Football players from rival schools are not supposed to be friends.
They are not supposed to hang out.
And they are absolutely, positively not supposed to go on spring break together.
But this Saturday when Oklahoma and Oklahoma State clash in Stillwater for the 110th edition of the Bedlam Series, that won’t be the case. Because while sharing the common experience of playing in the same football-rabid state, more than a dozen Cowboys and Sooners on both sides have grown to be very good friends.
Call it Bedlam's unseemly little secret.
"From the outside looking in, it may look weird," said Oklahoma State wide receiver Austin Hays. "But for us, we’re just friends, like anybody else. Once we get on the field, we’re competitive -- we want to beat them, they want to beat us.
"But after the game, we’ll go back to being friends again."
This odd amalgamation began with Hays and backup quarterback Oklahoma Trevor Knight, who have been the best of friends since meeting in their San Antonio kindergarten. Their senior year of high school, the duo led San Antonio Reagan to a deep run in Texas state playoffs.
Hays and Knight have remained tight since, despite residing on opposite sides of the Bedlam divide. And when they would hang together, whether it was Norman or Stillwater or somewhere in the middle, they would bring their buddies with them.
"Anytime we’d go to Norman, we’d stay with them," Hays said. "When they’d come to Stillwater, they’d stay with us."
Gradually, the Bedlam bloc has ballooned.
On the Oklahoma State end, it now includes quarterbacks Mason Rudolph and J.W. Walsh, offensive tackle Zach Crabtree and receiver David Glidden, among several others. From the Sooners camp, it includes Knight’s fraternal twin, tight end Connor, center Ty Darlington, offensive tackle Christian Daimler and quarterbacks Baker Mayfield and Cody Thomas. Mayfield's girlfriend, Baillie Burmaster, is a former Oklahoma State soccer player whom Mayfield met through Hays and Knight, which has only intwined the two sides even more.
"There’s a group of like 30 of them," said Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy. "And unfortunately, I’ve seen some video and pictures of them, goofing around and whatever they do."
That has included going to country concerts together in Stillwater, or playing a round of golf in Norman -- usually split along Bedlam lines. A few of the Sooners went to Oklahoma State last year to watch the Cowboys' Thursday night game against Texas Tech. There’s now even a gigantic group text that Bedlam fans will be relieved to learn has been dormant the past month or so.
"We’d always have a good time together," Hays said. "It's turned into a really good group of friends."
This past spring those friendships escalated.
Probably breaking every conceivable rule associated with any good ole hate-filled college rivalry, a solid chunk, roughly 20 deep, of the Bedlam buddies rented a place together for spring break in Destin, Florida.
"We had a three-story house," Hays said.
However, just because they were spring-breaking didn't mean a little Bedlam didn't surface on the beach in the form of a one-on-one wrestling match between two of the linemen, Crabtree and Daimler. The players actually formed a big circle, and during the bout the Oklahoma players belted out "Boomer Sooner!" while the OSU continent sang "Ride 'em Cowboys!" Crabtree emerged victorious, giving the Pokes there bragging rights for the day.
"Good memories," Darlington said.
So good, in fact, that they’re planning on spending spring break together again next year.
"We’ve actually been talking about it," Hays said. "When and where, how we’re going to get there, who is going to go."
Yet for now, that discussion has been put on hold.
At least until after Saturday.
"Once the game starts," Hays said, "it’ll be strictly competitive.
Said Mayfield, "After the game. ... we can be friends again."