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September 6, 2011

Stoops says Sooners don't need Longhorns

Oklahoma and Texas enjoy one of the great rivalries in all of college sports. But that rivalry could be in jeopardy with the current round of realignment talks sweeping through Norman, Okla., this week.

The Sooners and Longhorns have played each other, regardless of conference affiliation, since the very beginnings of their football programs. Currently, the Red River Rivalry has been played every year since 1929.

That's an 82-year streak.

But with the uncertainty in the Big 12, and with Oklahoma President David Boren seeking stability in the Sooners' conference affiliation, Bob Stoops says he could see the Red River Rivalry coming to an end in the near future.

"I don't think it's necessary," said Stoops of continuing the rivalry if Oklahoma and Texas take up residence in separate conferences. "I know no one wants to hear that, but life changes and you've got to change with it, to whatever degree. If it works, great. I love the game, but if it doesn't, it doesn't. Sometimes that's the way it goes."

OU's Boren announced last week that his university was looking to explore options for joining up with other conferences, or other teams, after Texas A&M withdrew from the Big 12 Conference.

Boren said the Sooners were willing to do whatever was in their best interests as a university to make that happen.

And breaking away from Texas remains a possibility.

"We are carefully looking over all the options and there is no school in the Big 12 more active than we are right now," said Boren last Friday. "The fact we have so much cohesion in our leadership team at the university - our coaches, our athletics department, our regents, all of them working together with me - I think that gives us a good leg up on anybody. No one has more unity in a university in being ready to go in whichever direction is in our best interest."

Sources continue to say Oklahoma and Texas are working collaboratively in finding a solution to the recent losses of Nebraska, Colorado and Texas A&M. But it's clear from public statements out of Norman, the Sooners are willing to flex their muscle if needed.

"We've been, ever since we became a member of this conference, a very influential member of the conference," said Boren. "I think we remain a very influential member of the conference. I'll just put it that way.

"I don't think there's any chance OU's going to end up being a wallflower when this is all over."

On Tuesday, Stoops' further enhanced Boren's comments by exuding confidence in his program without any involvement with the Longhorns.

"A lot of things change. All of a sudden we aren't playing Nebraska every year and now they're gone and we're still here," said Stoops. "Life goes on and people find other rivalries, you find other fun places to go and enjoy the game and enjoy the experience. I think it's obvious we'll always have a great product that will always be exciting to follow and we always have great TV audiences. Whatever happens, we'll adjust to it."

All of this could be posturing by Oklahoma officals, who seem to be on a power play of their own.

Because after 82 consecutive years of developing one of the best rivalries in sports, these two schools don't need a football field in Dallas to keep this rivalry alive and well.

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