STILLWATER, Okla. — At 11 p.m. on the campus of Oklahoma State, about five jubilant hours after the Cowboys ended 118 years of Bedlam history with a 27-24 victory over Oklahoma, a group of OSU students were doing a little film study of their own.
“We’ve analyzed the video,” one bystander said, almost as if he has triangulated the coordinates. “Look, from this angle, you can see the tree and those two fountains.”
Call it CSI: Stillwater. But they weren’t solving a crime. They were looking for a legendary piece of OSU football history.
Noah Campbell, a sophomore civil engineering major from Tonkawa, Oklahoma, was shirtless, wearing shorts on a brisk 63-degree night and standing neck-deep in Theta Pond, an idyllic spot on the edge of campus that, according to the university, was “used at the turn of the century to water the college work animals.” But on Saturday night, Theta Pond had swallowed the goalposts that had been dunked by students following OSU’s victory, and Campbell was being navigated toward two water features by total strangers.
“My uncle texted me about it,” Campbell’s friend Griffin Singleton said. “I told them that they threw the goalposts in Theta Pond and he was like, ‘You should go get a piece of those goalposts. That’d be pretty legendary.’ I sent out a text to our little group chat, asking if anybody wanted to go, that I was heading there with a grinder [a power tool for cutting] and I was going to try and get a piece of the goalposts.”
Campbell took him up on the offer, saying his dad had also texted him that he had a friend who wanted a piece of them, and he volunteered to do the actual water excavation. Together, they made a trip to the pond but were dissuaded by students sitting on benches around it, who told them the goalposts were long gone, paraded down the Strip right around the corner, past the Wooden Nickel and the Copper Penny and all the other bars where revelers were still celebrating.
But upon returning home, another friend told them that he thought they were still submerged at the bottom of the pond. They decided to make one more run at it.
“I was like, ‘Look, if you want to get in the pond right now and swim around and look for it, I’ll come and support you,'” Singleton said. “[Campbell] looked at me [and] he was like, ‘Yeah, if we find this, it’d be huge.'”
Campbell said the water “felt like an ice bath,” and onlookers steered him wrong a couple of times. But after about 15 minutes, after a team of Cowboys studied angles of several different TikTok and Instagram posts, Campbell lit up.
“Griff … Griff … I found it,” he said, feeling something with his foot on the mossy bottom of the pond. Four or five students rushed over to help as Campbell reached down and pulled a bright yellow piece of metal out of the water. It was Bedlam all over again.
“It’s like a piece of the Berlin Wall!” a voice exclaimed from the darkness.
Together, a team of newly forged friends started to lift the pole out. It kept going. And going. “Is this one of the uprights?” they asked, and it appeared to be.
Campbell and Singleton estimated it was about 30-35 feet long, way bigger than they expected. They whisked it away down the street, wary of being discovered by anyone else who’d try to make away with their bounty.
“The No. 1 priority was just getting off the streets as fast as possible,” Singleton said.
Oklahoma State’s goalposts got tossed into Theta Pond on campus after the Bedlam win. But later Saturday night, I stumbled across Noah Campbell, a student who went for a swim to find part of them – and succeeded. pic.twitter.com/57UQcbVdPm
— Dave Wilson (@dwil) November 6, 2023
An agribusiness major with a minor in law from Amarillo, Texas, Singleton just happened to have a chop saw in his truck. He cut the goalpost in half, but it still wouldn’t fit in the bed of his Toyota Tundra, so he rolled down the windows in the back seat and stuck the pieces through them horizontally, sticking out about five feet on each side, thankful he just had a short drive ahead to get home.
It was another magical moment in a historic day for the jilted Cowboys. Their blood rivals, the Sooners, are leaving them behind for the SEC. The series has been lopsided, with OSU almost always outmanned by one of the most storied programs in college football history, losing 91 of the rivalry games. They’d get one chance to settle a multigenerational score. And most Oklahoma State fans would’ve done anything to be there.
Carroll Germany, 82, who graduated from OSU and later was the superintendent of the university’s fruit and vegetable research farm, has only missed two Bedlam games in Stillwater since 1959, he estimates. He remembers freezing to his seat in the 1985 “Ice Bowl” game, a 13-0 loss to the Sooners, and wanting to go to the car in the second half, but his 13-year-old son, a Cowboys fan, called him a fair-weather fan. So he, his son and his son’s friend, a Sooners fan, stuck it out.
On Saturday, Germany, who was walking gingerly, said he can’t handle stadium stairs very well anymore. But he’s no fair-weather fan, so he wouldn’t miss this one. He drove more than two hours from Tahlequah, Oklahoma to watch the game with his son and his son’s friend, that same Sooners fan, proud to keep the tradition alive. Only this time, they had to add three extra seats for his grandsons, his son’s boys, who are all OSU students.
“It’s a big deal,” Germany said. “A really big deal.”
Reece Hamar, who was sporting a fuzzy orange OSU robe and a newsboy cap, said he’s been to every home game in Stillwater for 23 years. Both his brothers went to Oklahoma State, as did both his parents and grandparents.
“It’s a family tradition when it comes to the Pokes,” he said, adding that he’s still looking forward to playing the Sooners in other sports.
“Look at the Bedlam series, other than football,” Hamar said. “We’re going to win. I mean, we won it eight of the last nine years.”
But this day was about football. He knows the history. And Saturday meant everything.
“We’re going to have 5,000-6,000 days until OU has beaten us after today,” Hamar said, anticipating a long gap in another game between the two. “So that’s something to hang your hat on.”
The victory came from the steady hands of an unlikely hero. Quarterback Alan Bowman is in his sixth season after twice suffering a collapsed lung while playing at Texas Tech for three seasons before being benched and transferring to Michigan, where he was a backup who appeared in five games in two seasons. He began this season at Oklahoma State in a three-way quarterback rotation before seizing the job and throwing for 334 yards Saturday. Bowman will end his career going 1-0 in Bedlam.
“Obviously the record skews one way and that’s fine,” Bowman said while wearing a game-worn Josh Fields jersey, honoring the former OSU QB who went 2-0 against the Sooners. “But I think now we kind of gave the opportunity for everybody in Oklahoma to talk about — well, the only one they have to talk about is the last one — and we won it. At the end of the day, you can just say, ‘Well, what happened in the last one?’ And we all know what happened.”
The Sooners had a fitting star, however. Receiver Drake Stoops had career bests of 12 catches and 134 yards after his father, legendary Sooners coach Bob, went 14-4 against the Cowboys. But on this day, the usual Sooner Magic was thwarted, with Stoops being stopped two yards short by freshman corner Dylan Smith on fourth-and-5 on OU’s last-chance drive to tie the game. An unheralded true freshman stopping a Stoops, who was also the subject of a controversial no-call on a potential pass interference in the end zone earlier. It was OSU’s day.
Afterward, fans flooded the field, covering every inch of the surface. The speakers blared “Should’ve Been a Cowboy” by Sooners fan Toby Keith and “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together” by Taylor Swift. The goalposts somehow made their way out of the stadium with high walls all the way around. A grown man ran up to OSU players yelling, “THANK YOU! THANK YOU!” before looking to the skies.
In his news conference, Mike Gundy, the former OSU quarterback in his 33rd appearance in the rivalry, celebrated the “once-in-a-lifetime gift” his players had delivered to “Oklahoma State people.” After he was finished at the podium, he sat down and talked to reporters for an extended period, relaxed and free-flowing.
“I’m having fun,” Gundy said. “One hundred and eighteen years. It’s worth it.”
People lined up to take pictures with the stump that remained when the goalposts were ripped down. Newscasters did their postgame shows next to it.
Andy Stevenson, a member of the Paddle People, the OSU spirit group that bangs their wooden paddles on the wall, had lined up 2½ hours before the game, saying it was the most people he’d ever seen at Boone Pickens Stadium that early — by a long shot.
He also ended up being one of the small groups helping Campbell navigate the pond, reflecting on what the day meant to him.
“It was crazy,” Stevenson said. “I mean, to be part of the last Bedlam and to win? That’s insane. It’s my senior year. I wanted nothing more than this.”
Hundreds of students were lined up trying to get into bars on The Strip, unaware that one street over at the same time, those goalposts were being whisked away. At 11:08 p.m., a lone “Boomer!” rang out in a parking lot on Jefferson Ave. It got no response.
Campbell and Singleton, meanwhile, had just headed home to carve up a piece of neon yellow aluminum pipe that was more suited for a museum than the bottom of a pond.
“I’ll take a piece and then I’ll probably give it to family and friends,” Singleton said. “This is not just OSU history. This is college football history.”