As both institutions reported on Tuesday, The United States Military Academy and the University of Oklahoma have agreed to a home-and-home football series to begin in 2018. The Cadets are slated to travel to Norman, Oklahoma on September 22nd, 2018, while the Sooners are expected to visit West Point and Michie Stadium on Sept. 26, 2020.
It will be the first meeting of the two schools since a November 18th 1961 matchup in which then-head coach Bud Wilkinson's Sooners narrowly defeated the Black Knights by a final of 14-8 at Yankee Stadium in New York City. In total, Army and Oklahoma have met three times in their respective histories, with the Sooner winning two of those three contests.
While both programs have enjoyed periods of unprecedented success in their long and storied histories, it goes without saying that they've taken dramatically different roads over the last decade. The Sooners, led by 11th year head coach Bob Stoops, are coming off of a 12-2 year and an appearance in the BCS National Title game. The team has compiled a 102-19 record over the past nine seasons, and has finished in the AP Top 25 in four of the past five years. Army, in contrast, is breaking in a new head coach in Rich Ellerson in 2009, with the former Cal Poly head coach attempting to break a cycle of losing that has seen the Black Knights go an abysmal 20-85 over the last nine years.
Army has not been to a bowl game since 1996. Oklahoma has been to a bowl each of the past ten seasons, with seven of those appearances coming in the form of BCS Bowl games. Going .500 figures to be a considerable accomplishment for the former team in 2009, while anything short of a National Title is considered by many to be a disappointing finish for the latter.
Not exactly a "tossup" game, wouldn't you say?
The disparity in records notwithstanding, I wouldn't call this a bad scheduling move by Army AD Kevin Anderson, whom I praised earlier this week for taking the initiative in setting up future high-profile games against Notre Dame, Rutgers, and Boston College. As shown by the example of Chet Gladchuk at the Naval Academy, a carefully conceived plan which features select games against both nationally recognized foes and regional rivals can do wonders for a program like Army, which continues to gain steam in its pursuit to become ‘America's Team.'
In more ways than one, the move to schedule Oklahoma is an extension of the move to schedule Notre Dame at Yankee Stadium in 2010 and to play the Irish again in 2013. While games with Boston College and Rutgers can certainly be counted as ‘high-profile,' future Army slates beyond 2013 lacked a top-of-the-line national power up until this week's announcement. Playing Oklahoma gives the Black Knights a chance to stay in the spotlight well after these meetings, and gives Rich Ellerson and his staff yet another playing card to entice future recruits away from Navy and Air Force, who similarly are slated to play national title contenders in the next two seasons (Navy will travel to Ohio State to open 2009 while Oklahoma will host Air Force in 2010.)
Likewise, the game may not be as impossibly daunting as it first appears. Don't forget that the Sooners suffered through threes straight losing campaigns under John Blake between 1996-1998, with only the arrival Stoops in 1999 signaling the start to the program's 21st century on-field renaissance. While there's no reason to think Stoops wouldn't be in Norman in he year 2018 – and even if he wasn't, that the program would take a step back – one has to admit that a lot can happen in nine years, and that programs have risen and fallen in shorter times spans than that (hey, just ask Washington or Kansas State!)
Add in the fact that the state of Oklahoma features a large number of U.S. servicemen and women and the always possible chance of the 2020 matchup being moved to Yankee Stadium, and this latest scheduling move sounds almost flawless, right?
Maybe not. For as great as this future series sounds at the present, there is always the question of whether or not the game itself will ever come to fruition. Let's face it, a lot can happen between now and 2018. And no, I'm not talking about that end of the world conspiracy nonsense. I'm talking about change, and the very real possibility that both the Oklahoma and Army programs could be in dramatically different states in just a few years. Will the game still be in each team's best interest then?
Tough to say, especially with the future of the BCS hanging in the air. While we know Anderson is using his recently earned capital ins scheduling a game like this, can we be so sure that Oklahoma will want to continue this series if the ante is raised in the near future as far as getting to a National Championship game goes? In other words, will the Sooners still be willing to play an even mid-level non-BCS team in 2018 if it could mean the difference between millions in bowl payout? Joe Castiglione has headed the OU athletic department since 1998; will he still be in Norman to assure this game goes on by the time 2016 or 2017 roll around?
If nothing else, Kevin Anderson's latest scheduling move confirms my earlier suspicion, and shows that when it comes to upping the exposure of the program, Army's previously maligned Athletic Director will leave no stone unturned. While a lot can happen between now and 2018, Army football can benefit right now from just the possibility of playing this game in the distant future. With football in the air on the banks of the Hudson and Army in the news on a weekly basis, Anderson continues to put the program in a position to be recognized by the rest of the college football world.
Black Knights Are Oklahoma Bound
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