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UT-OU: Best rivalry?

Depends on whom you ask

04:02 PM CDT on Friday, October 7, 2005

By BRIAN DAVIS / The Dallas Morning News

Darrell Royal vs. Barry Switzer. Earl Campbell, Ricky Williams, Billy Sims and "Little Joe" Washington. Tommy Nobis. The Boz.

Texas and Oklahoma fans could argue for hours about the greatest players, the best coaches and the most memorable games they've seen in the Red River Rivalry.

To locals, there's little doubt that there's no bigger game than the Texas-OU border battle, which kicks off its 100th installment Saturday. Regional bias aside, for all the great players and great games, the Texas-OU series may not be the greatest rivalry in college football – according to the game's coaches.

Whether you look at tradition or more quantifiable aspects such as national titles and Heisman Trophy winners, the Red River Rivalry may not crack the top two.

The News surveyed the 119 Division I-A coaches.

Just over half responded, with answers that highlight some nationally recognized matchups and some other regional battles.

"A great rivalry is two great programs that are competitive every year," Miami's Larry Coker said. "In a great rivalry, you've played 100 games and that team has won 50 and your team has won 50."

Ohio State-Michigan received the most votes from coaches, with Army-Navy a close second.

"Of course, we believe the greatest rivalry is Ohio State-Michigan," Ohio State coach Jim Tressel said. "It's played each year at the end of the regular season, many times impacting the Big Ten championship, and it's played in front of more than 106,000 fans every year."

Cincinnati coach Mark Dantonio said: "It's tradition more than anything else. It is something that is drilled into each player as soon as he gets involved with either Ohio State or Michigan."

Boston College coach Tom O'Brien isn't so sure.

"Army-Navy, by far," O'Brien said. "Many rivalries – Ohio State-Michigan, USC-UCLA, Auburn-Alabama – are regional rivalries within conferences that encompass a state, or maybe two states, whereas Army-Navy encompasses all 50 states."

To each his own

Texas-OU was third, but two of its six votes came from UT's Mack Brown and OU's Bob Stoops.

"Texas-Oklahoma is the best border rivalry in college football, and Texas-Texas A&M is the best in-state rivalry in college football," Brown said.

Stoops said he was hesitant to label one rivalry as the best. It all depends on where your allegiances lie and what team you're used to following, he said.

"So for me, being here, it's OU-Texas," Stoops said. "It's two good teams that have won national championships. They have a great and strong tradition. And they have traditionally been nationally ranked."

If regional bias plays a factor, then it would make sense if Big 12 coaches would have some similar favorites. Seven of the conference's coaches chose to answer, and they came up with five choices.

"The Yale-Harvard game means every bit as much to the players, coaches, faculty, administration and fans as any rivalry in college football," Kansas State coach Bill Snyder said.

Texas A&M coach Dennis Franchione gave the nod to the A&M-UT series held at the end of the regular season.

"It's two of the largest universities in the entire country, and a lot of graduates of both schools work together and that makes the competition even better," he said.

Notre Dame-USC is the only rivalry that trumps all others in terms of sheer numbers. Those two schools combined have the most national championships, most Heisman Trophy winners and most NFL first-round draft picks.

"USC-Notre Dame is a good rivalry, but you can lose the game and still win your conference," Washington State's Bill Doba said.

Quality talent isn't the only thing that makes a good rivalry, according to the coaches. You've got to have some bad blood, too.

West Virginia's Rich Rodriguez said the biggest rivalry he's involved with is Pittsburgh-West Virginia. But if you took his team out of the mix, it's Alabama-Auburn.

"There's a real dislike for each other between the fans and the programs, and a competitive balance over the years between the two teams," Rodriguez said.

Auburn coach Tommy Tuberville said: "There are no professional sports in the state, so the Auburn-Alabama game is the Super Bowl in the state. The fans are very passionate and truly make the rivalry what it is."

Naming rights

No rivalry is complete without a good nickname, such as the Red River Rivalry or Alabama-Auburn's Iron Bowl. In the Big 12 alone, there's the Bedlam Series (OU-Oklahoma State) and the rivalry previously known as the Border War (Missouri-Kansas). It's now called the Border Showdown.

Political correctness doesn't stop Oregon and Oregon State. They play in the Civil War, and as Kentucky coach Rich Brooks (formerly of Oregon) pointed out, it's a rivalry with at least 100 years under its belt.

"Those are the type of lengths that build resentment, hatred and passion," Brooks said.

E-mail brdavis@dallasnews.com

RIVALRIES IN REVIEW
Staff Writer Brian Davis takes a closer look at the Division I-A coaches' top-five rivalries
Team National champs Heismans 1st-round picks *All-Americans **Hall of Famers
Ohio State 5 6 56 55 24
Michigan 2 3 39 61 31
Series began: 1897; Series record: Michigan leads, 57-38-6; Average score: Michigan 17, Ohio State 12
Army 2 3 3 37 27
Navy 0 2 0 23 22
Series began: 1890; Series record: Tied, 49-49-7; Average score: Navy 15, Army 13
Texas 3 2 37 43 14
Oklahoma 7 4 34 66 21
Series began: 1900; Series record: Texas leads, 55-39-5; Average score: Texas 16, Oklahoma 16
Alabama 7 0 34 38 18
Auburn 1 2 24 25 10
Series began: 1892; Series record: Alabama leads, 38-30-1; Average score: Alabama 19, Auburn 16
Notre Dame 8 7 59 94 45
USC 7 6 65 71 28
Series began: 1926; Series record: Notre Dame leads, 42-29-5; Average score: Notre Dame 20, USC 17
*Consensus All-Americans, **College Football Hall of Fame

Division I-A coaches voted for the nation's top rivalry (62 of 119 responded)

Ohio State- Michigan: 11

Army-Navy: 10

Oklahoma-Texas: 6

Alabama-Auburn: 5

Notre Dame-USC: 3

Florida State-Miami: 2

Washington-Washington State: 2

Georgia-Georgia Tech: 1

Idaho-Boise State: 1

Oklahoma-Nebraska: 1

Texas-Texas A&M: 1

Yale-Harvard: 1

18 chose not to vote

Oklahoma-Texas: UT's Mack Brown, OU's Bob Stoops, Kansas' Mark Mangino

Ohio State- Michigan: Iowa State's Dan McCarney

Yale-Harvard: Kansas State's Bill Snyder

Texas-Texas A&M: Texas A&M's Dennis Franchione

Notre Dame-USC: Texas Tech's Mike Leach

Chose not to answer: Baylor's Guy Morriss, Colorado's Gary Barnett, Missouri's Gary Pinkel, Nebraska's Bill Callahan

Did not respond: Oklahoma State's Mike Gundy