Tramel's ScissorTales: OSU went from basketball school to football school. Is that common?

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Years ago, when I had my own radio show, I made the comment that OSU was a basketball school. Better basketball tradition than football tradition. A fanbase that cared more about basketball success than football success.

I don’t know if I was right. Not then. Now, of course, it’s not true. OSU is a football school. But 20 years ago? When Eddie Sutton was riding high and the Cowboys had been to one bowl game in the previous 13 seasons?

Anyway, an astute caller made a great point. He said every school wants to be a football school, but some use basketball as a fallback position.

I didn’t agree with him. Not totally. Not then. Not now. But it did make me think much more about the entire concept of football school/basketball school.

Which brings us to Texas Tech. The Red Raiders were beaten by Duke in a rousing Sweet 16 game last week. Tech also reached the 2019 NCAA Championship Game, where it lost to Virginia.

Tech basketball has become a thing. A roaring, bustling thing. United Supermarkets Arena routinely is packed and going crazy. Hilton Coliseum South. Fans flock, and so do basketball players. First-year head coach Mark Adams remade his squad via transfers last off-season, and Tech again was a national contender. Same as last season and several years running.

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Oklahoma State fans high five players as the enter the stadium before a Bedlam college football game between the Oklahoma State University (OSU) Cowboys and the University of Oklahoma (OU) Sooners at Boone Pickens Stadium in Stillwater, Okla., Saturday, Nov. 27, 2021.
Oklahoma State fans high five players as the enter the stadium before a Bedlam college football game between the Oklahoma State University (OSU) Cowboys and the University of Oklahoma (OU) Sooners at Boone Pickens Stadium in Stillwater, Okla., Saturday, Nov. 27, 2021.

“The support and just the way the fans and everybody was behind us and everybody that's involved with Texas Tech, I mean, it's just amazing,” Tech star Bryson Williams, a transfer from Texas-El Paso, said during the NCAA Tournament. “I mean, it was a blessing to be here. It was a blessing for all of us to play here.”

And somewhere along the line, it struck me. Tech has become a basketball school.

More known for hoops. Maybe more passionate about hoops.

The latter designation is subjective and anecdotal. I’m guessing when I say that. I’m playing armchair sports sociologist. I know several Tech fans. I don’t know thousands. I’m guessing from afar.

And this is not Kansas. Tech basketball does not outdraw Tech football. The Red Raiders still have 50,000 or so at games in Jones AT&T Stadium.

But football fervor has waned as Tech in the post-Mike Leach era has settled near the bottom of the Big 12. And basketball interest has soared.

“Our Red Raiders Nation has been unbelievable, and we’re so appreciative of it,” Adams said. “Our guys talk about it all the time. Recruits notice it, and it’s just a big part of winning.”

Here’s an acid test. If you surveyed 1,000 Tech fans, would they prefer to win the College Football Playoff or the NCAA basketball tournament?

Football might win. Probably would win. It’s still football-mad Texas. It’s still football-mad America. My caller from 20 years ago might still be right.

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But while fanbases double down on football frustration – demanding coaching changes, dwell on unrealistic expectations, vote with their pocketbook – others shift their emotional support elsewhere. Like the hardwood. (Admittedly, fans can do both).

It’s not easy being rabid for both sports. Most historic and traditionally-strong football programs have a softer passion for basketball.

It’s true at Big 12 bellcows OU and Texas. It’s true throughout most of the Southeastern Conference. My sense is that it’s true at Ohio State and Michigan and Notre Dame.

Truthfully, the number of true basketball schools is small. Let’s see. Kansas, Kentucky, Duke, North Carolina, Indiana.

Where else? Syracuse. Louisville. Illinois. Maybe Purdue. Maryland? Virginia? Wake Forest? Perhaps UCLA and Arizona out West, though passion is relative in the Pac-12.

All kinds of schools get fired up over great basketball teams. Auburn was cooking with gas this winter. Blake Griffin and Marcus Smart and Trae Young and Cade Cunningham can revive the embers in Stillwater and Norman.

But most schools remain more devoted to football. Most schools invest more heavily on the gridiron, and not just because it’s a broader-money sport that requires much more funding.

The true basketball schools are all in.

Kansas fans would not trade places with OU fans. Would not take the Sooners’ football and basketball tradition, while giving up KU’s history, even though OU hoops easily trump Jayhawk football.

Same with Kentucky and Alabama. North Carolina and Clemson. Indiana and Ohio State.

Those traditions mean too much to those fanbases.

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But schools below the bluebloods are a little more transient. OSU has turned itself into a football school. More football success than basketball success. More football passion than basketball passion, and not just in percentage of seats sold.

Twenty years ago, who could ever have thought that Gallagher-Iba Arena would fall behind the football stadium, then a relic called Lewis Field, in atmosphere and frenzy? But that has happened with Boone Pickens Stadium and Mike Gundy’s success.

Same at Kansas State, a proud basketball tradition if ever there was one. The Wildcats now are a football school, and it only takes one Saturday afternoon in Manhattan to figure that out.

Football’s preeminence was displayed by new Atlantic Coast Conference commissioner Jim Phillips’ football-first declaration last summer.

“As I’ve stated since my first day as ACC commissioner, football must be the No. 1 priority for all of us,” Phillips said. “Our schools, the league, the ACC Network, partners and coaches. We’ve been collaborating for months to ensure that ACC football has the mindset of 24-7-365.”

That’s the commissioner of Duke and North Carolina and Virginia and Syracuse and Wake Forest and Louisville.

That was the mindset that Mike Holder had as OSU athletic director, which helped elevate the Cowboys.

For all I know, that’s the mindset at eventual Big 12 newcomer Cincinnati, a basketball school in every sense of the word that in recent years has become a football hotbed.

The caller wasn’t completely right. A few schools don’t want to be football schools. But the caller was mostly right. Most schools do want to be football schools. Most schools are football schools.

But when football wanes, and fans suffer disappointing season after disappointing season, basketball is a wondrous tonic. Just look at Lubbock.

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Sugar Bowl moving to New Year’s Eve in 2022

The Sugar Bowl is moving to New Year’s Eve this season. Turns out, the bully got bullied.

New Year’s Day 2023 lands on a Sunday, which always meddles with the college football schedule. The New Year’s Day bowls traditionally have moved to Jan. 2 when New Year’s finds Sunday. Can’t very well go up against the National Football League.

The NFL expanded to a 17-game schedule for the 2021 season, and the extra week required was found on the back end. Jan. 8 is the regular-season finale date for pro football.

Jan. 1 is the penultimate date for the NFL regular season, and that means a Monday Night Football game on Jan. 2.

Uh-oh. The night of Jan. 2 suddenly is off the table for college football. The campus game can do many things, but it can’t challenge the NFL.

So college football is playing its national semifinals – the Peach and Fiesta bowls – on New Year’s Eve. The Cotton Bowl will kick off around noon on Jan. 2, with the Rose Bowl at 4 p.m. on Jan. 2. That leaves Monday Night Football for prime time.

But that time slot – immediately following the Rose Bowl – has been the space claimed by the Sugar Bowl in recent years. Instead, the Sugar is moving to an 11 a.m. New Year’s Eve kickoff.

The Sugar is masking the move as a celebration of the 50-year anniversary of the first New Year’s Eve Sugar Bowl, an OU-Penn State showdown, won 14-0 by the Sooners, played at night at old Tulane Stadium.

But make no mistake. The Sugar is not happy about the move.

When the College Football Playoff began, it adopted a New Year’s Day/New Year’s Eve format – three games on Jan. 1, three games on Dec. 31. OK. Not a bad idea.

But in the years when the Peach and Fiesta, and the Orange and Cotton, hosted the national semifinals, they were placed on New Year’s Eve.

The Southeastern Conference threw its weight around to protect the Sugar Bowl. The SEC and Big 12 basically own the Sugar Bowl, and the New Year’s night time slot is much more esteemed than anything on New Year’s Eve. So we had the 2015 and 2016 national semifinals played on Dec. 31, with inferior games getting the Jan. 1 dates.

The ratings were disappointing, and ESPN balked. The compromise became that the Peach/Fiesta and Orange/Cotton years for hosting the semifinals were moved to the previous Saturday: Dec. 29 in 2018, Dec. 28 in 2019.

That wasn’t a big winner, either, so in 2021, the playoff went back to New Year’s Eve semifinals.

What a mess. All because the SEC, and to a lesser extent the Big 12, wanted to prop up the Sugar Bowl. The Big 12 champion plays in the Sugar Bowl, unless it qualifies for the four-team playoff. In that case, the next-highest rated Big 12 team plays in New Orleans.

The Rose Bowl anchoring the 4 p.m. New Year’s Day slot, I get. That’s real tradition. But the playoff could have sandwiched the playoff games around the Rose Bowl. One at noon, one at 8 p.m.

In the years the Sugar wasn’t hosting a semifinal, the Sugar could have been played on New Year’s Eve. It’s not like the Sugar in the past hasn’t moved to New Year’s Eve on its own – that OU-Penn State game of 50 years ago was the first of four straight Sugar Bowls willingly played on New Year’s Eve.

Instead, the financial success of the playoff was compromised.

Now the Sugar is being pushed around by the NFL. Serves the bowl game right.

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The List: OU tops among No. 1 seeds without a title

The NCAA Tournament began seeding teams in 1979, and not coincidentally, that’s when the tournament’s popularity really took off. A few years earlier, UCLA’s dominance of the sport ended. A few years later, the bracket expanded to 64 teams.

The confluence of those events captured the imagination of even non-basketball fans, and the NCAA Tournament became an American obsession.

In the 44 tournaments staged starting with 1979, North Carolina has had the most No. 1 seeds, with 17. Kansas is next with 15, then comes Duke at 14, Kentucky 12 and Virginia and Arizona at seven each. Those first three schools are in the Final Four this week, and all of those schools have won an NCAA championship during that time.

No. 1 seeds are giving advantages on bracketing, in terms of matchups and geography. The advantages over, say, a No. 2 are incremental, but they are distinct.

Which schools have not taken advantage of No. 1 seeds? Here are the eight programs that have received at least three No. 1 seeds but have not won the tournament since seeding was implemented in 1979.

1. Oklahoma 5: 1985, 1988, 1989, 1990, 2002. The Sooners made the Final Four in 1988, the regional final in 2003 and 1985, the Sweet 16 in 1989 and were upset by North Carolina in the 1990 round of 32.

1. Gonzaga 5: 2013, 2017, 2019, 2021, 2022. Amazing. Five No. 1 seeds in a 10-year span for the Zags. Gonzaga reached the NCAA Championship Game in 2017 and 2021. The Bulldogs were eliminated in the regional in 2019 (by Texas Tech) and in the second round in 2013 and 2021.

3. DePaul 4: 1980, 1981, 1982, 1984. Four times in five years, Ray Meyer’s team was given a No. 1 seed. The Blue Demons were eliminated without a victory in three straight years, 1980-82, though they received a first-round bye each of those seasons. In 1984, DePaul made the Sweet 16.

3. Illinois 4: 1989, 2001, 2005, 2021. The Illini, strangely enough, were No. 1 seeds under different coaches each time. Lou Henson in ‘89, Bill Self in ‘01, Bruce Weber in ‘05 and Brad Underwood in ‘21. Illinois reached the NCAA Championship Game in 2005, the Final Four in 1989, the regional final in 2001 and just the second round in 2021.

3. Ohio State 4: 1991, 1992, 2007, 2011. The Buckeyes made the ‘07 national title game but were eliminated in the 1992 regional final (by Michigan’s Fab Five) and in the Sweet 16 in both 1991 and 2011.

6. Purdue 3: 1988, 1994, 1996. The Boilermakers haven’t made a Final Four since 1980. They were knocked out in the 1988 Sweet 16 (by Lon Kruger’s Kansas State Wildcats), the ‘94 regional final and the ‘96 second round.

6. St. John’s 3: 1983, 1985, 1986. Over a span of nine games, Lou Carnesecca squad went 6-3 as a No. 1 seed, losing in the ‘83 Sweet 16, the ‘85 Final Four and the ‘86 second round.

6. Stanford 3: 2000, 2001, 2004. Anyone remember when the Cardinal was riding this high? Me, neither. Stanford lost in the ‘01 regional final and in the second round of both ‘04 and ‘00.

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Mailbag: Stop tanking

The NBA’s lottery system rewards teams that tank – deliberately putting a team on the path to losing, to better the chances for a high draft pick. The Thunder is in its second season of tanking, and some readers seek solutions. Today is the first of two straight days of anti-tanking ideas.

Jim: “Want to run something by you and get your opinion. Like most people, sick of the NBA tanking for draft spots. Can’t imagine paying $50-$200 for a ticket to watch G Leaguers play NBA games, so here’s my idea. Start with last night’s (Thunder) game with Portland, as well as the recent Orlando game. The league obviously can’t make players play, and the coaches and GMs get to make those decisions. So how do you stop it? Very simple. In games where both teams are out of playoff contention, and both are obviously hoping to lose for better draft position, the team that wins gets credit for a loss, and the one that loses gets credit for a win (at least as far as the ‘draft rankings’ are concerned). Call it what you want – Commissioner Designated Game – (but) it will stop tanking in its tracks and bring back integrity to these games that previously were thought to be meaningless. They suddenly become incredibly important games. Probably add a couple thousand per game to the attendance. My guess is that 15 of the 19 of the players that didn’t play last night would have played under this scenario. Obviously, some rules (and players union approval would be needed) would have to be put into place, and what games would qualify. Right off the top, if both teams have been eliminated from playoff contention, that could be a game that qualifies.”

Tramel: Interesting. I like outside-the-box thinking. But I’m not crazy about this plan. For several reasons.

One, it’s quite complicated for the average fan. And a good chunk of fans doesn’t understand the whole tanking motivation anyway. That might not be a bad combination, but it could exacerbate the problem.

Two, the criteria aren’t easy to ascertain. Only a small number of Thunder games have been against a fellow tanking team. The Thunder-Magic games are not the problem. Those teams stink, and it wouldn’t be compelling basketball even without a lottery. It’s the Thunder-Hornet games, the Thunder-Pelicans games, that suffer with tanking. So how do you designate those games?

Three, such a system could entice even more tanking, by enticing EARLIER tanking. In other words, it’s feasible a team could sit the likes of Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Luguentz Dort even earlier in the season, then bring them back full tilt later if winning becomes more important. And that’s not necessarily any better.

I like the idea of thinking outside the box, I’m just not sure this is a plan that would solve the problem.

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Could UTEP play before OU’s Sept. 2 opener?

April 1 arrives Friday, and college football’s conference alignment for 2022 finally is set. No fooling.

Three Conference USA schools, headed for the Sun Belt Conference, have finalized departure agreements and will join the Sun Belt this summer.

The addition of the Marshall, Southern Mississippi and Old Dominion will give the Sun Belt 14 football teams this season. James Madison already has joined the Sun Belt, after moving up from Division I-AA.

The loss of those three schools will reduce Conference USA from 14 teams to 11 for the 2022 season, though C-USA is undergoing a radical change, with six more members headed for the American Conference.

Conference USA will redo its league schedule. Teams still are expected to play eight conference games each, but the schedule will be redrawn.

That shouldn’t affect the dates of non-conference games like Texas-El Paso at OU on Sept. 2 and Texas-San Antonio at Texas on Sept. 16. Those games are big paydays for the Miners and Roadrunners, so they won’t be jeopardized.

But it’s conceivable that either UTEP or UTSA or both could play a Zero Week game. ESPN reported that C-USA has petitioned the NCAA to allow the league to play games on Aug. 27, which would give the league more flexibility for off weeks later in the season.

Week 0 is a relatively new concept in which a few games are played on the first Saturday in August. Already scheduled this year are Nebraska-Northwestern in Dublin, Vanderbilt at Hawaii, Connecticut at Utah State, Wyoming at Illinois, Nevada at New Mexico State, Duquesne at Florida State, Florida A&M at North Carolina and Austin Peay at Western Kentucky.

A Week 0 game for UTEP would give the Miners a game under their belt when OU plays its season opener. I hope that doesn’t concern Brent Venables.

The Sun Belt also had released its 2022 schedule, which means Marshall, Southern Miss and Old Dominion had two different schedules set up, depending on which conference they ultimately called home for this season.

In other words, it all was a big mess.

In the end, it remains a mess for the reeling Conference USA and is a brain teaser for those who try to keep up with college football conferences.

Here’s a refresher. In 2022, the 14-team Sun Belt will consist of Appalachian State, Coastal Carolina, Georgia Southern, Georgia State, James Madison, Marshall and Old Dominion in the East Division, and Arkansas State, Louisiana-Lafayette, Louisiana-Monroe, South Alabama, Southern Miss, Texas State and Troy in the West Division.

The 11-team Conference USA will consist of Florida Atlantic, Charlotte, Rice, Texas-San Antonio, Alabama-Birmingham, North Texas, Western Kentucky, Middle Tennessee, UTEP, Florida International and Louisiana Tech. Those first six schools plan to join the American Conference, probably in summer 2023.

Conference USA already has announced it is adding Jacksonville State, Liberty, New Mexico State and Sam Houston.

Berry Tramel: Berry can be reached at 405-760-8080 or at He can be heard Monday through Friday from 4:40-5:20 p.m. on The Sports Animal radio network, including FM-98.1. Support his work and that of other Oklahoman journalists by purchasing a digital subscription today.

This article originally appeared on Oklahoman: OSU became football school from basketball school; Texas Tech opposite