The Big 12 Championship Game at AT&T Stadium on Saturday will give the Sooners a chance to avenge a 48-45 loss to the Longhorns earlier this season and possibly make the College Football Playoff for the second straight year.
For those who wear burnt orange, it’s an opportunity to ruin their rival’s season and win the Big 12 title for the first time since 2009.
Following the annual matchup in October, sports columnist Berry Tramel of The Oklahoman suggested the Big 12 championship could be a preview of things to come, saying the “Cotton Bowl will one day become untenable” and noting the Dallas Cowboys left in 1971.
“And when the city of Dallas in 2004 failed to persuade Jones to build his best-on-the-planet stadium at Fair Park instead of Tarrant County, hard by The Ballpark in Arlington, the clock started ticking on the Cotton Bowl.,” Tramel wrote.
While fans don’t like each other, they agree the AT&T Red River Showdown shouldn’t move to Arlington.
“I’m a traditionalist,” said Mark Null, president of the Texas Exes Fort Worth chapter. “I love the Cotton Bowl.”
And Leslie Talbot, president of the OU Club of Fort Worth, said Sooners feel the same way.
“I don’t think they’ll ever want the the Texas-OU game moved,” Talbot said.
For now, the game isn’t going anywhere. The city of Dallas has a contract for the game through 2025. Holding the game in Arlington may be a strange experience for fans.
“It won’t be segregated like at the Cotton Bowl with one side orange and the other red,” Null said. “You really might be seated next to a group of Sooners. I think it will get testy, especially if there’s a little bit of alcoholic beverages consumed and depending on the outcome of the game.”
Tickets ranged from $63 for standing-room to $1,200 to sit on the 50-yard-line behind the Texas sidelines, on Stubhub. On Seatgeek standing-room only was going for $50 while three premium seats on the Texas side had an asking price of $1,567.. Seats on the Oklahoma side were slightly less but still pricey.
“I’m hearing tickets are getting harder to find today,” Null said.
Arlington officials realize the game will be in Dallas for the foreseeable future but still see the game as an opportunity to reach a new audience.
“That decision isn’t up to us,” said Ron Price, president of the Arlington Convention and Visitors Bureau. “However, anytime we have a game of this magnitude played at AT&T, it serves as an inspiration for other event organizers looking for a place to hold theirs, and that is a great asset to have.”
There are still hotel rooms available in Arlington but prices are going up.
Joe Jennings, general manager of the Hilton Arlington, said the hotel will be full this weekend with plenty of guests from Oklahoma. The Sheraton Arlington was also listed as being sold out, according to hotels.com.
The same travel website showed Arlington hotel prices ranging from a $349 at the Four Points Hotel on Friday night to $64 for a Studio 6 in south Arlington. Downtown Fort Worth hotels for Friday night were going for $219 at The Ashton to $108 at the Holiday Inn Express.
While they want the game to stay in Dallas, fans boast that playing twice each year may become a new tradition.
“I think everyone is excited,” Talbot said.
The 11 a.m.. kickoff is making it difficult, however, to plan a pregame party.
Texas fans will likely gather at Texas Live! where a watch party starts at 8 a.m. rather than organizing a tailgate, Null said. Longhorn supporters will also have watch parties at the World of Beer in Fort Worth and the Brass Tap in Roanoke.
The local OU chapter was trying to find a place to host a party on Friday night rather than a pregame event in Arlington, Talbot said..
Randy Ford, the owner of J. Gilligan’s Bar and Grill in downtown Arlington wasn’t surprised, He offers $9 shuttles and free parking but said he doesn’t expect any alumni groups to schedule a party before the game.
“We’ll probably take 500 to the game on Saturday,’ Ford said. “If it was a 3 p.m. or 7 p.m. game, we would probably take 700 to 1,000.”
Even Ford, who is a big proponent of Arlington, admits it will be hard to pry the game away from Dallas.
“That tradition they’ve established with the State Fair and the corny dogs — I think that’s going to be tough to beat,” Ford said.