After years of discussion among officials from Oklahoma State and Tulsa about a long-term nonconference football series, everything fell into place during a half-hour meeting.
“We opened the schedules up and we went one year at a time and hand-wrote all of those (dates) in there,” TU athletic director Derrick Gragg said. “To me, that was the defining moment.
“I saw how serious they were. It was something we had been pretty consistent on with each other. When we worked it out and got up and went to lunch, I said, ‘OK, this is going to happen.’”
Gragg, accompanied by senior associate AD Brian Scislo, convened in Gragg’s office during the winter with Oklahoma State athletic director Mike Holder and deputy athletic director Chad Weiberg. The result was an eight-year home-and-home series unlike any the Hurricane has scheduled in the modern era.
“For Tulsa to finally get a one-for-one over eight years with Oklahoma State was a real coup,” said Mike Aresco, American Athletic Conference commissioner. “Derrick’s put together a good schedule and that Oklahoma State series is terrific because for that eight-year period you know you have that game. It’s a rivalry game and it will help with attendance. It will be a game that TV will want to showcase.”
The Hurricane traditionally has settled for two-for-one — two road games, one home game for TU — series with Oklahoma and Oklahoma State while traveling out of state for big-money “buy” games against other Power Five opponents. The Cowboys are on the schedule for 11 of the next 13 years, including a game at H.A. Chapman Stadium on Sept. 14 as part of the current three-game deal.
TU also will play at Boone Pickens Stadium in 2020 and 2021. OSU leads the series 40-27-5 and has prevailed in the past six meetings.
“Originally, we had done two-for-ones,” Holder said. “We decided that ultimately it was in our best interest, and good for the University of Tulsa and for football in this state, for us to do home-and-home. We think that having a presence in Tulsa every other year is good for our university. Plus, all of the money in this series stays in the state of Oklahoma.
“TU has the smallest enrollment (of all schools competing in FBS football). It’s important for that university to thrive athletically, and especially in the sport of football. Hopefully, a game of this stature will help TU with ticket sales.”
Aresco said TU is in talks with OU for a three-game series and also has resumed discussions with Arkansas about a deal that would include a long-awaited visit from the Razorbacks to Chapman Stadium. A TU spokesman said the Hurricane is working with Big 12 and SEC programs on home-and-home arrangements.
“I’m not overstating how important (these types of contracts were) to our TV deal,” Aresco said. “It really mattered that we had roughly 150 games against the P6, the so-called P5, over the next 10 or 11 years. We have played them in a lot of significant games and have won a lot of them.”
The series with OSU is meaningful because getting Power Five teams from outside the state to come to Tulsa has otherwise been almost impossible, Gragg said.
“Their ADs are very open with us,” he said. “They tell us that they don’t recruit a lot of Tulsa or a lot of Oklahoma and that we’re not a destination place for their fans. We know we have a great city ... but people would rather go to Tulane because it’s New Orleans or to Houston or Dallas. Even Memphis is a recruiting hotbed for some of those programs.
“It’s a little bit more challenging (for Tulsa) and that’s why this OSU deal is so big.”
At Baker Mayfield's football camp, the former OU quarterback ran a play with Sooner legends Billy Simms and Barry Switzer