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Swan song: Saturday’s Bedlam could be one of the last

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Mike Gundy (left) and Lincoln Riley (right) talk before the Oklahoma vs. Oklahoma State football game on Saturday, Nov. 30, 2019 at Boone Pickens Stadium in Stillwater, OK.

Saturday will be the 31st Bedlam coach Mike Gundy has partaken in.

He has been head coach for the past 16. He quarterbacked Oklahoma State in four. He was an assistant coach for 10. Gundy has been on the sideline for more than a quarter of the Bedlam games in the series’ history.

But Saturday’s game between OSU and Oklahoma will be different. It might be his last. Gundy isn't planning to leave OSU, but with the Sooners accepting an invitation to the Southeastern Conference (SEC) this past summer, and a push to gain membership as early as next season or no later than 2025, the storied rivalry is in its dying moments.

“I would say it is,” Gundy said. “I would say it is probably the last one (in Stillwater).”

Oklahoma coach Lincoln Riley has a different perspective on the rivalry continuing. Riley, who for months has been adamant about the series continuing after the Sooner leave for the SEC, stayed consistent with that thought on Tuesday.

“It is a lot of teams that end up at some point in different conferences and still play a rival,” Riley said. “So, again, we all know a lot’s changing in college football. Nobody can sit up here with a crystal ball and know for sure.”

It is a stark dichotomy of ideologies between the two coaches. Riley, leaving the conference sees no issue with it continuing. Gundy, spurned by the rival, is pessimistic for its future.

The track record of conference rivalries continuing after a team departs isn’t encouraging. After Nebraska left for the Big 10, the Huskers and Sooners didn’t reunite on a football field until earlier this season.

Texas and Texas A&M haven’t played since 2011. Kansas also hasn’t seen Missouri in a decade. With four new schools joining the Big 12 to replace the Sooners and Longhorns, Gundy said he doesn’t see how OSU would fit OU into a schedule.

If the Big 12 splits into divisions, the Cowboys would play nine conference opponents, and with nonconference games scheduled years in advance, both schools would need to pay a buyout to open up a free weekend.

“I don’t think it is a realistic thing that it is going to happen based on the business side of Power Five conference football in the Big 12 or the SEC,” Gundy said.

Gundy, a self-proclaimed traditionalist, said he disliked when Nebraska and Missouri departed the conference in 2010, shortly followed by Colorado and Texas A&M a year later.

“I didn’t like any of it,” Gundy said. “I just liked it (the old) way.”

sports.ed@ocolly.com