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OU-Houston football moved to Sunday, Sept. 1

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Oklahoma football’s 2019 season opener against the University of Houston on Owen Field has been moved to Sunday night, September 1, and will be televised by ABC, with a 6:30 p.m. kickoff.

OU athletic director Joe Castiglione said the Sooners would not consider playing a Sunday home game other than on Labor Day weekend. He said OU officials contacted a variety of people – including church leaders, fan groups and students – before agreeing to host a Sunday game.

The Sooners never have hosted a Sunday game and haven’t hosted a non-Saturday game other than on or around Thanksgiving since 1916.

Moving OU-Houston to Sunday guarantees an evening kickoff for the Sooners. An OU source said OU-Houston likely was headed for an 11 a.m. kickoff if it had remained on Saturday, August 31.

Early kickoffs have been wildly unpopular with fans in recent years, and Sooner coach Lincoln Riley was angered last season when OU’s first two home games, Florida Atlantic and UCLA, were given the early-window time slot. Riley says the early kickoffs impede OU’s recruiting efforts, trying to get prospects to Norman by kickoff after playing Friday night games.

"This is an exciting opportunity for us," said Castiglione. "It gives us great visibility at the very outset of the 2019 season. The fact that the game is occurring on Labor Day weekend made it possible for us to make this change. 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."

Moving to Sunday also allows OU to contribute to the Big 12’s television contract, which requires at least four non-Saturday games per year. The Sooners refuse to play Thursday night or Friday night home games, citing the location of Owen Field in the middle of campus and the logistical nightmare of playing a game on a school day.

Moving the game to Sunday gives OU a short week of preparation for its Sept. 7 home game against Division I-AA South Dakota. But it also guarantees the Sooners night games for its first two home games – OU controls the kickoff time for the South Dakota game.

"We're looking forward to this new and unique opportunity," said Riley. "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."

The NFL does not begin its regular season until after Labor Day. So the Sunday night and Monday night games over Labor Day weekend are among the most-viewed games of the college football season.

In recent years, the networks have moved a few games to Labor Day Sunday:

2018: Miami-LSU

2017: West Virginia-Virginia Tech and Texas A&M-UCLA

2016: Notre Dame-Texas

2015: Purdue-Marshall

2014: SMU-Baylor and Utah State-Tennessee

2013: Colorado State-Colorado

2012: SMU-Baylor and Kentucky-Louisville

2011: SMU-Texas A&M and Marshall-West Virginia

2010: SMU-Texas Tech and Tulsa-East Carolina

2009: Ole Miss-Memphis and Colorado State-Colorado

2008: Kentucky-Louisville and Colorado State-Colorado

Related Photos
Oklahoma's Matt Romar (92) and Neville Gallimore (90) chase after Houston's Greg Ward Jr. (1) during the AdvoCare Texas Kickoff college football game between the University of Oklahoma Sooners (OU) and the Houston Cougars at NRG Stadium in Houston, Saturday, Sept. 3, 2016. Houston won 33-23. Photo by Bryan Terry, The Oklahoman

Oklahoma's Matt Romar (92) and Neville Gallimore (90) chase after Houston's Greg Ward Jr. (1) during the AdvoCare Texas Kickoff college football game between the University of Oklahoma Sooners (OU) and the Houston Cougars at NRG Stadium in Houston, Saturday, Sept. 3, 2016. Houston won 33-23....

<figure><img src="//cdn2.newsok.biz/cache/r960-ce237d2652ab01c8c0e0b13e02df9d33.jpg" alt="Photo - Oklahoma's Matt Romar (92) and Neville Gallimore (90) chase after Houston's Greg Ward Jr. (1) during the AdvoCare Texas Kickoff college football game between the University of Oklahoma Sooners (OU) and the Houston Cougars at NRG Stadium in Houston, Saturday, Sept. 3, 2016. Houston won 33-23. Photo by Bryan Terry, The Oklahoman" title="Oklahoma's Matt Romar (92) and Neville Gallimore (90) chase after Houston's Greg Ward Jr. (1) during the AdvoCare Texas Kickoff college football game between the University of Oklahoma Sooners (OU) and the Houston Cougars at NRG Stadium in Houston, Saturday, Sept. 3, 2016. Houston won 33-23. Photo by Bryan Terry, The Oklahoman"><figcaption>Oklahoma's Matt Romar (92) and Neville Gallimore (90) chase after Houston's Greg Ward Jr. (1) during the AdvoCare Texas Kickoff college football game between the University of Oklahoma Sooners (OU) and the Houston Cougars at NRG Stadium in Houston, Saturday, Sept. 3, 2016. Houston won 33-23. Photo by Bryan Terry, The Oklahoman</figcaption></figure>
Berry Tramel

Berry Tramel, a lifelong Oklahoman, sports fan and newspaper reader, joined The Oklahoman in 1991 and has served as beat writer, assistant sports editor, sports editor and columnist. Tramel grew up reading four daily newspapers — The Oklahoman,... Read more ›

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