Oklahoma football: Bedlam series nearing an end; does it really matter?

STILLWATER, OK - NOVEMBER 27: The Oklahoma State Cowboys huddle and cheer before a game against the Oklahoma Sooners at Boone Pickens Stadium on November 27, 2021 in Stillwater, Oklahoma. The Cowboys won 'Bedlam' 37-33. (Photo by Brian Bahr/Getty Images)
STILLWATER, OK - NOVEMBER 27: The Oklahoma State Cowboys huddle and cheer before a game against the Oklahoma Sooners at Boone Pickens Stadium on November 27, 2021 in Stillwater, Oklahoma. The Cowboys won 'Bedlam' 37-33. (Photo by Brian Bahr/Getty Images) /

The Oklahoma football rivalry series with Oklahoma State is 116 years old this season. It probably won’t make it to 118. That’s another way of saying rumors about the death of the longtime rivalry are not exaggerated.

According to Brett McMurphy of the Action Network via Sports Illustrated and multiple others, the athletic directors at both schools have confirmed that the Bedlam rivalry in football will end when Oklahoma officially joins the Southeastern Conference in 2025, if not earlier.

The two in-state Oklahoma schools have played every season for 116 consecutive years with the exception of two (1905 and 1909). The Sooners have dominated the series with a 90-19-7 all-time record. Some would say that OU’s overwhelming command of the football series hardly qualifies as a bona fide rivalry.

The first game in this series was played in 1904, with Oklahoma winning 75-0. The Sooners’ domination started right from the beginning. The Sooners won the first 11 games in the series and 17 of the first 20. In fact, Oklahoma did not give up its first point to Oklahoma State until the ninth game of the series, and then only six points. Over the first 20 games, the Sooners outscored the Cowboys 484 to 44. Oklahoma has also put together winning streaks of 19 games in the Bud Wilkinson era of OU football and 24 of 25 games from 1967 to 1991.

Bob Stoops was 14-4 against OSU, with an eight-game win streak sandwiched in between.

Given all of that, it would seem the only school that would miss this series would be the Sooners. You’d think Oklahoma State would be happy to see Oklahoma go elsewhere. And that was the takeaway from what OSU athletic director had to say about the future of the Bedlam rivalry:

"“It (playing Oklahoma) presents logistical issues under our current (scheduling) structure,” said Chad Weiberg of Oklahoma State. “We don’t have any openings to play them. We’re full.“Unless there are significant undertakings to make the game happen, it can’t happen,” he said."

Oklahoma athletic director Joe Castiglione took that to mean Oklahoma State is the one that wants to cut ties with the Bedlam football series.

"“Oklahoma State has shown no interest to schedule future game in football, so we’re moving on (scheduling future nonconference openings),” Castiglione said."

The assumption is that the Big 12 will stay with its nine-game conference schedule when Oklahoma and Texas move out of the conference, and that the SEC will go to a nine-game league format when the Sooners and Longhorns join the SEC. That leaves only three nonconference games to fill out the yearly schedule, and a good number of these games are scheduled years in advance.

In fact, OU had to adjust its future nonconference schedule, replacing future dates with Georgia and Tennessee. The Sooners had home-and-home series scheduled to begin with Georgia at Oklahoma in 2023 and OU at Tennessee in 2024. Because the second game in both series were scheduled after the Sooners join the SEC, the SEC directed that both series be postponed and worked into the normal schedule rotation after OU officially comes over to the SEC.

Oklahoma has subsequently filled the 2023 and 2024 nonconference opening with SMU.

Oklahoma State head football coach Mike Gundy, who played in four Bedlam games as a quarterback at OSU and has coached in 32 of them (17 of them as head coach) reacted to the news that Bedlam football will end after the Sooners depart the Big 12, calling OU’s comments on the situation “comical” and “childish.”

That naturally got the attention of former Oklahoma head coach Bob Stoops, who told Big 12 Today on SiriusXM radio:

"“We’re (Oklahoma) going to be fine,” he said. “You think we’re going to have trouble filling the stadium with the teams we’re going to have coming in.”"

Inferred in Stoops’ comments is that the Sooners will be replacing the Bedlam series with a number of high-profile games once Oklahoma moves on to the SEC, considered for a number of years to be the strongest football conference.

The annual Oklahoma-Oklahoma State rivalry series in football might be important to the people in the Sooner State, but the truth is that Texas is the Sooners biggest rival, and Nebraska was an even bigger rival to OU than Oklahoma State when the Cornhuskers were in the Big 12 and all of its previous iterations.

Like coach Stoops so succinctly said: Oklahoma will be fine.