In a wholly unprecedented and infinitely shrewd move, Oklahoma’s 2019 season opener against Houston has been moved to Sunday.
The Sooners host Dana Holgorsen and the Cougars on Sept. 1 in a nationally televised game on ABC that kicks off at 6:30 p.m.
OU athletic director Joe Castiglione called it “an exciting opportunity for us.”
It’s Labor Day weekend, college football’s 2019 grand opening, with games stretched from Thursday to Monday night. The NFL regular season doesn’t open until Sept. 8, so the Sooners and UH will have the stage all to themselves. As of now, it’s the only game scheduled that night.
“It gives us great visibility at the very outset of the 2019 season,” Castiglione said in a university press release.
Castiglione also called it “equally appealing to me” that Sooner fans can avoid having to endure Oklahoma’s early-September heat.
“By making this move,” he said, “we ensured that this game would be played in the evening, thus avoiding the heat we’ve dealt with in each of the last two seasons.”
According to the OU press release, OU’s last two home openers reached 92 and 98 degrees, respectively. The high temperature for Aug. 31 has reached 99 degrees or higher seven of the last nine years.
“The fact that the game is occurring on Labor Day weekend made it possible for us to make this change,” Castiglione said. “Otherwise, I think it would have been very difficult to consider a Sunday evening option. We understand the concerns that some may have with a Sunday game, but we hope the later kickoff mitigates some of those. We certainly are sensitive to church and other events that are held on Sunday.
“We also recognize that this change impacts travel. We want to encourage the hotels in our area to work closely with our fans to accommodate this change. We are looking into the potential of developing an event on the Saturday preceding the game to serve and entertain fans who may be in the area. We want to make this a celebration of Oklahoma football.”
OU has never played a regular-season game on a Sunday. Three times, OU has played a Sunday bowl game (1972 Sugar Bowl win over Penn State, 1991 Gator Bowl win over Virginia, and the 2003-04 Sugar Bowl loss to LSU).
“We’re looking forward to this new and unique opportunity,” head coach Lincoln Riley said. “In addition to giving us a coveted night game, the exposure we’ll receive as the only game that day will be extremely beneficial to our program. We’re embracing the date change.”
This will be OU’s 125th season of college football, and the school is planning “content, collectibles and activities” to commemorate OU’s rich history, according to the press release.
Columnist John E. Hoover is co-host of “The Franchise Drive” every weeknight from 6-8 on The Franchise in Oklahoma City and Tulsa, and appears throughout the day on other shows on The Franchise. Listen at fm107.7 in OKC, fm107.9/am1270 in Tulsa, on The Franchise app, or click the “Listen” tab on The Franchise home page. Hoover also covers the Big 12 for Sporting News and Lindy’s magazine and is a feature writer for Sooner Spectator magazine. Visit his personal page at johnehoover.com.