As the seasons and colors begin to change in early October, one thing does not: The animosity and line of demarcation that is the 50-yard line at the Cotton Bowl during the annual Red River Showdown between Texas and Oklahoma.
As it turns out, one of the only things that could make Longhorns and Sooners work together are the kids of Killeen during the fifth annual Cen-Tex Football/Cheer Camp and Combine at Leo Buckley Stadium last weekend.
“Most of those guys that go to OU are from Texas,” former Shoemaker standout and current Jacksonville Jaguar Roy Miller said. “We always talk trash with those guys and have a good time with them.”
Lifetime Longhorns Miller, Quan Cosby and Johnny “Lam” Jones were glad to join former Sooners Tommie Harris and Juaquin Iglesias at the camp to help the kids get out, exercise and learn a thing or two about football.
The OU-Texas game is considered one of the best rivalries in the nation, pitting two tradition-rich programs on a neutral site between Austin and Norman, Okla. Add the State Fair of Texas outside of the stadium and animosity between fan bases has made it one of the best atmospheres in the Big 12.
Texas upset Oklahoma 36-20 in last season’s game and ended a three-year Sooner win streak.
Harris, a former Ellison standout, was 3-0 in the rivalry game, including a 65-13 Sooners blowout in 2003. Iglesias played for Oklahoma from 2005 to 2008, the same years that Miller and Cosby were at UT.
For Iglesias, a former Killeen High star, one of the best memories was the intensity on the field, especially since so many players on both sides are from the state of Texas and know each other, and it was good to talk a little trash with Miller.
“When you get on that field, there’s no holding back,” Iglesias said. “You get in people’s faces because he had the pad and helmet on and I did, too. I wouldn’t say some of that stuff if I didn’t.”
Since Mack Brown arrived at Texas in 1998 and Bob Stoops got to Oklahoma in 1999, the game has taken on national importance as either school represented the Big 12 South in the conference title game every year from 1999 until 2010 and either school was the Big 12 regular season champion 10 out of 13 years from 2000 to 2012.
But on the Texas side, things figure to be different with Charlie Strong replacing Brown as the team’s head coach and ushering in a new era of Longhorn football.
Both Miller and Cosby had successful stints in burnt orange playing for Brown. Brown resigned in December and UT went 8-4 in his final season as head coach.
“I’m optimistic about it all,” Cosby said. “Change isn’t always bad and it’s really inevitable. At some point, things change, so I hope they’re ready.”
“We want to see results, that’s the only thing that matters,” Miller said. “The spotlight needs to go away and we need to get back to winning.”
Jones, a Lampasas High legend, hopes history will repeat itself for the 2014 Longhorns as it did for the 1977 UT squad.
Jones was recruited by Hall of Fame head coach Darrell Royal, the man whom the stadium in Austin is now named for, and UT went 5-5-1 in Royal’s final season as head coach in 1976. New head coach Fred Akers led UT to an 11-1 season the following year.
Jones was impressed by the way Strong wants to change the culture, including things like making most of the players move back on campus.
“I really think it’s going to be exciting like that in coach Strong’s first year,” Jones said.
“It lets the kids know who’s running the show,” he continued. “They’re not running the show, and he knows how to run a winning organization.”
On the other side of the Red River, the Sooners have been the model of consistency since Stoops took over, a fact that has not been lost on Harris in the decade since he played his last collegiate game.
“You know what you’re going to get at Oklahoma. It’s the same every time,” Harris said. “Those guys are coming to perform, they’re going to come to play. They won’t let you down and they won’t lose more than three games, so I call that a good season every year.”
The Sooners have won 10 or more games in 12 of the 15 seasons that Stoops has been the head coach. The streak includes eight bowl wins, eight conference titles and a national championship in 2000.
The program may be rich in tradition, but one new wrinkle that Harris is excited about is the addition of a few alternate uniform combinations. The school announced the change, which includes a white helmet and crimson pants.
“We couldn’t even wear anything when we were there and Coach Stoops goes and gets these guys seven different uniforms,” Harris joked. “I hope they can make me mine and get me a throwback jersey.”
Although Oklahoma hit midseason road bumps in 2013 with conference losses to Texas and Baylor, the Sooners closed out the season with three straight conference wins before beating two-time defending national champion Alabama 45-31 in the Sugar Bowl.
The Crimson Tide had been ranked No. 1 for much of the season, but the Sooners showed they were in command thanks to 348 yards and four passing touchdowns from freshman quarterback Trevor Knight.
“I’m always rooting for my Sooners,” Iglesias said. “I’m very excited for this year. We look very promising, especially after that big win.”