Shortly after finalizing his game's 2014 matchup, Sugar Bowl CEO Paul Hoolahan sat down to review some notes his media relations staff had compiled.
Hoolahan was surprised by what he read: Alabama and Oklahoma, two of the greatest programs in college football history, have only met four times on the gridiron.
“I thought it would've occurred more than that,” Hoolahan said in a telephone interview with The Oklahoman.
The Sooners and Crimson Tide will meet a fifth time inside New Orleans' Superdome on Jan. 2, when the Sugar Bowl gets a one-year jump on its new agreement with the Big 12 and Southeastern Conferences.
If one or both of the league champions are involved in the new four-team playoff, the Sugar Bowl would replace it with another Big 12 or SEC team. A Big 12-SEC Sugar Bowl matchup isn't guaranteed only in years when the game hosts a playoff semifinals.
“It'll give fans an opportunity to get used to the new normal,” said Bob Burda, the Big 12's associate commissioner for communications.
Because of the various rules involved in a BCS bowl's team selection, the Sugar Bowl was essentially down to Oklahoma and Oregon as options to play against No. 3 Alabama.
Hoolahan said a bevy of factors were involved in choosing the Sooners, but that the future partnership was one of them.
“Partnership is certainly one of the variables that we've held near and dear to our heart,” Hoolahan said. “The long-term relationship that we've had with the Southeastern Conference, we expect to develop that type of relationship going forward with the Big 12 Conference.
“This was a concrete way of demonstrating our sincere eagerness to be involved in this new arrangement.”
In the meantime, though, the Sugar Bowl has an historic matchup of two elite college football powers.
Alabama beat OU 17-0 in the 1963 Orange Bowl, and the teams tied 24-24 in the 1970 Bluebonnet Bowl. The schools played a two-game home-and-home series in 2002 and 2003, with OU winning both contests.
“That is odd,” OU coach Bob Stoops said of the limited history between the Sooners and Crimson Tide. “I guess it goes back to the old bowl matchups and where you used to go.
“Pretty unusual when you think of all the great teams each of them have had. In today's world they probably would have gotten together more often, with the BCS, the way things are now. If they had it back then they probably would have met more often.”
Probably so, and even with the impending death of the BCS, there figure to be plenty of opportunities for Oklahoma and Alabama to meet in future Sugar Bowls — or future playoffs.
“We're as excited as can be to have a trial run of it going on this year,” Hoolahan said.