The Big 12 has taken a stand.
At some point this season — most notably in West Virginia’s win over Texas on Nov. 3 — the conference decided it will no longer permit opposing players to flash the ‘horns down’ hand sign in celebration.
This is an old Mack Brown idea that will apparently be enforced on Saturday in Arlington when the Sooners and Longhorns meet in the Big 12 Championship. But context will matter as the officials decide whether to throw the flag or not.
Fans on both sides of the aisle should be bummed by this, because it limits one of the things that makes college football rivalries so great: trash talk. Still, this is the reality we’re in. So in the spirit of being helpful, here are five alternatives to the traditional Horns Down that Oklahoma could deploy on Saturday:
Oklahoma’s uniforms got an update with Jordan Brand this season, but there might be a way Oklahoma can further lean into the Horns Down phenomenon.
As Twitter users have been astutely pointing out for months, the Jordan Brand logo looks suspiciously similar to the Horns Down. Here’s a demonstration:
So with that in mind, would it be really that much of a departure to change out the Jordan Brand logo for an actual Horns Down sign? Here are some pros and cons:
Bring in a new honorary captain
Oklahoma has stuck with the same group of captains all year long, so it’s past time to change something up.
One of OU’s existing captains — my nomination is offensive lineman Ben Powers — should bring a longhorn calve to the coin toss, and then, right as everyone is about to shake hands, flip the calve upside down. Explain that his name is Sam Ehlinger Sr. and that he’s there to get his golden hat back.
That’s how you set a tone for the game during the coin toss (looking at you, Kansas). If the officials still decide to penalize the Sooners for literally turning horns upside down, at least they would have gotten their money’s worth.
Get the band involved: Ok. Cool, Hook ‘Em
What better way to set a tone for the second half than have The Pride of Oklahoma dish out a little trash talk? My suggestion: Get them in a formation that spells out the now-famous phrase, “Ok. Cool, Hook ‘Em,” but with a twist: Turn that horns up emoji upside down.
We’re going to ignore the sad origin of this phrase for the moment, and focus on the meme that has been growing for the last few weeks. Most recently, it was used by Texas quarterback Sam Ehlinger to respond to Kyler Murray’s “no comment” when asked if he respected Ehlinger’s game.
Pettiness from both parties aside, this is a good response from Ehlinger. But that doesn’t mean the Sooners shouldn’t exploit it in the most public way possible.
Plot twist! Horns up
Spin zone! When Oklahoma scores, it should proudly throw out the Horns Up in celebration. Everyone will know the Sooners are doing it ironically, but the officials will be powerless to do anything about it. It’s a fool-proof plan to ensure penalty-free trash talk.
Then, perhaps Ehlinger will get to determine a long-unanswered question: Is it more disrespectful to flash the Horns Down or to openly mock your opponent on the sideline?
He already has some experience in the latter, so OU going with Horns Up would give him a good look on both sides of this very important and sensitive issue.
Score enough points, do it anyways
All these other methods would catch some attention, but none would be as effective as just throwing the horns down anyways. Mostly because it would likely signal the game is out of reach, and a 15-yard penalty wouldn’t come close to impacting the final outcome.
This type of defiance and pettiness is the stuff that Twitter loves to spread, and it would bring back some of the moxie the Sooners lost to Cleveland last April.
The most interesting subplot: At what point in the game would Lincoln Riley hypothetically give his guys the green light? We saw in the last Red River Showdown that even three touchdown leads aren’t necessarily safe in the fourth quarter. Would it need to be a 2003-style beatdown (65-13)? Or would 2011 suffice (55-17)?
But most of all, Oklahoma should throw the horns down because harmless trash talk of that nature is exactly what makes college football rivalries great. If the Big 12 doesn’t understand that then, well, that’s on them.
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