces around the table, so it would be hard to guess what their preference would be.”
A bowl source said bowls still prefer to have the champion stay where they're contractually assigned.
An OU/Sugar swap was discussed a couple of weeks ago, when it appeared Kansas State would run the table and make the national championship game. In that scenario, the Fiesta could have worked a deal with the Sugar by which the Sooners played in New Orleans and an SEC team would have played in Phoenix, a rarity for the Fiesta.
But in that scenario, OU would not have been the Big 12 champ and would have been at-large selection for either the Fiesta or the Sugar.
Of course, Kent State could make it all moot. If 17th-ranked Kent State wins the Mid-American Conference title game Friday night and jumps one spot in the BCS rankings, the Golden Flashes would earn an automatic BCS bowl berth.
No way would the Fiesta then be interested in a trade of any kind, since the offer would be Kent State or the Big East champ (Louisville or Rutgers).
The Sugar Bowl is expected to select fourth-ranked Florida, while the Fiesta Bowl is expected to select fifth-ranked Oregon.