OU football: With no State Fair of Texas, could Sooners-Longhorns become a night game?
In the wake of the COVID-19 surge, the 2020 Oklahoma football schedule is getting dicier – but also more interesting.
OU-Army seems shakier than ever. But OU-Texas on a Saturday night at least now is possible.
Both are the result of announcements made this week.
Tuesday, the State Fair of Texas was canceled. OU-Texas remains scheduled for October 10 in the Cotton Bowl, but the game, if played then, would be markedly different from its usual revelry.
On OU-Texas day, the fair typically attracts between 200,000 and 250,000 customers, counting fans attending the game. For that reason, officials from both universities, in conjunction with the Dallas police department, have not allowed the game to be played at night.
Television networks for decades have asked for the game to be played under the lights, to no avail. Which is remarkable, in this day when television contracts control virtually every other kickoff time.
That’s why the new OU-Texas tradition is an 11 a.m. kickoff. ESPN and Fox, for the better part of a decade, have considered the morning time slot preferable to the afternoon time slot for marquee games.
But with no fair, and with likely limited attendance if the game is played in October, the fear factor for a night game would be gone. Administrators long have worried that with as many as 150,000-200,000 people leaving Fair Park after 10 p.m., with many of them drinking for a good part of the day, incidents could skyrocket on everything from fan altercations to crime to traffic congestion.
But with Fair Park virtually empty outside of the Cotton Bowl, a night game could be feasible.
“That’s a possibility,” OU athletic director Joe Castiglione said. “I don’t know if that will be the case. We’ve never given them the opportunity at night.”
With an 11 a.m. kickoff, fans have less time to drink and leave Fair Park at much more spread-out times. But with no fair, especially if the game is reduced capacity (92,000 typically attend), park and city officials could better handle the dispersement of a night-game crowd.
Also Tuesday, the state of New York issued travel requirements on visitors from three more states – Delaware, Kansas and Oklahoma. Individuals coming from those states will be required to quarantine for 14 days.
That does not bode well for OU’s Sept. 26 game at Army. That’s still a long ways out, but if Oklahomans can’t even visit New York without a two-week quarantine, it’s hard to project the Sooners playing a football game at West Point.
“As states around the country experience increasing community spread, New York is taking action to ensure the continued safety of our phased reopening,” said Governor Andrew Cuomo. “Our entire response to this pandemic has been by the numbers, and we’ve set metrics for community spread just as we set metrics for everything.
“We will now require individuals coming from Delaware, Kansas and Oklahoma to quarantine for 14 days. New Yorkers did the impossible – we went from the worst infection rate in the United States to one of the best – and the last thing we need is to see another spike of COVID-19.”
In March and April, Oklahoma issued a 14-day quarantine on visitors from a variety of states, including the tri-state area of New York, New Jersey and Connecticut.