History Of Bedlam Spans More Than 100 Years

The rivalry spans more than 100 years and predates Oklahoma's statehood. 

Thursday, November 2nd 2023, 10:14 pm

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The last Bedlam football matchup between OU and OSU as Big 12 opponents is set for Saturday. 

The rivalry spans more than 100 years and predates Oklahoma's statehood. 

In 1890, the "Organic Act" officially created separate "Oklahoma" and "Indian" territories, with the town of Guthrie designated as Oklahoma Territory's capital. Also that year, the University of Oklahoma was established in Norman, and Oklahoma A&M College in Stillwater. 

Fourteen years later, with the territory still three years away from statehood, the two schools decided to play a football game. OU, then called the “Rough Riders” or “Boomers,” arrived by train to what is now Mineral Wells Park in Guthrie. Those from Stillwater, called the “Tigers” back then, came by horse. What followed was the first time the two schools met on the gridiron. 

"It was a cold, blustery day. The wind was blowing, and so it was kind of a difficult day, maybe, for football. But that's the way football is. They play it no matter what the weather is and no matter what it's like,” Oklahoma Sports Heritage Museum Director Richard Hendricks said. 

Oklahoma dominated the game, highlighted by a loose ball recovered in the Cottonwood Creek, located south of the A&M goal, for the first touchdown of the game. "The Oklahoma State Capital" newspaper out of Guthrie described it this way: 

"Ed Cook, left half back for Oklahoma University, swam ten yards for the first touchdown of the game with the A&M College of Stillwater at Island Park… A thing which perhaps never occurred before in the history of football... The pigskin went straight up in the air, and the win wafted the ball back toward the south. The scrimmage for it began on the bank of the cottonwood behind Stillwater’s goal...The ball was knocked into the river... Burlison and Baird for Stillwater and Cook, Mathews and Long for the university plunged in after it... Book finally secured it after a 10-yard swim..." 

The final score was 75-0. The first of what will be 118 meetings between the two schools after this year's game. Amazingly, A&M did not score a single point in the rivalry for a full decade. The Aggies shutout by an average score of 30-0. A&M’s first win was in 1917, 9-0, an upset over the Sooners, starting the tradition of the "bell clapper,” now personified by a crystal bell given to the winning team each year. 

Some say that year was also the first time the word "bedlam" was used in reference to the rivalry, in the Daily Oklahoman, saying that fans were so surprised by the Aggies' win, "bedlam broke loose"; but another story has the rivalry name's roots in wrestling. A reporter allegedly came out of historic Gallagher Hall during a match between A&M and Oklahoma and said, "It's bedlam in there!" 

Either way, few rivalries can say they pre-date statehood. But Bedlam is a rivalry like none other.

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