Oil Bowl, in 76th year, helps sick children

This year’s Oil Bowl is a game-changer

Instead of the game being an on-field, crunchtime mashup between Texas and Oklahoma all-star football players — a two state rivalry that has been the crux of the charity football game for six of its seven decades — it will pit the best East Texas versus West Texas players against each other. The game is a return to the early days of the Oil Bowl, which was a Texas-only game for its first seven years.

This is the 76th year for this classic summertime football game — the longest-running high school all-star game in the country.

It will start at 7:30 p.m. Saturday at Memorial Stadium, with pregame festivities beginning at 7 p.m.

The Oil Bowl first kicked off in 1938, when East and West Texas players went helmet to helmet. It wasn’t until 1945 that the game became a Texas versus Oklahoma matchup. The rival states met in 66 of the 75 games, with Texas owning the series. The game in that time reverted to an all-Texas East versus West game one year, in 1961, because of issues with NCAA rules.

Players have been in town since Tuesday in preparation for Saturday’s game, though festivities really get going at 7 tonight at the Maskat Shrine Temple, 5101 Henry S. Grace Freeway, for the Oil Bowl Banquet.

Proceeds benefit the Shrine Hospitals for Children, which became the official charity of the game in 2012 for the 75th anniversary of the event. The 22 hospitals provide care, with no family financial burdens, to children with neuromusculoskeletal conditions, burn injuries and other special health care needs. The hospitals also educate physicians and other health care professionals and conduct research.

The Maskat Shriners build their community with such events as the Oil Bowl and the Shrine Circus. These events help the organization raise funds for their charitable causes.

About 5,000 attend the Oil Bowl annually.