Source: Bedlam Football is Not Dead Yet

There are hurdles like non-conference games already under contract and an unknown SEC schedule, but Oklahoma's annual series with Oklahoma State remains viable.
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Bedlam is not dead yet.

Oklahoma’s apparently imminent move to the Southeastern Conference — a formal announcement could come as early as Monday — will not necessarily preclude the Sooners and Cowboys from playing their annual Bedlam football game.

An OU source told SI Sooners on Friday that there would be logistical challenges ahead to keep the series alive, but said the schools could continue playing regularly — possibly even annually.

The first hurdle would be existing contracts with non-conference opponents.

It’s not known when OU would officially begin play in the SEC, but the Sooners have standing contracts in 2022 with UTEP, Kent State and Nebraska, in 2023 with Arkansas State, Georgia and Tulsa, in 2024 with Temple, Tennessee and Tulane, in 2025 with Illinois State, Michigan and Temple, and in 2026 with UTEP, Michigan and New Mexico. There are also scheduled games under contract with LSU, Nebraska, Georgia and Alabama, as well as a home-and-home series with Clemson in 2035 and 2036.

The non-conference games with SEC opponents would likely dissolve, which over the course of eight seasons creates eight additional openings for a potential Bedlam game. Also, OU could easily buy out games with Group of 5 opponents, although most of those would probably remain in place.

Oklahoma State, meanwhile, has games scheduled in 2022 with Central Michigan, Arizona State and Arkansas-Pine Bluff, in 2023 with Central Arkansas, Arizona State and South Alabama, in 2024 with Arkansas and Tulsa, in 2025 and 2026 with Oregon and Tulsa, in 2027 with Arkansas and Tulsa, in 2028 and 2029 with Alabama and Tulsa, as well as games down the line with Arkansas, Nebraska and Colorado.

The source told SI Sooners that OU’s availability for Bedlam would likely hinge on what future conference schedules the SEC decides on. The SEC traditionally plays eight conference games (the league played 10 last year during the pandemic), but the league’s coming expansion to 16 teams could open up any number of scheduling possibilities.

One that has been widely discussed is a quad system, with four teams in each quad. Teams would play three games against their quad every year, and two games against each of the other quads, rotating two opponents from each quad every two years. (In that model, every SEC team would visit Norman at least once every four years.) That would produce a total of nine conference games, leaving three weekends open for non-conference opponents.

The source said an annual Bedlam game “could get there eventually” and would strengthen college football’s traditional interconference/intrastate rivalries like Clemson/South Carolina, Florida/Florida State, Georgia/Georgia Tech, Kentucky/Louisville, Iowa/Iowa State, etc. The SEC makes concessions for its members to maintain late-season series against in-state rivals, so it likely would do the same for OU to play OSU.

Another potential roadblock to an annual Bedlam matchup, however: Oklahoma State. After being spurned by its in-state brother for a dash to the SEC, would there be hurt feelings? Or would OSU want to continue with a series in which it trails 90-18-7 and, currently in the program's heyday, has won just two of the last 18 meetings?

Since 2008, when the teams meet in Stillwater each year, OSU has designated Bedlam as its one "premium" game and requires its fans to buy a season ticket to attend. Bedlam is traditionally a money-maker for the OSU athletic department, and the games in Stillwater usually make for good theater. 

The opportunity to beat a Sooner squad from the SEC could potentially be more attractive than ever among OSU fans. 

If the non-con and SEC schedules work out, the ball could be in OSU's court.