Led by the change of opinion from the Western Athletic and Big 12 Conference, the University of Oklahoma and Tulsa University canceled Saturday's scheduled game in Norman on Wednesday. This follows the lead of National Football League, Major League Baseball and other college football programs who have decided to postpone sporting events in the wake of the terrorist attack on New York City and Washington, D.C.
On Wednesday, the University of Oklahoma announced that the game would be played and the response from Sooner and Tulsa fans alike was 100-to-1 in favor of playing the game. However, over the next 24-hours the WAC and Big 12 commissioners and athletic directors continued to gather information and continue to think about their decision. They were really in the best position possible in that they could second-guess themselves and still have time to make the best decision possible.
"The decision was all about trying to do the right thing and yesterday (Wednesday) people clearly articulated two schools of thought," said OU Athletic Director Joe Castiglione. "I saw both sides of it and I don't know if there is really a right or wrong answer on this subject. Everybody was just trying to do what they believed was right. The extra time gave us more time to consider our options, and when we evaluated all our information 24 hours later we decided not to play."
The lingering problem from Wednesday night was that both the WAC and Big 12 conference had teams that weren't going to be able to play this weekend for one reason or another. Neither conference was unified in the decision to play. That eventually weighed on the teams that had decided to play.
"If one of the two teams involved in a contest had serious concerns about playing, for whatever reason, then the prevailing feeling was to postpone the contest," said Castiglione. "That is what we saw yesterday with Rice University and many other Universities across the country. Tulsa originally wanted to play the game, but we learned today that they were thinking the same way a lot of people were. Overnight, they had reconsidered and that caused them change their feeling about playing. Given the process that was available, if one of the teams didn't want to play in the game then the game is not going to go on. The decision today on the conference call was clearly to cancel the game, so no matter what Tulsa's decision was we would have canceled the game."
The third-ranked Sooner football team prepared all week in anticipation of playing their state rivals. Oklahoma was a heavy favorite to run their record to 4-0 before they opened their Big 12 season September 29th at home against Kansas State. Practices were good all week and the Sooners were ready to play, but now all that has been put on hold.
"We fully support our conference administration and our athletic directors and presidents and whatever they decide," said OU Head Football Coach Bob Stoops. "We are in full support of their decisions. I don't know if there is a right or wrong thing to do, but whatever they decide to do, we as a team and coaches are all for it and certainly trust their judgment. Their decision is fine and we will resume business next week."
The Sooners will take the weekend off and won't report back to football until Monday, which Stoops says will be good for the football team.
"This doesn't effect us at all except that we now get more rest on the weekend," said Stoops. "It will give us more time to reflect, concentrate and focus on those effected by this tragedy, which is good. Outside of that we will heal up as we have been moderately and slightly banged up. This will give us good rest as a team, so that we can come back out on Monday and go at it again."
The Sooners will go 21 days before they play Kansas State, but Stoops says that won't make any difference in how the Sooners practice.
"We have played three games, which is probably more than most people have played," said Stoops. "We have had a chance to watch ourselves and evaluate ourselves and see what we are doing wrong and right. This will give us a good time to work on those aspects and hopefully polish things up."
It's very rare when a football player gets a three-day weekend during the football season. For many it is a unique opportunity to go home to mom's cooking, but they wish the circumstances to their good fortune were different.
"I think there is a fine line there for us that play when you are dealing with football and life in itself," said Sooner senior captain Frank Romero.
"We all take football too seriously sometimes, because it is hard work that goes into it. When something like this happens, it makes you realize that there are more important things in life."
Most players totally agreed with the decision not to play. Most just do as they are told and would gladly play if that is what they were told. However, there are some that wish the Sooners were playing and feel that would best serve the interest of all those concerned.
"I am a little disappointed that we have put in some long hours in our workouts here for Tulsa and now are not going to play," said junior captain and strong safety Roy Williams. "It's a little bothersome that we can't play, but it is for a good reason. We are giving honor to those that lost their lives in the World Trade Center and Pentagon tragedies. We are not worried about it. We are happy that we get to take these couple of days off and nurse some bumps and bruises."
Williams is not worried about the layoff effecting the Sooners performance against Kansas State.
"I am pretty sure that we will go hard during practice," said Williams. "I know that we will go game speed during practice, because we know how important it is to not lose our groove and not fall back a step. I know that it is going to benefit us to have this time-out right now."
Senior H-back and Captain Josh Norman looked at the layoff as a chance to finally get healthy.
"I will be getting myself ready for the next couple of weeks," said Norman. "I have been banged up and I will concentrate on getting myself together and get ready for Big 12 play."
Senior linebacker captain Rocky Calmus totally understands why the Sooners aren't playing, but as a Tulsa native (Jenks High School) Calmus wished he could have laced them up against his homeboys.
"I think it is the right choice and I think every team across the nation is making the right decision," said Calmus. "Not only colleges, but pro teams aren't playing. However, I hope we get to make up the game, because I know a number of players at Tulsa and I look forward to playing against them."
Both teams would like to reschedule the game, but that will be very tough to do.
"Our first choice is to in fact reschedule and we will work with the University of Tulsa to find any compatible date out there to make it work later in the season." said Castiglione. "Having said that, I am not 100 percent sure that can happen. We will engage ourselves in those conversations and that might take a number of dates or certainly more than a week or so."
Oklahoma and Tulsa did the right thing in canceling their game. They really didn't do it on their own as both teams were reacting in accordance with what their conference had decided. However, considering what our country has lost and what it is facing, one game is certainly something that all of us can give to totally respect those that have been so grossly effected by this terrible attack on our beloved USA.
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