Among the many new traditions, rivalries, and conundrums that will take place due to Oklahoma and Texas’s integration into the SEC is the long-standing “UT” dispute.
The University of Texas and the University of Tennessee both use the abbreviation and, coincidentally, don shades of orange as their primary school color.
Until now, this hasn’t been an issue, because the schools have never shared a conference, and have only ever played three times, the most recent meeting being in 1969.
However, thanks to the ever-changing landscape that is conference realignment, these two stalwarts of college football lore will have to share the same league, and until further notice, the same abbreviation.
At SEC Media Days on Thursday, Tennessee head coach Josh Heupel made it clear that, in his mind, there’s no debate on this topic.
“There’s only one real UT,” Heupel said with a grin. “Only one right shade of orange.”
It’s not surprising that the Tennessee head coach took this stance. Afterall, he is the face of the Volunteers’ program. However, his career as a quarterback for the Oklahoma Sooners likely also plays a factor in giving the Longhorns a little elbow.
In his two seasons at Oklahoma (1999-2000), Heupel threw for 7,066 yards and 50 touchdowns, leading the Sooners to the 2000 National Championship. The lefty from Aberdeen, South Dakota, went 1-1 against the Longhorns as a player, dropping their 1999 meeting 38-28, but handing the Longhorns their worst loss in the series at the time, 63-14, in 2000.
Heupel’s Volunteers don’t play Texas in 2024, as they drew a road game in Norman instead.
It will be the first time that Heupel steps on the field since he and Oklahoma parted ways after serving as the offensive coordinator under Bob Stoops from 2011-14.
With the nature of his exit from Norman, it’s been an awkward conversation about the relationship between Heupel and the place he once called home.
However, the former Sooner says he’s excited about his return to the Palace on the Prairie.
“You know, the relationship with Oklahoma really isn’t complicated,” Heupel said. “I’ve got nothing but great memories of the people and my time there. I got a chance to talk about Mike Leach (served as OC at Oklahoma in 1999) a few minutes ago backstage in an interview. Everybody there helped shape me and where I’m at today and I’ve still got a lot of great friends and teammates that live out there.”
“The opportunity to go back to Oklahoma… I wish they were coming to Knoxville first,” he said with a laugh.”I’m looking forward to that opportunity, but that’s a long way down the road. I’m focused on ’23, but that’ll be a unique day in my career to go back there.”
While the OU vs. Tennesse matchup will have all the storylines you’ll ever need, the battle for the rights to “UT” will be on the docket in 2025.