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While Oklahoma State and Oklahoma are preparing to battle for Bedlam supremacy, the two football programs also will be teaming up to raise awareness to what has been described as a state and national drug crisis.

Players on both teams will be wearing helmet decals that read “STOP OPIOIDS” during Saturday’s game, bringing attention to the opioid abuse epidemic affecting Oklahoma and the nation.

Oklahoma Attorney General Mike Hunter said earlier this year that 2,684 Oklahoma deaths since 2014 have been attributed to opioid use.

OU and OSU are believed to be the first two schools in the FBS — college football’s largest universities — to work together to call attention to the crisis.

Seeing the disturbing statistics and the devastating impact that rampant opioid use has on Oklahomans and their families, representatives of the state’s two largest educational institutions wanted to bring awareness to the public, said Kyle Wray, vice president of enrollment and marketing at OSU.

Earlier this month, the universities’ representatives met in Oklahoma City along with state mental health officials to formulate a campaign surrounding Bedlam to “bring more awareness” to the issue, he said.

“This is a national and state crisis,” Wray said. “It’s been all over the news. A lot of families are affected by it who are close to OSU and OU.”

Wray said the annual in-state matchup, which carries significant national attention, presented the perfect opportunity to showcase the joint effort.

“There are a lot of eyes in this state on the game,” Wray said. “We felt this was the right time that the two primary schools could do this.

“We are rivals on the field, but outside of competition we want to do what’s best for the state of Oklahoma.”

Kendrick Marshall

918-581-8378

kendrick.marshall@tulsaworld.com

Twitter: @KD_Marshall