Series Spotlight: A brief history of the OU-Oklahoma State Bedlam rivalry

By Kyle Dubbels -

On Saturday November 4, the ninth-ranked Oklahoma Sooners (7-1) will visit the 22nd-ranked Oklahoma State Cowboys (6-2) in what will be the final version of Bedlam with both members being a part of the Big 12.

Beginning next season, Oklahoma will be joining the SEC, putting this great rivalry on hold for the foreseeable future and giving this seasons game even more suspense and intrigue than normal. Hold onto your cowboy hats football fans, this matchup should live up to it’s name!


Series Began: 1904 in Guthrie, Oklahoma, the territorial capital at the time. Oklahoma wouldn’t become a state until three years later in 1907. 

Series History: Oklahoma holds a commanding lead in the series 91-19-7.

Recent History: Oklahoma has won nine of the last 11 meetings.

Winningest Coaches in the Series: Bennie Owen won 16 games as head coach of the Sooners from 1906 through 1926.

Largest Victory: Oklahoma’s largest victory was in the first ever meeting between the two schools, a 75-0 margin that remains the widest margin of victory to this day.


Bedlam began back in 1904 on a windy and freezing cold day. So windy, in fact, that when the Oklahoma A&M Aggies (now the Oklahoma State Cowboys) went to punt, the ball floated up in the air and was pushed backwards into the end zone. Legend has it that the ball rolled down a hill and into a freezing cold creek where the Oklahoma and Oklahoma A&M players wrestled for it because it was still a live ball. Unfortunately for Oklahoma A&M, an Oklahoma player won possession and was awarded a touchdown in the 75-0 rout. 

Oklahoma A&M wouldn’t find its first points in the series until 1914 and wouldn’t record its first victory in the series until 1917.


The short answer is, nobody really knows.

It must have gotten lost in the bedlam of the 1917 Oklahoma A&M victory (see what I did there), the first time the term was used. An excerpt from The Daily Oklahoman titled “Big victory wildly celebrated by A&M students: Aggie victory celebration continues till Friday morn” contains the first mention of the term “bedlam” to describe the OU-OSU rivalry and the madness that ensued after the first Cowboy victory:

“So surprised were students, faculty members and citizens when they first heard the 9 to 0 victory story from Oklahoma City that confirmation was necessary. Then bedlam broke loose. Nine long shrieks of the college power plant whistle told the score. Guns were fired. The antique, dust-covered bell in old Central building belfry chimed for the first time in years. Literally the town was painted white. On buildings, sidewalks, windows and other places, the score was painted. A huge figure nine and a tiny naught.”

The Daily Oklahoman wouldn’t mention the word again until 1943. 

Similar newspapers like the Tulsa World didn’t use Bedlam to describe the series until 1945, and even that was a reference to basketball, not football.

Another rumor claims that the term bedlam originates from a wrestling duel between the two schools, when a reporter ran out of the gym during the meet and declared “it’s bedlam in there.” 


While this rivalry has been dominated by Oklahoma, the really special moments in the history of the rivalry have come when Oklahoma State has pulled off the victory (at least in my opinion). 

One such instance was in 2014, when Bob Stoops decided to punt the ball from midfield with one minute to play to a dangerous return man you might have heard about, Tyreek Hill. Hill would field the punt on his own eight yard line and return it all the way for the game tying score. Oklahoma State would go on to win the game in overtime 38-35 upsetting the No. 18 Oklahoma Sooners. 

The win would get the team bowl eligible, where they would go on to beat Washington in the Sun Bowl for a 7-6 season.

This is just one of many memorable moments in the history of the Bedlam rivalry.


Date: Saturday, Nov. 4, 2023
Site: Boone Pickens Stadium – Stillwater, OK
Time: 3:30pm ET

With the bad blood ending in a bitter breakup there is sure to be Bedlam in Stillwater on Saturday.

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Comments (7)

Cooler heads need to prevail and Bedlam needs to become another Thanksgiving weekend intrastate rivalry like FSU-Florida, UGA – Ga Tech, Clemson – USC, UK and Louisville. Texas and Texas A&M can pick a rival from the Big 12 and join the party.

Tom-I like the idea of OK playing OSU every thanksgiving, but I am pretty sure that ESPN will make it be Texas versus Texas A&M every Thanksgiving night like before

The rivalry could continue if both the Big 12 and SEC drop to 7 conference games with the aim of both conferences eventually having each of their teams play 3 OOC games against Power teams every year, including very juicy match-ups that would look good in the eyes of the CFP committee as well as keeping select rivalries that would otherwise be lost to realignment on the schedule such as Bedlam and reviving the KU-Mizzou series every year. Face it most conference games aren’t attractive ratings-wise, it’s the heavyweight OOC clashes that pay the bills. The Big Ten should likewise drop to 8 conference games (having 5 protected opponents for each team and 3 rotating opponents on an 8-year schedule) to keep Cal-UCLA alive as an OOC game (being played Thanksgiving weekend in even years) as Cal will go to 8 conference games as a member of the ACC.

There no way on God’s earth that College Football would have 7 Conference Game. Conference Games are 114% important 8 & 9 games are excellent enough however I do want to see Bedlam return as a Out Of Conference game between My Oklahoma State Cowboys & Oklahoma sooners third week of College Football season would make it perfect. My three favorite out of Conference games in 2024 all involving Big Ten Fresno State At Michigan 8/31,Colorado At Nebraska 9/7 & Notre Dame At Purdue 9/14 all make fantastic candidate for first three weeks of Big Ten on CBS.

The OK State v Washington bowl game in 2014 was in the Cactus Bowl in Phoenix. OK State has not played in Sun Bowl since the epic 1987 blizzard game v West VA.

The primary rivalry game for OSU fans. The third highest rivalry for OU :) 1. Texas, 2. Nebraska, 3. OSU. Stating this as an alum from BOTH Oklahoma institutions. I do hope Bedlam comes back soon!

Two main reasons I want SEC go to a 9 game conference schedule first as a Georgia Bulldogs Fan second like to see Bedlam to play it’s annual OOC game between My Oklahoma State Cowboys & Oklahoma Sooners & keep in mine Iowa Hawkeyes & Iowa State Cyclones are still doing their annual OOC meeting.