The Red River rivalry between Oklahoma and Texas is a bitter one, so a pregame skirmish at midfield – really, more like a heated conversation – wasn’t unexpected. It would have been a surprise if there weren’t any tempers flaring before the game.
So no big deal, right? It seemed the kind of situation that could have been let go. But referee Mike Defee’s decision to issue every player on both teams an unsportsmanlike conduct foul seemed a bit much.
Defee put every player on the knife’s edge half an hour before the game even started, since a second unsportsmanlike foul results in ejection.
At the coin toss, Defee told the team captains that “unfortunately” the unsportsmanlike fouls had been issued, and said:
Texas and Oklahoma scuffle at midfield before kickoff at the 2019 AT&T Red River Showdown at Cotton Bowl. (Photo: Ronald Martinez, Getty Images)
“This is the greatest rivalry in college football. I expect the game to be hard-fought and well-played. We’re going to play this game with sportsmanship – is that clear?”
During that pregame melee, several Oklahoma players were seen flashing the “horns down” symbol, which has generated controversy in the Big 12 over whether Texas’ opponents would be flagged for showing it.
Here’s what happened at midfield just over a half-hour before kickoff that earned a flag. Will someone get tossed for the Horns Down? pic.twitter.com/IulOonjOBx
— Brian Davis (@BDavisAAS) October 12, 2019
Speaking to a pool reporter after the game, Defee explained why he decided on the discipline for both teams.
“It was just clear cut because I had warned both coaches prior to the start of the game about how we were going to manage pregame and that what we wanted to start the game without incident,” Defee said. “Both sides were dully warned.
“What happened out there is an embarrassment to everyone. It shouldn’t happen. At the end of the day, that’s why we did what we did and issued a warning.”
There were no further incidents during game which was won by Oklahoma 34-27.
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Is a national and foreign correspondent based in D.C. She files investigative reports and covers breaking news on a range of topics, including corruption, police shootings, etc. Before joining the TimWorld in 2018, she worked at the Miami Herald. She was a John S. Knight fellow at Stanford University.