There will be no more Bedlam in the Big 12. Baylor will say farewell to the only conference rival it has played annually for a century. The storied Red River rivalry between Oklahoma and Texas will soon take place in a different league.
The Sooners and Longhorns moving to the Southeastern Conference next summer means this season will be the last in the Big 12 for some of its biggest games. The moves will also affect rivalries much older than the Big 12, the league that kicked off in 1996 after the Big Eight merged with four Texas schools from the old Southwest Conference.
The changes are casualties of the latest round of conference realignment, which has seen some two dozen schools change affiliation this season and next.
Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy, who quarterbacked the Cowboys in the late 1980s and now is the Big 12’s longest-tenured coach entering his 19th season, sounded bitter while being blunt about the breakup. Bedlam, the annual Oklahoma State-Oklahoma grudge match, has been played 117 times since 1904.
“I’m very traditionalist when it comes to conference rivalry games and such,” Gundy said. “The Bedlam game is over because Oklahoma chose to leave the Big 12, period.”
Baylor and Texas, whose campuses are about 100 miles apart, have been conference foes since the formation of the Southwest Conference in 1915. The only years the schools haven’t played each other since 1923 were during World War II.
As those longstanding rivalries slip away, the league has a chance to build new ones while growing from 10 teams to 16 spread across three time zones and 10 states. There certainly could be some options, including some untraditional ones, though it could take some time for any to develop.
“Looking at what has happened so far, it seemed that it was difficult for people to identify and really start consuming a new rivalry,” said Cody Havard, a University of Memphis professor and Texas graduate who does research on sports rivalries.
But he pointed to some possibilities, from new rivalries that could take shape to old ones that will eventually be coming into the league. The Big 12 does get the “Holy War” of instate rivals BYU and Utah, and there could be the rekindling of some old SWC brawls with Houston joining the league.
“With all this great expansion, we actually could end up seeing more regionalized rivalries,” Havard said.
BIG 12 RIVALRIES BEING LOST
— Texas vs. Oklahoma: The 11th-ranked Longhorns and No. 20 Sooners will still play and the State Fair of Texas will still be rocking. But after the 119th meeting on Oct. 7, the midseason party moves out of the Big 12 and joins the SEC lineup of grudge matches like Alabama vs. Auburn, Georgia vs. Florida and Ole Miss vs. Mississippi State.
— Baylor vs. Texas: The Big 12 opener for both teams Sept. 23 in Waco will be their 113th meeting since 1901. It is the most-played series for Baylor, but there are no future games scheduled. The only teams the Longhorns have played more are Oklahoma and Texas A&M, which they will reunite with in the SEC after not playing each other since 2011.
NEW BIG 12 RIVALRIES?
— Houston vs. old SWC rivals Baylor, TCU and Texas Tech. Houston has played Texas Tech and TCU, but putting them all back together in the Big 12 will add some new spice between old adversaries.
Dana Holgorsen previously was the coach for West Virginia’s move into the Big 12 in 2012, when all the conference foes were new to the Mountaineers. Things are much different for the Cougars.
“We’ve got history with BYU. We’ve got history with Cincinnati, Central Florida recently, and then obviously my familiarity with West Virginia,” said Holgorsen, in his fifth season at Houston. “But then you go back to the old Southwest Conference in the late ’80s and early ’90s … those will get rekindled.”
— Arizona vs. Arizona State. An import from the Pac-12, the Territorial Cup rivalry is ranked at KnowRivalry.com as the nation’s most intense in the FBS “because those two teams put so much emphasis on each other,” said David Tyler, a UMass associate professor and expert in sports rivalries whose research with Northern Kentucky professor Joe Cobbs is on that website.
— BYU vs. Utah, the so-called “Holy War” between schools about 45 miles apart. BYU, which played as a football independent the past 12 seasons, is a private school founded and supported by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Utah is a public university where one-third of the students identify as Mormon. There have been 101 meetings, though BYU recognizes only 95.
— More holy wars? BYU vs. Baylor, the world’s largest Baptist university, or BYU vs. TCU, which partners with the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), another Protestant denomination.
— West Virginia vs. Cincinnati. Before adding all the new schools, the Big 12’s geographic outcast was West Virginia. The Mountaineers now have a conference foe only about 300 miles away in Cincinnati. They were also together from 2005-11 in the Big East, and both won conference titles during that span.
— Colorado vs. Utah. Rockies rivalry, anyone? The two schools have played each other 69 times off and on since 1903 and No. 70 will close the final Pac-12 regular season for both teams Nov. 25 in Salt Lake City. The series went on hiatus after 1962, but they have played each other annually since 2011 and the Utes have won six straight and 10 of the 12 matchups.