Nov 26, 2022; Lubbock, Texas, USA;  A general view of an Oklahoma Sooners helmet on the bench during the game between against the Texas Tech Red Raiders at Jones AT&T Stadium and Cody Campbell Field. Mandatory Credit: Michael C. Johnson-USA TODAY Sports

Art Briles’ Oklahoma visit raises concerns

Former Baylor coach Art Briles apparently was an unwelcome visitor on the field at Oklahoma after the Sooners beat SMU 28-11 in Norman, Okla., on Saturday night.

Briles, fired by Baylor in 2016 as the school investigated a wave of reports of sexual assaults by players, has been kept from other jobs since then because of negative fan reaction. And Oklahoma fans took to social media Saturday night to voice displeasure at seeing Briles on the field, wearing an Oklahoma shirt.

“I was made aware of it, just before I came in here, that he was [on the field],” Oklahoma coach Brent Venables told reporters just after the game. “That’s being dealt with.”

Briles is the father-in-law of Oklahoma’s offensive coordinator, Jeff Lebby, who said Briles attended the game with family.

“That’s the grandfather to my two kids, so he was down with our entire family well after the game, but he was down there. … He’s with his entire family,” Lebby said, per ESPN.

According to the ESPN report, Oklahoma athletic director Joe Castiglione issued a statement that said, “I was just as disappointed as many of our fans when I learned of the postgame situation tonight. It shouldn’t have happened and it was my expectation it never would, based on boundaries we previously set. I’ve addressed it with the appropriate staff.”

Fan reaction kept Briles, 67, from filling coaching jobs at Grambling State and with the Hamilton Tiger-Cats of the Canadian Football League.

ESPN reported he has been hired to coach the Dallas entry in the International Football Alliance, a new professional league scheduled to start next June. So far two teams in Texas and three in Mexico have been announced.

–Field Level Media

Oklahoma's Dillon Gabriel (8) celebrates beside Austin Stogner (81) and Cayden Green (70) after running for a touchdown during a college football game between the University of Oklahoma Sooners (OU) and the Arkansas State Red Wolves at Gaylord Family-Oklahoma Memorial Stadium in Norman, Okla., Saturday, Sept. 2, 2023.

SMU looking to dent No. 18 Oklahoma’s defense

Without Oklahoma’s upcoming move to the SEC, SMU might not be headed to the ACC next season.

If the Sooners weren’t moving, Saturday’s matchup against the Mustangs wouldn’t be on the schedule.

Oklahoma was scheduled to host Georgia in the first game of what was to be a home-and-home series, but the Sooners’ conference move wiped out that series, and it was quickly replaced by a series against SMU.

The Mustangs (1-0) will visit No. 18 Oklahoma (1-0) on Saturday in Norman, and both teams are coming off decisive season-opening wins: The Sooners blasted Arkansas State 73-0 — outgaining the Red Wolves 642-208 — and the Mustangs handled Louisiana Tech 38-14 with a balanced offensive attack.

Oklahoma’s defense struggled last season, and while its remade unit certainly looked better in the opener, SMU’s offense figures to offer a stiffer challenge.

“They’ve got a couple of fast receivers, faster guys out wide and even in the slot,” Sooners cornerback Woodi Washington said. “We have to get hands on them and slow them down at the line. I feel like we can do a good job of making plays on them.”

Oklahoma defensive coordinator Ted Roof and SMU head coach Rhett Lashlee are plenty familiar with each other.

Roof was Auburn’s defensive coordinator when Lashlee was a graduate assistant for the Tigers from 2009-10.

Roof said his primary memory of Lashlee then was discussing their shared experience of raising twins.

“He’s a good coach, and he’s obviously had a great career,” Roof said. “But I certainly expected him to do that, and I saw it at a very young age. I’m happy for him and that I get to play against him this week.”

SMU offensive coordinator Casey Woods was also on that Auburn staff.

Both teams enter Saturday’s game feeling better about their wide receiver depth than a year ago.

The Sooners added Michigan transfer Andrel Anthony, who had three catches for 66 yards in the opener, as well as freshman Jaquaize Pettaway, who led Oklahoma with nine catches.

SMU added Jordan Hudson from TCU and Miami transfer Key’Shawn Smith, among others.

“I know on offense, I couldn’t have told you half the time I was calling plays what receivers were in, and a year ago, I knew exactly who was in,” Lashlee said. “Running back, same thing.”

SMU figures to challenge Roof’s run defense as well, after the Mustangs’ LJ Johnson Jr. ran for 128 yards and a touchdown on 14 carries in the win over Louisiana Tech.

“They go fast,” Roof said. “They hit you with a lot of different formations, a lot of different motions and also from a schematic standpoint, you know, a lot of variation in what they do.”

Oklahoma likes to turn up the tempo as well.

“We want to dictate how the game is played, for sure,” Sooners offensive coordinator Jeff Lebby said. “There’s no doubt about that. We’ll continue to be us. We’ve got plenty to get better it, but it’ll be a heck of a challenge on Saturday.”

Saturday’s game will be the first meeting between the programs since 1995. The Sooners lead the all-time series 5-1-1.

–Field Level Media

Oklahoma coach Brent Venables runs onto the field before a college football game between the University of Oklahoma Sooners (OU) and the UTEP Miners at Gaylord Family - Oklahoma Memorial Stadium in Norman, Okla., Saturday, Sept. 3, 2022. Oklahoma won 45-13.

No. 20 Oklahoma rolls out rebuilt defense vs. Arkansas State

During his time as a defensive coordinator at Clemson and before that at Oklahoma, Brent Venables established a reputation as one of college football’s top defensive minds.

So it was especially disappointing for Venables, during his first season as Oklahoma’s head coach, that the Sooners’ defense struggled as they slipped to a 6-7 finish in 2022.

The defense finished near the bottom nationally in total defense, struggling in virtually every area.

When the 20th-ranked Sooners open the season at home against Arkansas State on Saturday, the personnel on defense will look much different than it did last season.

Venables and defensive coordinator Ted Roof made overhauling the defense a particular emphasis in the offseason, adding a wave of experience in the transfer portal — defensive ends Rondell Bothroyd from Wake Forest and Trace Ford from Oklahoma State, interior linemen Jacob Lacey from Notre Dame, Da’Jon Terry to Tennessee and Davon Sears from Texas State, linebacker Dasan McCullough from Indiana, safety Reggie Pearson from Texas Tech.

Venables was frustrated with his team’s depth all around, but particularly on defense.

Heading into the opener, Venables said he feels much better about where his team stands entering his second season.

“I thought we were soft in short-yardage situations and got knocked off the ball,” Venables said. “Second level didn’t support like we needed to support.
“I think we’re more knowledgeable as well as more physical. Our football IQ has improved. … I do feel like we’ve helped ourselves with the development of the guys that are on our roster and with some of the portal guys that we have brought on.”

The last time Oklahoma and Arkansas State faced off, the Sooners also were ranked No. 20. Oklahoma won that game 45-7 in 2000 and went on to an undefeated season and the program’s seventh national championship – with Venables as co-defensive coordinator.

Arkansas State is coming off an even tougher season than the Sooners, going 3-9 in 2022 in its second season under Butch Jones.

The Red Wolves are looking for their first win over a Power Five opponent since 2020, when they knocked off Kansas State.

Arkansas State hasn’t beaten a ranked opponent since knocking off No. 25 Troy in 2016.

“I like where we’re at, but we’ll know a little bit more (Saturday),” Jones said. “When you play a quality opponent like Oklahoma, everything that you do can be exposed. What I mean is fundamentals, details, simple things like your hand placement, the violence or mentality that you play with, with your style of play, the discipline to execute play-in and play-out, the ability to handle the clutter and distractions of the crowd noise.”

One player who does have experience in those environments is Red Wolves’ starting quarterback J.T. Shrout.

Shrout spent the last two seasons at Colorado, throwing for 1,220 yards and seven touchdowns in nine games last season, after playing for Tennessee from 2018-20.

Shrout beat out redshirt freshman Jaxon Dailey for the starting spot, with Jones saying Shrout’s consistency and experience helped turn the tide.

“We’ll see how that goes,” Jones said.

–Field Level Media

University of Oklahoma head coach Brent Venables speaks on the second day of NCAA college football Big 12 Media Days in Arlington, Texas, Thursday, July 13, 2023. (Sara Diggins/Austin American-Statesman via AP)

Top-ranked RB Taylor Tatum chooses Oklahoma over Southern Cal

Five-star recruit Taylor Tatum, the top-ranked running back in the Class of 2024, announced Friday his commitment to Oklahoma.

Tatum, from Longview, Texas, chose the Sooners and head coach Brent Venables over his other finalist, Southern Cal, and close to 40 offers including Power Five conference programs across the country.

According to 247Sports’ composite rankings, Tatum is a five-star recruit, the No. 31 player in his class, the top running back and No. 9 overall in the state of Texas. In its own rankings, he’s a four-star, No. 42 in the country, No. 1 at running back and No. 9 in Texas.

Listed at 5-foot-10 1/2 and 205 pounds, Tatum rushed for 1,891 yards and 33 touchdowns and caught three TD passes in his junior season.

He also plans to play baseball at Oklahoma, as he is a standout at Longview High School.

“One of the main things was going to the SEC and being a big dog in football and baseball,” Tatum said following his announcement, which was streamed online. “Growing up you see the LSUs, the (Texas) A&Ms, the Alabamas, the Georgias. I’m going to be part of the big dogs. Getting a chance to play baseball and football in the SEC is just something I couldn’t deny.”

Oklahoma will join the SEC ahead of the 2024-25 academic year.

Tatum visited Southern Cal on June 2 and Oklahoma on June 16.

–Field Level Media

Jul 12, 2023; Arlington, TX, USA; Oklahoma State head coach Mike Gundy is interviewed during Big 12 football media day at AT&T Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

Okla. State coach Mike Gundy scorches rival Oklahoma

There is finality in the 2023 college football season, an end to classic rivalries like the Bedlam matchup pitting Oklahoma State and Oklahoma.

Cowboys coach Mike Gundy isn’t taking the blame for the curtain falling on the traditional date with the Sooners, who are exiting the conference along with Texas following the 2023 season.

“I’m very traditionalist when it comes to conference rivalry games and such,” Gundy said at Big 12 media days Wednesday, noting the last OSU-OU game was this season. “The Bedlam game is over because Oklahoma chose to leave the Big 12, period. It’s got nothing to do with Oklahoma State. Do I like that? No. Do I like that conferences have broken up in the past? No, I don’t.”

Oklahoma State went 7-6 last season and 4-5 in conference play. The rival Sooners were 6-7 with a 3-6 Big 12 record.

Gundy shot down questions angled at Oklahoma State renewing the annual game with Oklahoma down the road.

“Oklahoma State is not going to change what we do because Oklahoma chose to go to the SEC. They need to change what they do because they’re the ones that made their mind up to go to the SEC,” he said. “So with all the talk from administration and people saying that Oklahoma State needs to do this and that, all Oklahoma had to do was not go to the SEC. So it is what it is. We can cut right to the chase.”

Neither Oklahoma-based program is picked to win the conference in the preseason media poll topped by Texas, a standing not necessarily endorsed by the ever-opinionated Gundy.

“It depends what we’re basing that on. Are we basing that on history? Are we basing that on the last five years? Are we basing that on the last 50 years?” Gundy asked rhetorically. “I’m not sure how anybody really comes up with who’s a favorite right now. I’m going to go back to what I said earlier. I think one of the fun things about the Big 12 is we don’t really know who’s going to win based on what’s happening in the last few years.”

–Field Level Media

Nov 26, 2022; Lubbock, Texas, USA;  A general view oaf an Oklahoma Sooners helmet on the bench during the game between against the Texas Tech Red Raiders at Jones AT&T Stadium and Cody Campbell Field. Mandatory Credit: Michael C. Johnson-USA TODAY Sports

5-star TE Davon Mitchell reclassifies, commits to Oklahoma

Five-star tight end Davon Mitchell has joined Oklahoma’s Class of 2024, reclassifying from 2025.

He chose the Sooners over Miami and Alabama.

“I wanted to find a school where they throw the ball to the tight end, where I had a good connection with the coaching staff and where I felt comfortable with the players and the campus and in the end, I just felt like OU was the best option for me,” he told 247Sports.

The 247Sports composite lists the 6-foot-4, 245-pound Mitchell as the No. 2 tight end and No. 16 overall player in the 2025 class. Rankings haven’t been updated to reflect his spot on the 2024 list.

He told 247Sports that he has been taking extra classes and going to summer school to be able to graduate from Los Alamitos (Calif.) High School early.

“I’m going to play out my season this fall and then I’m going to early enroll in December,” Mitchell said. “It’s been a fun journey for me but I’m ready for the next level. I’m excited to play out my season this fall and then ready for the next challenge when I get to Oklahoma.”

–Field Level Media

Feb 12, 2023; Glendale, Arizona, US; Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Jalen Hurts (1) throws the ball against the Kansas City Chiefs in Super Bowl LVII at State Farm Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

Jalen Hurts earns master’s degree from Oklahoma

As if leading his team to the Super Bowl and signing a massive contract extension weren’t enough, Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Jalen Hurts decided to add to his stellar year by earning a master’s degree.

Hurts, 24, received his master’s in human relations from Oklahoma on Friday, as a university vice president, Dr. David Surratt, posted to social media.

Hurts started his college football career at Alabama, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in communication and information sciences after only three years. He transferred to Oklahoma in 2019 and began working on his master’s degree.

The 24-year-old Hurts has said in interviews that he was inspired by his mother, who was a special education teacher around the time of his freshman year of college but saw colleagues around her being laid off and decided to be proactive.

“She went back to school, and she got her master’s to become a counselor,” Hurts told Essence in April. “That’s a living testimony for me.”

Earning his master’s degree caps off an eventful first half of 2023 for the Houston native.

In February, Hurts led the Eagles to Super Bowl LVII in Glendale, Ariz., where they lost to the Kansas City Chiefs. The game included a controversial call against the Eagles with less than two minutes left that opened the door for the Chiefs to win, 38-35.

In April, Hurts signed a five-year contract extension worth $255 million, making him the highest paid player in NFL history on a per-year basis.

The Eagles open the season Sept. 10 on the road against the team they beat to win Super Bowl LII, the New England Patriots.

–Field Level Media

Oct 8, 2022; Dallas, Texas, USA;  Texas Longhorns defensive end Justice Finkley (1) and Texas Longhorns defensive lineman Keondre Coburn (99) sack Oklahoma Sooners quarterback Davis Beville (11) during the second half at the Cotton Bowl. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

Texas, Oklahoma reach deal to leave Big 12 in 2024

Texas and Oklahoma agreed to a $100 million fee to exit the Big 12 Conference a year earlier than their contractual obligation, meaning they will join the Southeastern Conference for the 2024-25 school year.

The Big 12 announced Thursday that the schools and the reached an agreement in principle regarding the exit fee.

“As I have consistently stated, the Conference would only agree to an early withdrawal if it was in our best interest for Oklahoma and Texas to depart prior to June 30, 2025,” Big 12 commissioner Brett Yormark said in a statement. “By reaching this agreement, we are now able to accelerate our new beginning as a 12-team league and move forward in earnest with our initiatives and future planning.

“I appreciate the approaches of OU President Joe Harroz and UT President Jay Hartzell to ensure an amicable conclusion to this process, and look forward to the bright days ahead for the Big 12 Conference.”

Hartzell said in a statement, in part, “We have always been committed to fulfilling our contractual obligations to the Big 12. The collegiate athletics landscape has continued to evolve rapidly, and working together to accelerate our exit produced benefits for all parties. The Big 12 has been a respected partner for nearly three decades, and we look forward to a final season of spirited competition with our friends and rivals.”

“The exciting matchups and passionate rivalries of the past quarter century will always be a celebrated part of our shared history,” Harroz added in a statement, in part. “We look forward to showcasing that intensity this season, next season and beyond.”

SEC commissioner Greg Sankey wrote in a statement that the conference will “proceed with facilitating the transition of Oklahoma and Texas to become full members of the Southeastern Conference on July 1, 2024.”

He added, “We look forward to welcoming the conference’s new members and moving into the future as a 16-team league.”

BYU, UCF, Cincinnati and Houston are set to join the Big 12 for the 2023-24 school year, giving the conference 14 teams for one season before the Longhorns and Sooners exit.

–Field Level Media

Texas Longhorns forward Christian Bishop (32) smiles as he walks past Oklahoma Sooners forward Jalen Hill (1) during an NCAA men's college basketball game between the University of Oklahoma and Texas at Lloyd Noble Center in Norman, Okla., Saturday, Dec. 31, 2022. Texas won 70-69.

Oklahoma Vs Texas Basketball

Delay of gain: Texas, Oklahoma reportedly won’t join SEC until 2025

Red River rivals Texas and Oklahoma are not headed downstream from the Big 12 to the Southeastern Conference until 2025 because of complex TV rights negotiations, according to multiple reports.

The planned exit to the SEC was expected to take place for the 2024 academic year and become official in July.

ESPN reported Friday morning the delay was borne out of failed negotiations that included two universities and two networks.

“Parties couldn’t come to terms amid a complex negotiation between two schools (OU/Texas), two networks (ESPN/FOX) and the Big 12,” ESPN reported.

The topic of the Sooners and Longhorns leaving was on the frontburner this week at Big 12 conference meetings, where the agenda also listed discussions about adding Gonzaga and potential further expansion.

BYU, Cincinnati and Houston are all joining the Big 12 in July, in what was expected to be the end of Texas and Oklahoma’s run in the league.

The Big 12 released its full season football schedule on Tuesday, including Texas-Oklahoma on Oct. 7.

–Field Level Media

Oct 8, 2022; Dallas, Texas, USA;  Texas Longhorns defensive end Justice Finkley (1) and Texas Longhorns defensive lineman Keondre Coburn (99) sack Oklahoma Sooners quarterback Davis Beville (11) during the second half at the Cotton Bowl. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

Big 12 releases football schedule for 14-team season

The 2023 Big 12 football schedule, released on Tuesday, will make for some awkward get-togethers.

While BYU, Cincinnati, Houston and UCF are joining the league, Oklahoma and Texas have not yet departed for the SEC.

All 14 teams will play nine conference games, starting Sept. 16 when newcomer Houston hosts TCU, the 2022 College Football Playoff runner-up and a former Southwest Conference rival.

Texas will face just two of the Big 12’s newest entries, and the games will come back-to-back. The Longhorns will visit Houston Oct. 21 and host BYU Oct. 28

Oklahoma, meanwhile, will open its Big 12 schedule by visiting Cincinnati Sept. 23. The Sooners will later host UCF Oct. 21 and travel to BYU Nov. 18.

The annual Red River Rivalry between Texas and Oklahoma is set for Oct. 7 at the Cotton Bowl in Dallas.

A rematch of last season’s Big 12 championship game, between TCU and equally surprising Kansas State, will be Oct. 21 in Manhattan, Kan.

Oklahoma State is slated to host Oklahoma on Nov. 4 in the Bedlam series matchup.

Oklahoma and Texas will join the SEC in either 2024 or 2025. The two bluebloods’ decision to jump ship prompted the Big 12 to invite BYU, Cincinnati, Houston and UCF, some of the most successful athletic programs from outside the power conferences.

–Field Level Media