COLUMBIA — Standing outside their SUV atop Parking Structure No. 7, the Griffins and Alwards each wore the orange gear of the visiting Oklahoma State team.
This was a rare time all four fans of Big 12 teams were united. They could thank Missouri for that.
Coleen Alward is the only Oklahoma State graduate and loyal fan of the Cowboys. Jan Griffin cheers for Texas. Doug Griffin and Charlie Alward grew up together in Norman, Okla., where Doug Griffin’s dad worked for the University of Oklahoma. The two men grew up as Sooners fans but wanted to go away from home for college, so they left for Stillwater. After too many nights spent playing pinochle and partying “way too hard,” they returned to Norman a year later.
If he got nothing else out of Stillwater, Charlie Alward met Coleen, who did go on to graduate from Oklahoma State and become a second-grade teacher.
The Griffins like to say they “met on a bet.” Charlie Alward and Doug Griffin went to work for Southwestern Bell, now AT&T, in Oklahoma City. Nearly every day, Griffin would talk on the phone with one of the female office clerks. One day, before they had ever met, the clerk mentioned her allegiance to the University of Texas.
This was 1970, and Texas was ranked No. 2 in the country. It didn’t make a difference to the Oklahoma fan.
“Aw, they suck,” Doug Griffin responded.
Jan, the clerk, didn’t back down. Soon they had a $5 bet on the Red River Rivalry game. Texas won 41-9.
“I didn’t talk to her for two weeks after that,” Doug Griffin said. “Finally, she said, ‘When are you going to pay off this bet?’ We made an arrangement to meet at a local bar that Friday. I tell people that I’ve been paying off that damn bet for 40 years.”
How did the two couples end up in Columbia for a Missouri-Oklahoma State game? In 1988, Doug Griffin was transferred to St. Louis. He was transferred back to Oklahoma since then, but with children and grandchildren still living in the St. Louis area, he and Jan Griffin retired there. The Alwards, who live outside Oklahoma City, came to visit this week before the game.
Both families enjoy traveling to road games. The Griffins have season tickets at Oklahoma. They sell most of them to Jan’s cousin in Oklahoma City but make a point of going to the Texas-Oklahoma game.
The Alwards were also in Tulsa for the Oklahoma State game that did not start until after midnight because of a lightning storm.
“We get in the stadium and sing the anthem, and then they say you need to get out,” Charlie Alward said. “We stayed through three quarters, and it was three in the morning.”
On Saturday, Coleen Alward said she liked how all the buildings on the south end of Columbia’s campus shared the same tan color. The Alwards have attended games at more than half of the Big 12 stadiums, but they had not been to Columbia. The families planned the trip before the conference realignment talk heated up in the last two months, but Doug Griffin said he had a feeling they wouldn’t get another chance to see either Oklahoma team play here. He wishes it wasn’t the case.
“I think the whole thing sucks, to be honest with you,” he said. “It’s a shame, it really is. There’s too much tradition here between the teams in the conference.”
Griffin maintained that Oklahoma and Oklahoma State’s flirtation with the Pac-12 last month was a ruse by Oklahoma President David Boren to get leverage on Texas and try to bring stability to the conference. He put the blame on Missouri and especially Texas A&M for deciding not to deal with Texas.
“Bottom line, that was sour grapes,” Griffin said. “They said, ‘We tired of always ending up sucking hind tit, and we’re going to leave.’ ”
"I've been associated with the Big 6, the Big 8 and the Big 12," he said. "I just hate to see it."