UT Gunman Puts Red River Rivalry Into Perspective

J. Robert ByromCorrespondent ISeptember 29, 2010

Perry-Castañeda Library at the University of Texas
Perry-Castañeda Library at the University of Texas

The week of the Red River Rivalry is usually the most intense between Sooner and Longhorn fans.

Office buildings, schoolyards, churches, and chat rooms all across Oklahoma and Texas are filled with banter, some friendly, most not, about the upcoming game, who is going to win and which team is superior both currently and historically. However, Tuesday's event on the campus of the University of Texas at Austin means the 2010 meeting in Dallas for the Red River Rivalry should be much more about brotherhood than superiority on the football field.

As far as college football goes, you cannot mention Texas Longhorns' football without Oklahoma being one of your next thoughts and, of course, vice versa. A team's prominence is defined by its main rival. If your main football rival is Vanderbilt or Utah State, your trophy case is probably barren.

The better your rival is, the better you are, and in that case, OU and Texas are both doing fine. Not to mention, we are neighbors and both known for our hospitality, though we often forget that fact in the early part of every October. Love for college football is one of the strongest common bonds between the two states.

Both universities' football teams have greatly benefited from people bred in the other state. Oklahoma may not have even one of their seven national championships, if it were not for all the great talent from Texas that crosses the Red River to play for the Sooners. The Longhorns Stadium bears the name of an Oklahoman whom full-filled a boyhood dream of playing for the Sooners before going to Texas and coaching the Longhorns to three of their four national championships.

As much of Oklahoma and Texas fans like to fight it, there is a bond between the two schools and their fans as there always is with bitter rivals. This week it should be that brotherhood that is celebrated instead of the usual, I want to say blood-lust but know I should not in light of the events at Austin the week, trash-talking.

What caused Colton Tooley to commit suicide and whether or not he intended to kill others we will never know for sure, OU had a similar incident almost exactly five years ago. On October 1st, during the second quarter of the Kansas State game, Joel Hinrichs III, a Oklahoma engineering student, blew himself up not far from the stadium packed with 80,000 fans.

I was on the sidelines that day working for the OU Police Department. The explosion was loud enough to cause confusion but not concern inside the stadium. Many of the security and police detail, not assigned to a stationary position, decided to check out the noise and his body was found shortly thereafter on a bench on the South Oval.


I helped the officers clear the two buildings between the south Oval and the stadium and helped keep the fans away from the south oval as they exited the game and guarded the crime scene well into the next day.

Of course, We will never know if Hinrichs wanted to take others with him, just like we will never know for sure Tooley's intentions. Our heads will tell us that they probably did want to take others with them while our hearts will always hope that they did not.

Neither state is a stranger to tragedy and the only comfort we can take away from these incident is that if they did mean to hurt others, unlike Timothy Mcveigh and Charles Whitman, they failed.

These events reminds us that no matter how much we get wrapped up in our football team whether it is the Sooners or the Longhorns, it is, after all, only a game, and Tuesday's events mean that, at times, even bitter rivals should stand together.