Norman, Okla. Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops sees many reasons for his third-ranked Sooners to travel to the Dallas area for a rare season-opener away from home.
There’s the fertile recruiting base that has produced top players like offensive tackle Trent Williams and defensive end Jeremy Beal, a strong alumni base, and it’s close enough that hometown fans can make the trip.
But it’s not something he wants to make a habit.
“I don’t think anybody’s looking to take games away from Norman, Okla., very often,” Stoops said Tuesday. “I know (athletic director) Joe (Castiglione) is very sensitive to that. I don’t know what the numbers are but in this community, for our university, for the whole community and the town, you don’t want to see it very much. We’re not looking to do it very much at all.”
Saturday’s game against No. 20 BYU will mark only the second time in Stoops’ 11 seasons that Oklahoma will play its season-opener away from Owen Field, with the only other time coming in 2002 at Tulsa. Before Stoops arrived in Norman, the Sooners had opened the season on the road in five of the previous nine seasons.
And BYU, the Sooners’ first ranked opponent to start the season since they won at UCLA in 1990, is no slouch.
“They’re an excellent team, winning conference championships and winning 10-11 games most every year. We understand it’s a big challenge and our players have known that all year,” Stoops said. “Of course, this week in game week they’re excited about the challenge and working our way hopefully preparing to play a good football game this Saturday.
“We really need to give ourselves a chance to win.”
Oklahoma will get a $2.25 million payout for playing, plus royalties from any Sooners merchandise sold. The sold-out game at the Dallas Cowboys’ new stadium in Arlington, Texas, is a made-for-TV affair, with ESPN involved in some contract details.
For Stoops, the benefits of playing such a high-profile non-conference opponent are few.
“You get a better read on where you’re at, sure. But I think it really, truly only benefits you if you’re winning,” he said. “If you’re not, you’re going to get penalized for it.”
The Sooners have been rewarded for having tough schedules twice in recent years by the BCS — bumping Auburn out of the Orange Bowl in 2004 and then edging Texas out of the Big 12 championship game and a potential shot at the national title last year.