NORMAN — This desert life.
It's become the norm this time of year for Oklahoma fans, the commute to Arizona for a Sooners bowl game. Including this season, OU will have played in the Phoenix area four times since 2006.
Here's the difference: The Sooners, with a 9-3 record, aren't in the Fiesta Bowl. They're playing 7-5 Iowa in the Dec. 30 Insight Bowl.
And here's the additional rub: Rival Oklahoma State is in the Fiesta, playing Stanford. It's the Cowboys' first BCS appearance.
Even if the games are taking place days apart on opposite sides of the sprawling metro area — the Fiesta in Glendale, the Insight in Tempe — one OU fan said Friday he “couldn't stomach being in town with the Oklahoma State fans.”
“For that reason, mostly, I'm not going to go,” Sooners fan Chad Edwards said via email. “I really enjoyed this season, just wish it would have finished off better.”
It's the reverse of the 2007 season, when OU played West Virginia in the Fiesta and OSU played Indiana in the Insight.
OU estimated Saturday that 6,000 of its 11,000 allotted Insight Bowl tickets have been sold. That's not an alarming number, the school said, considering many fans use other sites and methods to purchase tickets.
But are they — and should they be — excited about this game?
A group from OU traveled to Phoenix this past week to meet with bowl officials (the two games are owned by the same group). Kenny Mossman, an associate athletic director, said he returned with more enthusiasm about the game, sensing the Insight's excitement to have two names with historical clout.
Mossman said he's hopeful a couple of things will ultimately appeal to Sooners fans. For one, it's a rare matchup against a Big Ten school — and Bob Stoops' alma mater, at that.
Secondly, it's a more economically affordable game to attend. With Insight tickets ranging between $67-90, a fan could buy two or three tickets for what one Fiesta Bowl ticket cost a year ago.
“It's certainly going to be possible to go out there this year for far less money than last year,” Mossman said. “The pricing is more in line with what a regular season game is like.”
Mossman pointed out, too, that fans could chart a different itinerary for themselves than a year ago — because the Insight game is based on the east side of the city, in the Tempe and Scottsdale areas, as opposed to the western suburbs.
There's a hope, Mossman said, that OU fans and alums from Southern California — a relatively short drive away from Phoenix — will attend the game.
Still, there's no running from the fact that the Insight Bowl was not the goal when the season began. Stoops labeled this as a team that could play for the national championship.
OU senior Thomas Reese believed him. He made hotel and flight reservations for New Orleans. He was in Phoenix for last season's Fiesta Bowl, but he said “a disappointing bowl” and “an uninspiring opponent” are reasons he will not travel to the Insight game.
And the OSU factor bothered him, as well.
“The fact that little brother is playing in the big-time bowl in the same city is the true pain felt here,” Reese said.
Others said they weren't going as a result of the product they'd seen during the season. OU lost two of its final three games, including the 44-10 clobbering in Stillwater a week ago.
The stunning losses to Texas Tech and Baylor took their tolls, as well.
“I can't spend the time, money and effort to go get excited and support a team that can't seem to get excited itself,” OU fan Sterling Robinson said. “The team looked lazy, had no drive and showed no discipline at the end of the year. I blame the coaches for that.”
So, will the Sooners find a way to get up for the midlevel bowl game? When the pairing became known, safety Tony Jefferson tweeted “dang … Iowa.” Later in the week, receiver Kenny Stills tweeted “smh,” that he was shaking his head about being in the Insight Bowl.
Stoops countered this week that OU has played well in non-BCS games in recent years, winning the 2001 Cotton, 2005 Holiday and 2009 Sun bowls after similarly disappointing regular seasons.
“Shouldn't be (an issue to get motivated),” Stoops said of his team, which returned Friday to the practice field. “I don't know why it would be, if you have any kind of attitude to you.”
One OU fan said he would be at the Insight Bowl — but only because his family travels every New Year's to Phoenix. David Raubach said he did talk two of his friends into attending.
They're going to stick around for the Fiesta Bowl, too.
“I know this may sound sacrilegious coming from a die-hard OU fan,” Raubach said via email, “but I have to say I'm more excited about the Fiesta Bowl.”