'Cotton' to the Idea of Leaving Dallas?

Will the last football team leaving the Cotton Bowl please turn off the lights? For that matter, should the Texas-Oklahoma series remain in the 77-year old stadium beyond the current contract extension?

Dallas Mayor Laura Miller announced Friday morning that the Red River Rivalry, waged every October at the Cotton Bowl since 1929, would remain in the facility through 2015. The press conference came on the heels an earlier announcement that even the January 1st Cotton Bowl Classic is relocating to the Dallas Cowboys new stadium in Arlington in 2010. But there is an undercurrent of thought that believes the UT-OU extension is simply a stop-gap measure as officials of both universities mull their options while awaiting completion of $50 million in stadium renovations.

Neither university sent a representative to the Mayor's news conference, but there is little doubt that Oklahoma desperately wants the series to remain in the recruiting-rich Lone Star state. (In fact, Sooner athletic officials have said the school would likely schedule another annual series at the neutral site should Texas-OU ever become a home-and-home). The rhetoric from the hallowed halls of Bellmont is not as supportive of the annual Border War remaining in Dallas.

A number of reasons have been posited (essentially, from UT sources) for shuttling the game between Austin and Norman:

1) Cha-ching! It is estimated that UT rakes in approximately $4 million per home game and that the economic impact for Austin is in the $15-to-$20 million range.
2) Recruiting. Mack Brown has done more to seal the borders of the Lone Star state from outside recruiters than has any Longhorn coach since the implementation of scholarship limits more than a quarter-century ago. But there is a strong sentiment that OU's foothold, especially in the Dallas area and east Texas, would be diminished if it was not for the school's annual pilgrimage across the Red River for such a high-profile showdown.
3) Winning streaks. The series has been excruciatingly cyclical for 60 years in which both programs take turns whupping the other for an extended periods of time. In short, it's been a coach-killer on both sidelines. A home-and-home series would go a long way towards ensuring no coach is ever on the losing side for, say, five straight years.
4). BCS 'style points'. Brown has lamented on a number of occasions that the BCS ratings place a higher premium on 'road wins' than 'neutral site' wins.

But whatever reason any UT official can offer for moving this game, it should not be predicated upon fear a losing a competitive edge -- either on the field or in the offices of high school head coaches -- to your arch-rival. And it certainly should not be about a measly $4 million when your program is already generating $58 million annually. Longhorn football will always be a cash cow; OU football will always find a way to recruit well south of the Red River even if this series is moved.

Keep the game at the Cotton Bowl, but with this condition: completion of the upgrades that include expanding the stadium to 90,000. (Cotton Bowl officials envision an iconoclastic stadium that would become the Rose Bowl of the Southwest). The overheated Texas-Oklahoma series is as much about the Tunnel, Big Tex, Fletchers Corny Dogs and the centerpiece of the State Fair as it is the Golden Hat Trophy, the Sooner Schooner and the Showband of the Southwest. It's half the stadium in full-throated delirium at the conclusion of each play and, eventually, a half-empty stadium during the post-game Trophy presentation. It is just one of three prominent D-I rivals (Florida-Georgia, Army-Navy) that remains at a neutral site. Texas-OU at the Cotton Bowl is one of the last holdouts of a glorious college football tradition that gets sold to the highest bidder with each passing season.

I can understand the reason why Oklahoma needs this series in Dallas more than Texas needs this series in Dallas. But let's not wave the (orange and) white flag for fear that the playing field is leveled should the series remain on neutral turf. After all, is there anything sweeter than 35,000 Longhorns in a full-chorus of "Poo-oor Sooners" as half the stadium, bitter and dejected, exits toward the Fletchers Stands?

What do you think?

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