|Oklahoma Sooners football|
|Athletic director||Joe Castiglione|
|Head coach||Bob Stoops|
|10th year, 109–23 (.826)|
|Home stadium||Gaylord Family Oklahoma Memorial Stadium|
|All-time record||791–296–53 (.717)|
|Postseason bowl record||25–17–1|
|Claimed national titles||7|
|Colors||Crimson and Cream|
|Fight song||Boomer Sooner|
|Marching band||The Pride of Oklahoma Marching Band|
Oklahoma State Cowboys
The Oklahoma Sooners football program is a college football team that represents the University of Oklahoma (variously "Oklahoma" or "OU"). The Oklahoma Sooners are a perennial powerhouse. As of 2008, ESPN ranked the Oklahoma Sooners as the most prestigious college football program since 1936. The team is currently a member of the Big 12 Conference, which is a Division I Bowl Subdivision (formerly Division I-A) of the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA). The program began in 1895 and is the most successful program of the modern era (post World War II) with 524 wins and a winning percentage of .761 since 1945. The program has seven national championships, 42 conference championships, 149 All-Americans (70 consensus), and five Heisman Trophy winners. In addition, the school has had five coaches and 17 players inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame and holds the record for the longest winning streak in Division I-FBS history with 47 straight victories. The team is currently coached by Bob Stoops and home games are played at the Gaylord Family Oklahoma Memorial Stadium in Norman, Oklahoma.
The football program at the University of Oklahoma is the most famous aspect of Sooner athletics. Football at Oklahoma made its start in September 1895, 12 years before statehood and one year after the first organized football game in Oklahoma Territory. The team was organized by John A. Harts, a student from Winfield, Kansas who had played the game in his home state. That first team was composed of mostly non-students, such as a local fireman. That first "season" saw the team go 0–1, being blanked 0–34 by a more experienced Oklahoma City Town Team (the Sooners could not even muster a first down). The first game was played on a field of low prairie grass just northwest of the current site of Holmberg Hall. Several members of the Oklahoma team were injured, including Coach Harts, and by the end of the game, the Oklahoma team was borrowing members from the opposing squad so they would have a full lineup. After that year, Harts left Oklahoma to prospect for gold in the Arctic.
The team got its first real coach in 1897 when the new modern language professor, Vernon Louis Parrington, was drafted as head coach (they played two games in 1896 with no coach). Parrington played some football at Harvard and was more exposed to football because he was from the east coast. In his four years as head coach (1897–1900), Parrington's teams racked up nine wins, to one loss and two ties. After the 1900 season, football began interfering with Parrington's teaching, his real passion. He stepped down as head coach shortly thereafter and went on to win the Pulitzer Prize for History in 1928 at the University of Washington.
The Sooners had three coaches over the next four seasons. Fred Roberts led the Sooners to a 3–2 season in 1901, Mark McMahon recorded an 11–7–3 record in his two years as coach from 1902 and 1903, and Fred Ewing recorded a 4–3–1 record in 1904. The most notable event of those four years came in 1904 when Oklahoma had its first match against its instate rival, Oklahoma A&M. The game was played on November 6, 1904 at a park in Guthrie, Oklahoma. The Oklahoma team soundly defeated the Oklahoma Aggies 75–0, but it was an unusual touchdown that is remembered most of that game.
|“||The day was bitterly cold with blustery winds out of the north. The boundaries were vaguely defined. And one of the oddest touchdowns ever recorded in football history occurred when an Aggie punt was carried backward by the wind until it bounced into Cottonwood Creek. Players from both teams pursued the evasive football into the deeper, chilly waters of the creek, but it was a Rough Rider who prevailed and climbed ashore with the football. Incidentally, every player on the Oklahoma squad scored that day, soundly defeating the Aggies 75-0.||”|
—Taken from statue in Guthrie, Oklahoma. See photo.
Bedlam football, the athletic rivalry between the University of Oklahoma and Oklahoma State University, was born that day.
After ten years of football, the program began to get serious and started looking for a permanent coach, Bennie Owen. Owen was a quarterback on the undefeated Kansas team of 1899 led by famous coach Fielding Yost. Owen's previous team beat Oklahoma twice in 1903 and 1904, so the Sooners were familiar with his ability. Owen's first two years at Oklahoma were spent between Norman and Arkansas City as Oklahoma did not have in the budget enough funds to keep him there all year around. The early years of Owen's tenure were tough for budget reasons. Due to a low travel budget, his teams would regularly have to play as many as three games in one trek. For instance, in 1905, his squad played three teams in three Kansas cities in five days and again in 1909 when they played three games in Missouri and Texas in six days. In Owen's first year, 1905, he gave Oklahoma its first victory over rival Texas, defeating them 2–0. Owen's first dominant team came in 1908 when they went 8–1–1, losing only to the powerful Kansas team. His 1908 team used hand-offs directly to large runners as the forward pass was just becoming common. His 1911 team, on the other hand, had several small and fast players that the quarterback would pass directly to. That team went 8–0. Owen had two more undefeated seasons in 1915 and 1918. 1920 was also Oklahoma's first season in the stronger Missouri Valley Intercollegiate Athletic Association. In the new conference, they went 6–0–1 tying only Kansas State University. During Owen's 22 year career at Oklahoma, he went 122–54–16, a 67.7% winning percentage. In 1951, he became the first person from Oklahoma to be inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame. It was the inaugural year for the Hall of Fame and Owen was inducted along with many of the biggest names of the game including Walter Camp, Knute Rockne and Fielding Yost.
The next two coaches that came after Owen, Adrian Lindsey and Lewie Hardage, amounted to little, going a combined 30–31–10 over eight seasons. The next coach, Lawrence "Biff" Jones, went 9–6–3 in his two seasons at the helm, but he is credited for reining in the athletic department's administration, finances, and methods. The whole football program was placed on a solid footing necessary for success in modern times. Jones was a "blunt-spoken, hard-nosed military man" who graduated from West Point in 1917. Jones coached Army from 1926 to 1929 and then was the head coach of Louisiana State University. He was fired from LSU after refusing then-governor Huey Long's request to address the team during halftime of a game. His tenure at Oklahoma came during the Dust Bowl. The dust storms were so thick it would block the sun and the players would be covered in dust at the end of practice. In 1954, Jones was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame.
In 1937, Tom Stidham became the coach. Stidham took the solid footing put in place by Jones and stood on it. In his four seasons, Stidham's team went 27–8–3 for a winning percentage of 75%. When he left in 1941, his assistant coach, Dewey Luster succeeded him. After Luster's first season, a 6–3 season, the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor. As was the case with schools all over the country, many players left the team to join the military.
Luster stepped down after the 1945 season due to ill health. The OU Board of Regents interviewed several candidates for the new head coaching job and one of those men was Jim Tatum. With him, he brought another coach, Bud Wilkinson, who would be his assistant coach. The Board was so impressed with Wilkinson that they considered hiring him for the head coaching position but decided against it as it would be unethical. In the end, they decided to hire Tatum and his assistant over several other coaches including Paul "Bear" Bryant. Tatum had a relatively successful season finishing with an 8–3 record including a 73–12 win over Oklahoma A&M. When Tatum left for Maryland after the 1946 season, Wilkinson stepped up.
Bud Wilkinson was a quarterback for the University of Minnesota and won three straight national championships with them in the 1930s. His coaching career began at Syracuse University and then at his alma mater Minnesota. After his service in the U.S. Navy in World War II, he began coaching at a naval academy in Iowa with Jim Tatum. When Tatum came to Oklahoma, he brought Wilkinson with him. Wilkinson went 7–2–1 in his first year and shared the conference title with Kansas for the second year in a row.
In 1949, the Sooners went undefeated, defeating LSU 35 to 0 at the Sugar Bowl. However, the game is best known for the "spy incident" since former LSU player Piggy Barnes was caught spying on the Sooner's practices. Despite going undefeated and winning their bowl game, the Sooners were denied a national championship since it was awarded to Notre Dame, a team that did not play in a bowl game. Wilkinson went on to guide the team to its first national championship in 1950 despite the fact that they lost The Sugar Bowl to Bear Bryant's Kentucky (11–1) team which made them Co-National Champions with Kentucky since AP voting took place before the Sugar Bowl game was played. That loss was the Sooners' first loss since a season opener loss to Santa Clara University in 1948, 31 games earlier. It was in 1951, while seeking funding to improve the university that president George Cross said to the Oklahoma legislature that he "would like to build a university of which the football team would be proud." In 1952, Oklahoma had its first Heisman Trophy winner in halfback Billy Vessels, a local player from Cleveland, Oklahoma. In 1953, the Sooners opened with a loss to Notre Dame and tied Pittsburgh the next week. The Sooners would not lose another game for more than three years when they faced Notre Dame in November 1957, losing 7–0.
Author Steve Budin, whose father was a New York bookie, has recently publicized the claim that the 1954 Bedlam game against OSU was fixed by mobsters in his book Bets, Drugs, and Rock & Roll (ISBN 1-602-39099-1). Allegedly, the mobsters threatened and paid off a cook to slip laxatives into a soup eaten by many OU Sooner starting players, causing them to fall violently ill in the days leading up to the game. OU was victorious in the end, but their 14-0 win did not cover the 20-point spread they had in their favor. However, many people involved in the 1954 contest do not recall any incident like the one purported by Budin to have occurred.
Wilkinson and his Sooners set a record with 47 consecutive wins, a record that, as of the end of the 2007 season, has only been seriously threatened twice—by Miami and the University of Southern California, both in the current decade. During this streak, the Sooners won the national championship in 1955 and 1956. Additionally, the Sooners won or shared 14 straight conference titles from 1946 to 1959, one under Tatum and 13 under Wilkinson. The closest any team in the Big 8/Big 12 alone has come to matching it is the Sooners' run of eight straight titles (two of them shared) from 1973 to 1980. The Sooners also went undefeated in conference play from November 23, 1946 season through October 31, 1959; their record was only blemished by two ties. This record has never been seriously threatened by any team in what is now the Football Bowl Subdivision; in the Big 8/Big 12 alone, no team since has gone undefeated in conference play more than three years in a row.
Wilkinson's best teams came during the first eleven years of his tenure. In that time, he recorded winning streaks of 31 and 47 games and went 114–10–3, a winning percentage of 90.9%. Wilkinson left Oklahoma after the 1963 season with a record of 145–29–4, 14 conference titles and 123 straight games without being shut out.
During Wilkinson's tenure, another first would be recorded, just not in the record books. Prentice Gautt would become the first black football player at the University of Oklahoma. Gautt had been a superior student at an Oklahoma City high school. He was a member of the National Honor Society and president of his senior class. During his junior and senior years of high school, he helped his team amass a 31 game win streak. He was also the first black player to participate in the state all-star game. Gautt was not the first black player to try out for the team, three others had two years earlier. The second black athleted to attend OU and play was Wallace Johnson. He joined the team during Gautt's sophomore year (Gautt & Johnson played together at the same Oklahoma City High School, Douglas HS). Two others could not afford to continue and dropped out, and Johnson ended his time there with an injured ankle. Because of Gautt's academic success in high school, he was supported financially by a group of local black doctors and pharmacists. A couple months into his freshman year, Gautt was placed on athletic scholarship and the money was returned to the investors. Unfortunately, members of Gautt's team were not as excited to play with him as he was with them. One player even left Oklahoma because he refused to play with an African American. However, Gautt's attitude eventually grew on them. After a freshman game in Tulsa, Gautt was refused service in the restaurant where the team was scheduled to eat. His teammates abruptly left and found an eating establishment that would also serve him. Oklahoma also had to stay at a different hotel during Gautt's eligibility in Fort Worth, Texas because their normal hotel did not permit African Americans. Gautt broke out as a player in 1958. In 1959, he was named the Orange Bowl MVP. He was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 1985.
Wilkinson's assistant coach, Gomer Jones, took over as head coach in 1964, a move Wilkinson engineered himself. His first year would prove to be a sharp contrast from Wilkinson's early years as the Sooners went 6–4–1. The season saw them start 1–3 with three consecutive losses to Southern California, Texas and Kansas. But the hardest loss came in the Gator Bowl to Florida State. Prior to the game, it was found that four of the better players had signed professional football contracts before their college eligibility had expired. Those four were dismissed from the team prior to the bowl game. Oklahoma lost this game 36–19. The next season's team fared no better, going 3–7, Oklahoma's worst record, percentage wise, since it went 0–1 its inaugural season in 1895. This brought the Jones era to a quick close, although he did remain at Oklahoma as the athletic director, a role he also held when he was head coach.
Following Jones's 9–11–1 record, Oklahoma brought in a young coach from the University of Arkansas named Jim Mackenzie. He wanted discipline for his team so he set a curfew for his players and required them to enroll in physical education class. His season saw an improvement from the previous, but it still did not meet the expectations of Sooner football that Wilkinson had set. The 1966 team went 6–4 with a win in the Red River Shootout over rival Texas coached by former Oklahoma defensive back Darrell Royal, their first win over Texas since 1957. They also beat the number four team in the nation, rival Nebraska by a score of 10–9. The 1966 season showed promise for the young coach, but, on April 28, 1967, at the age of 37, Mackenzie died of a heart attack.
After the 1964 season, Chuck Fairbanks, an assistant coach at the University of Houston, was offered a job at Tennessee. He wanted to accept, but it was the middle of the summer and unusually late for a coaching move, so he decided to stay loyal to Houston and he remained there. After the next season, he was offered a position as an assistant on Mackenzie's staff at Oklahoma, a position he felt was a better job than the Tennessee position. Immediately after the 1965 season, Fairbanks was offered a job at Missouri with the promise that he would be the head coach within four years. He declined and stayed at Oklahoma. Four months later, Coach Mackenzie died and Fairbanks was named head coach. It did not take long for Fairbanks to turn the team around. His first season, in 1967, his squad went 10–1. They entered their sixth game with a 5–1 record (their only loss was a two point loss coming to rival Texas) and unranked and beat ninth ranked Colorado, 23–0. This propelled Fairbanks's team to a number eight ranking. They continued their romp through the season and beat the number two team in the country Tennessee 26–24 in the Orange Bowl. They finished the season ranked number three in the country.
Fairbanks lost four games in each of the next three seasons. Despite the relatively mediocre record of those years, several great players came through Fairbanks' program. One of those players was Steve Owens. Owens was born in Gore, Oklahoma in 1947. After an impressive year in 1969, despite Oklahoma's record, Owens was named the Sooners' second Heisman Trophy winner. Many believe that Owens saved Fairbanks' career by helping defeat rival Oklahoma State.
It did not take long for Fairbanks to return the team to form. His 1970 team tied Bear Bryant's Alabama team in the Bluebonnet Bowl to finish as the number 20 team in the country. They began the 1971 season ranked number ten. In consecutive weeks, they beat number 17 Southern California, number three Texas, and number six Colorado.
These early-season wins propelled them to a number two national ranking and set the stage for one of the great college football games of the century against top-ranked Nebraska. Oklahoma was led by quarterback Jack Mildren and running back Greg Pruitt. The team was a scoring machine, averaging 44.5 points per game, the second highest in team history. Equally impressive that season was Pruitt's nine yards per carry (for comparison, Heisman Trophy winning running back Barry Sanders averaged 7.64 yards per carry his record breaking 1988 season in which he had 2,628 rushing yards). On November 25, 1971, Nebraska edged Oklahoma, 35–31 in what was to be the only loss of the season for Oklahoma. Oklahoma went on to beat Oklahoma State and fifth ranked Auburn to finish the season ranked number two.
Fairbanks closed out his career at Oklahoma the following year with a win in the Sugar Bowl over Penn State after having lost once all season, to Colorado. Following this season, Fairbanks accepted a position with the NFL's New England Patriots. He left behind a mess for the new head coach, Fairbank's offensive coordinator, Barry Switzer.
As an offensive coordinator in 1971, Barry Switzer perfected the wishbone offense as it led the nation in both scoring (45 points average) and total yards (563 total yards average), and set a NCAA record by averaging over 472 rushing yards. The Sooners finished the season ranked #2, losing only once, 35–31 to eventual national champion Nebraska in the Game of the Century.  When Chuck Fairbanks accepted the position of head coach of the New England Patriots following the 1972 season, Switzer was the obvious choice to succeed him.
Soon after Barry Switzer took the reins of the program, the NCAA forced Oklahoma to forfeit nine games from the 1972 season due to violations involving the alteration of transcripts. Fairbanks denied any knowledge of this. As a punishment, the Sooners could not play in a bowl game for two years. This setback did not stop Switzer's Sooners. His 1973 team finished 10–0–1 with only a tie to the number one ranked USC team. They finished the season ranked number three after beating seven teams ranked in the top 20. He showed no signs of slowing down the next season either. Switzer's team finished 11–0 and won the national championship. This was the Sooners' first undefeated season and national championship since 1956. That team was another high scoring team averaging 43 points per game and was anchored by Steve Davis at quarterback, Joe Washington at running back and the Selmon brothers (Lee Roy, Lucious, and Dewey) on defense.
Switzer's teams in the 1970s went a combined 73–7–2 in seven years. In 1978, Oklahoma would get its third Heisman Trophy winner in running back Billy Sims. That year, he set the Oklahoma record for most rushing yards in a season with 1,896, a record that would stand for 26 years. He currently stands at number three in yards per attempt that year with 7.41, behind fellow Sooners Greg Pruitt and Marcus Dupree. Sims also holds the record at Oklahoma for most rushing yards in a career with 4,118. He finished second in the Heisman race the following year, 1979.
The early 1980s saw the Sooners begin to slip under Switzer. They lost four games in 1981, 1982, and 1983. It was the first time they lost four games in a season since 1970 under Coach Fairbanks. However, eight of those twelve losses came to the likes of USC, Texas, Nebraska and Ohio State. They began to turn around in 1984 when they went 9–2–1 and were ranked number six at the end of the season. The 1984 team featured Buster Rhymes at wide receiver, Spencer Tillman at running back and Tony Casillas. Over the next three years, the team continued to grow and went 11–1 each of those three years (with all three losses coming to Miami), including a national championship in 1985 (they finished ranked number three in 1986 and 1987). Many great Sooner athletes came through the program during these years, including two-time Butkus Award winner Brian Bosworth, tight end Keith Jackson and quarterback Jamelle Holieway. While Switzer was not able to match Wilkinson's unimaginable string of 13 consecutive conference championships, he was able to rack up 12 of his own during his career at Oklahoma.
In 1988, it all came crashing down for Switzer. His team was placed on probation by the NCAA for violating several rules. In a six month time frame, there was a shooting and a rape in the athletic dorm on Oklahoma's campus, Switzer's house was robbed with the help of one of his athletes, and an athlete was caught attempting to sell drugs to an undercover agent. The three year probation included a two-year ban on TV and bowl appearances and a reduction in scholarships from 25 to 18.
Succeeding Switzer was his defensive coordinator Gary Gibbs. Gibbs went 44–23–2 in six years, and largely succeeded in cleaning up the program's image. He found it hard to please boosters and administrators with an 8-3 year. Ultimately, it was his record against Oklahoma's rivals that did him in. Gibbs went 2-15-1 against Texas, Nebraska and Colorado. In addition to his record, many feel Gibbs was not comfortable around alumni, the media, or with being a head coach in general.
To replace Gibbs, Oklahoma looked towards the seasoned Howard Schnellenberger, then 61 years old. Schnellenberger had won a national championship at Miami and turned around a once-moribund Louisville program. In the end, he was almost too sure of himself. He was quoted as saying, "They will write books and make movies about my time here." Ultimately, his 1995 team went 5–5–1 and he was done. Despite some perception that Schnellenberger had been fired for his team's on-field performance, the end of his tenure as Oklahoma's head coach was brought on after several off-field incidents brought into question his management of the team. One such incident included the purported purposeful deprivation of water to athletes during hot weather practices, resulting in the hospitalization of at least one student-athlete due to heat-related illness. The incident, combined with numerous anecdotal incidents involving alleged public intoxication, drew new, negative attention to the program, and as a result, university president David Boren fired Schnellenberger. Many feel he was doomed from the beginning because of his lack of interest in the history of Oklahoma football, neither its coaches or its players, a fact he was not shy about. He ordered numerous old files to be thrown out; instead, they were archived without his knowledge.
For the 1996 season, Oklahoma hired former player John Blake. Blake was the favorite to succeed Schnellenberger and was backed by Barry Switzer, Steve Owens, and former Oklahoma president George Lynn Cross. However, many were skeptical of Oklahoma's choice for the new coach. His coaching experience was very limited, especially compared to his predecessor. Blake was an assistant coach for three years in the NFL, a wide receivers coach for one year at Tulsa, and a defensive assistant at Oklahoma for four years. The skeptics were proven right. In Blake's first season, he went 3–8. It was the worst record, percentage wise, Oklahoma had experienced since 1895 and is tied for the most losses in one year (along with Blake's 1997 squad) to this very day. In his three years at Oklahoma, Blake went 3–8, 4–8, and 5–6. It was the first time since 1922–1924 that Oklahoma had three consecutive losing seasons. Blake's largest contribution to the team was his recruiting. He set the stage by recruiting several players that would excel under the next coach, including J.T. Thatcher, Josh Norman, Roy Williams and Rocky Calmus.
The university looked at many candidates to replace Blake. Many big-time college coaches were considered for the post. However, Oklahoma athletic director Joe Castiglione decided to hire a 38 year old defensive coordinator from Florida, Bob Stoops. Mr. Stoops was a former defensive back at Iowa under coach Hayden Fry and was his team captain and MVP. Coach Stoops quickly began to build his new program with the promise to help the program regain its former position as a perennial college football powerhouse. On his arrival to campus he would find that for all his predecessor's failings as a head football coach, John Blake had been an excellent recruiter and many of his players were potential stars. Despite the obvious talent already on-campus, no quarterback suitable for the "spread" offense was on the team roster. Stoops would remedy this by signing a little-known junior college quarterback, Josh Heupel, to run his offense. In his first year as head coach, the Sooners showed marked improvement; starting the season with three wins over non-conference opponents amassing 132 points to their opponents' 31. They lost the next two games, which included a 34-30 loss against Notre Dame at South Bend and finished the season with an overall record of 7 wins and 5 losses. This success was a breath of fresh air for a program that had fallen from perennial powerhouse to league doormat and those surrounding the Sooner football program expected great things from their new head coach. They would not be disappointed.
In 2000, the Sooners opened the season ranked number 19, the first time they opened the season ranked in five years. The Sooners opened 4–0, dominating their early season opponents by a combined score of 176–51. The annual Red River Shootout against arch-rival the University of Texas would prove to be the first signature victory of the Bob Stoops era. The Sooners dominated the Longhorns by a score of 63-14 in what was then the most lopsided upset in the history of the rivalry. Oklahoma running back Quentin Griffin smashed the Oklahoma record for most touchdowns in a game with six scores. The Sooners were now officially back in the hunt for a national title. In the following weeks the team narrowly beat the number two ranked Kansas State 41–31 in Manhattan and the following week went on to beat the number one ranked Nebraska Cornhuskers 31–14. ESPN's Brent Musburger said that, "The Sooners' October run of burying Texas, Kansas State and Nebraska is one of the greatest 30-day stretches in college football history." The Sooners narrowly escaped a loss at the hands of Texas A&M in College Station but they pulled out a victory, winning 35–31 on an interception return for a touchdown by linebacker Torrence Marshall. The team defeated the Kansas State Wildcats for the second time that season in the Big 12 Championship, a victory which propelled the program to its first national title berth since 1985. The Sooners finished the season with a stunning win over a heavily favored Florida State team in the BCS National Championship Game and claimed the Sears Trophy. At the end of the season, quarterback Josh Heupel had the top two spots on the list of Oklahoma's season passing records. The championship was the Sooners' 7th national title and their first since Barry Switzer's departure. The team had finally regained its status as a power in the college football world. The stoic coach from Ohio had resurrected a football giant, bringing the once great program back to the pinnacle of college athletics. The Sooners and their fans were hungry for more success and Coach Stoops would deliver.
The team's success continued in the 2003 and 2004 seasons. The 2003 team was the highest scoring squad (at the time) in Oklahoma's storied history, scoring 601 points to their opponents 214. The season included seven games of 50 points or more with the highlights including a 77–0 drubbing of Texas A&M and a 65–13 defeat of Texas. The team, led by Heisman Trophy winner Jason White, was billed as one of "the greatest college football teams of all time." This assumption was short-lived as the Sooners were upset in the Big 12 Championship Game by Kansas State. Due to their impressive strength of schedule, the Sooners were able to retain their position in the polls and their chance for the title. In a warm night in New Orleans, the Sooners were handed their second consecutive defeat and their first title loss; this time to an impressive LSU Tigers squad by a score of 21-14. The heartbreaking defeats shocked the Sooner nation while conversely establishing the team as a perennial title contender. In 2004, the Sooners were able to reach the 2005 Orange Bowl undefeated, along with the USC Trojans. The Sooners lost in the title game 55-19.
In 2005, Stoops finished the season with an 8-4 record, his worst season record since his inaugural season. Jason White's backup, Paul Thompson, was named starting quarterback at the beginning of the season, but was replaced by redshirt freshman Rhett Bomar after a season-opening loss to TCU. Paul Thompson was moved to the wide receiver slot for the rest of the season. They started the season 2–3 with additional losses against UCLA (at UCLA) and against eventual national champion Texas. The team started to improve as the season progressed, especially the young Bomar. The next loss came against Texas Tech and was a controversial loss. Texas Tech's Taurean Henderson scored on the final play of the game. The play was reviewed by replay officials, but video replays were deemed inconclusive. The touchdown gave the Red Raiders the win, 23-21. It was a setback for the Sooners but they moved on and were able to soundly defeat their instate rival Oklahoma State in Norman by a final score of 42–14. The Sooners finished third in the Big 12 behind the 2005 Texas Longhorns (who went on to win the 2005 BCS National Championship) and the Texas Tech Red Raiders (Oklahoma and Texas Tech both had conference records of 6–2, but Texas Tech won the heads up match and thus is placed over Oklahoma). The unranked Sooners would represent the Big 12 in the Holiday Bowl and they would play the sixth-ranked Oregon Ducks. Oklahoma went on to beat the Ducks, 17–14; Bomar was named the Bowl MVP and the Sooners finished the season ranked #22. On July 11, 2007, the NCAA announced that the Sooners would have to vacate all victories from the 2005 season, including the bowl game, due to NCAA violations related to three former players, including Bomar, thereby giving the Sooners an official 2005 record of 0–4. However, on February 22, 2008, the NCAA reversed the decision and reinstated the vacated wins.
2006 was a very tumultuous year for the Sooners. One day before fall practice began, returning quarterback Rhett Bomar and J.D. Quinn, a projected starter on the offensive line, were kicked off the team for violating NCAA rules when they received payment for work they did not do. Paul Thompson, who had played wide receiver in 2005 and had not practiced in the quarterback role for nearly a year, was asked to move back to quarterback which he did. In mid-September, Oklahoma played the University of Oregon for the third time in three years. The Sooners lost this game 33–34. During the game a controversy arose when game officials awarded an onside kick to the Ducks when it should have been Oklahoma's ball. Following the game, all officials were suspended for one game but replay official Gordon Riese said he would take the year off; later in the year, he would quit completely. Gordon Riese later acknowledged that he knew Oklahoma recovered the onside kick but replay rules prevented him from correcting the on-field officials. A few weeks later, Oklahoma lost to rival Texas. Following these setbacks, the team regrouped and the defense vastly improved. Following the Oregon game, the defense was ranked 97th nationally but by the end of the regular season, they were ranked 17th. Following the Texas game, Oklahoma played Iowa State and soundly defeated them 34–9. However, on the final touchdown drive for the Sooners, star running back Adrian Peterson suffered a broken collar bone when he attempted to dive into the end zone in a celebratory manner. The Sooners would turn to two untested running back to replace the Heisman-hopeful Peterson, Allen Patrick, a junior, and Chris Brown, a freshman. The Sooners did not miss a step. The team went on a seven game winning streak to finish Big 12 conference play 11–2. This streak included road wins over a couple of ranked opponents, Texas A&M and Missouri. The defending national champions Texas Longhorns were favored to win the Big 12 but they suffered two losses to finish their regular season which sent Oklahoma to the Big 12 Championship game against a former rival, the Nebraska Cornhuskers. The Sooners defeated the 19th ranked Cornhuskers 21–7 to win the Big 12 title for the fourth time under Bob Stoops, automatically sending them to the Fiesta Bowl. The Sooners lost in overtime, on a two point conversion play by a score of 43–42 to Boise State in the Fiesta Bowl.
The 2007 Oklahoma team opened up with a home game against the University of North Texas and soundly beat them 79–10. The 79 points scored by OU was the most in the country for Week 1. In Week 2 the Sooners played a much tougher opponent in the University of Miami. However, the results seemed to show a mismatch, as OU easily defeated the Hurricanes 51–13. In Week 3 the Sooners got the best of Utah State with a 54–3 thrashing. Week 4 matched OU up with an in–state foe, the Tulsa Golden Hurricanes. Just as it has been all season (expect for the Sept. 29 loss at unranked Colorado), the Sooners put up another dominant performance with a 62–21 victory. In Week 5 (September 29, 2007), the #4 Sooners saw their National Championship hopes take a hit as they lost to 2–2 unranked Colorado in Boulder 27-24 after leading in the second half by a score of 24-7. The Sooners only had 234 net yards compared to Colorado's 379 net yards. The 2007 match-up between Oklahoma and Texas on Oct. 2007 was predicted to be the #3 game to watch in 2007 by SI.com's "Top 20 Games To Watch In 2007" list. The University of Oklahoma football team proved itself worthy of the top ten rankings when it defeated Texas 28-21 at the Red River Rivalry. The Texas Longhorns played up to their potential when they answered almost every point during the October 6 game. In the end Colt McCoy along with Jermichael Finley and the Longhorns could not withstand the adamant pressing of Sam Bradford, Demarco Murray and the Sooners. Oklahoma would go on to lose to an unranked Texas Tech team in an upset, although this was not enough to keep them from the Big 12 championship. They would go on to defeat Missouri in the Big 12 championship game and win the Big 12's automatic BCS berth, playing West Virginia University in the Fiesta Bowl. For the second consecutive year Oklahoma would lose to an underdog opponent in a BCS bowl game, although this game was not as close as the previous year. Oklahoma was down 14 points at halftime and never pulled close than 20–15, eventually losing 48-28.
The Sooners opened 2008 ranked fourth in both the Associated Press Poll and the USA Today Coaches' Poll. Opening with back to back home victories against Chattanooga and Cincinnati and scoring over 50 points against both opponents would vault Oklahoma to number two in both polls, coupled with, then number three, Ohio State's loss and a lackluster victory by, then number two, Georgia over South Carolina. A road victory at Washington where the Sooners again scored more than 50 points, a home victory over then undefeated, and ranked 24th Texas Christian University, and a road win at Baylor resulted in Oklahoma being ranked number one in both polls after then ranked number one USC tumbled after a defeat at Oregon State. The Sooners had defeated each of their first five opponents by 25 points or more before facing then number five Texas. In a see-saw battle where Oklahoma would take their last lead at 35–30, Texas would come from behind with 15 unanswered points to upset the Sooners at a neutral field by a final score of 45-35. The Sooners could muster up only 48 rushing yards while giving way to 161. Also of note, the Sooners failed to convert on three fourth down attempts, and Bradford threw two interceptions. Oklahoma would fall to number four in the AP Poll and number six in the USA Today Poll; while the Longhorns would be the new number one team in both polls. The game would result in controversy later in the season. Oklahoma would rebound by defeating then ranked sixteen Kansas at home and a road win at Kansas State. By the Week 8 rankings, Oklahoma would be ranked fourth in the AP Poll, fifth in the USA Today Coaches' Poll, and debut at fourth in the BCS behind undefeated Texas, Alabama, and Penn State. The Sooners would then go on to score 60 or more points and defeat their next three opponents by more than 30 points each. A home victory over Nebraska, and road wins at Texas A&M and then ranked #2 Texas Tech would result in some controversy and mixed results. Along with an upset of Texas at the hands of Texas Tech and a previous loss by Penn State against Iowa, Oklahoma ranked 3 in the Associated Press Poll and number 2 in the USA Today Coaches' Poll ahead of Texas. However, Texas would be number two in the BCS followed by Oklahoma at number three. Alabama would hold number one in all polls with an undefeated record. Closing out the season with a win against Oklahoma State and Alabama's loss to Florida would leave the Sooner's at number two in the Associated Press poll, and number one in both the USA Today Coaches' Poll and the BCS. The resulting controversy of the three way tie between Oklahoma, Texas, and Texas Tech in the Big 12 South Standings; where each team suffered one loss at the hands of the other, would be the cause for many fans, particularly Texas fans, to cry foul. The Big 12 tie-breaker in this scenario was for the team with the highest BCS ranking to go on to play for the Big 12 Title. , Beating 19th ranked Missouri in Kansas City, assured Oklahoma of a number one ranking in both the USA Today Coaches' Poll and the BCS, despite a number two ranking in the Associated Press Poll. Texas would finish number three in all polls, rendering them ineligible to play in the title game. Additionally, quarterback Sam Bradford would win the Heisman Trophy and be named the Associated Press Player of the Year for the 2008 season. On January 8, 2009; the Sooners were defeated by the Florida Gators for the BCS Championship at Dolphin Stadium in Miami by the score of 24-14. This was the fourth time that the Sooners were playing for the National Championship under Coach Stoops. This was the third defeat in the title game under Stoops, the previous two losses in the national championship games were to USC and LSU.
The 2009 season was a challenge for the Sooners. Losing star quarterback Sam Bradford in the first game, and eventually for the whole season, freshman quarterback Landry Jones had to take over. This season can defined as a very challenging season, because the Sooners ended up with a total of fifteen injuries at the end of the season. The season ended up with seven wins and five losses. Also, the Sooners went on to beat Stanford in the El Paso Sun Bowl. The football program remains the primary breadwinner for the Oklahoma athletic program. It accounts for 70% of the Athletic Department's income but just 30% of its expenses.
The team has had 21 head coaches. Oklahoma started organized football with the nickname Sooners in 1895. The Sooners have played in more than 1,100 games in a total of 113 seasons. In those seasons, eight coaches have led the Sooners to postseason bowl games: Tom Stidham, Jim Tatum, Bud Wilkinson, Gomer Jones, Chuck Fairbanks, Barry Switzer, Gary Gibbs, and Bob Stoops. Eight coaches have won conference championships with the Sooners: Bennie Owen, Stidham, Dewey Luster, Tatum, Wilkinson, Fairbanks, Switzer, and Stoops. Owen is the all-time leader in games coached and years coached, while Switzer is the all-time leader in wins and winning percentage. John Harts is, in terms of winning percentage, the worst coach the Sooners have had; he lost the only game he coached, giving him a .000 winning percentage. John Blake has the lowest winning percentage of those who have coached more than one game with .353.
Of the 21 Sooner coaches, Owen, Lawrence Jones, Tatum, Wilkinson, and Switzer have been inducted in the College Football Hall of Fame. Wilkinson, Switzer, and Stoops have each received National Coach of the Year honors from at least one organization. The current coach is Bob Stoops, who was hired in December 1998.
The Oklahoma Sooners have been a dominant program in every conference they have participated in, from the Southwest Conference to the Big 12 Conference. The team has captured 42 conference titles, including 14 in a row between 1946–59, and the seven national championships: 1950, 1955, 1956, 1974, 1975, 1985, 2000.
On July 15, 2007, Berry Tramel of The Oklahoman (celebrating 100 years of Oklahoma statehood) named the 2000 Oklahoma national title victory against the Florida State Seminoles as the greatest sports event in state history.
The Sooners play their home games at Gaylord Family Oklahoma Memorial Stadium. The stadium was formerly called Oklahoma Memorial Stadium but the administration decided to add 'Gaylord Family' to recognize the contributions made by Edward K. Gaylord and his family over the years (estimated at over $50 million). The playing surface is called Owen Field after Bennie Owen, Oklahoma's coach from 1905 to 1926. The stadium was built in 1923 with an original capacity of 500. In 1925, 16,000 seats were added and 16,000 more seats were added in 1929 bringing the total capacity to 32,000. The stadium has had a natural grass playing surface for the majority of its existence. The stadium had an artificial turf from 1970 to 1994. The stadium had a major renovation in 2003 when a new upper deck was added to the east side of the stadium, adding over 8,400 new seats. The current capacity is 82,112, which makes it the 14th largest college stadium in the U.S. and second largest in the Big 12 Conference. Despite the official capacity, the Sooners average 84,561 in attendance for the 2006 season, nearly 2,500 over capacity.
Oklahoma's official school colors are crimson and cream. These colors were picked in 1895 by May Overstreet, the only female faculty member at the time. The colors were her own personal choice and she decided on them after viewing many color samples and materials. After her decision, the colors were brought in front of the student body who enthusiastically approved of her selections. In recent years, red and white have sometimes replaced crimson and cream.
Oklahoma has had several mascots. The first was a Boston terrier named Mex. Mex was a stray dog found in Mexico during the Mexican Revolution by Mott Keys, an army hospital medic. Keys' company adopted the dog and Keys took the dog back to Hollis, Oklahoma when he completed his duty. When Keys was enrolled in the University, he took Mex with him to Norman. With his experience as an army medic, Keys landed a job with the football team and a residence at the Kappa Sigma fraternity house. Mex's main duty during games was to keep stray dogs from roaming the field. He wore a red sweater with a big "O" letter on the side. Mex received national attention in October 1924 when the Oklahoma football team lost a game against Drake University. Mex was lost when the team boarded a train in Arkansas City, Kansas. The media blamed the loss on the field on the loss of their mascot. Mex was found later by two Oklahoma graduates. Mex died of old age on April 30, 1928. The campus was closed and classes were canceled on the day of his funeral. He was buried in a casket somewhere under the stadium.
Never an official mascot, Little Red began appearing at games in 1953. He was an Indian who wore red tights, breech cloth and a war bonnet and was portrayed by Randy Palmer. In April 1970, Little Red was banished by Oklahoma president J. Herbet Hollomon. The student court issued a temporary restraining order to keep Little Red from appearing at Sooner games. Despite this order, Palmer showed up as Little Red for the 1970 season opener where he was met with cheers from the crowd. When Palmer was drafted after the 1971 season, no one showed up for try-outs to replace him.
The current mascot for Oklahoma is the Sooner Schooner, a conestoga wagon similar to the primary method of transportation used by early settlers in Oklahoma. The Schooner is driven by two white ponies named Boomer and Sooner. In 2005, the university also introduced two costumed mascots also named Boomer and Sooner to serve as mascots for football games and events that do not permit a covered wagon.
The Heisman Trophy is awarded annually to the nation's most outstanding college football player. Five Oklahoma players have won the Heisman Trophy, five more finished runner-up.
|1969||Steve Owens||Running back||1,488|
|1972||Greg Pruitt||Running back||966|
|1978||Billy Sims||Running back||827|
|1979||Billy Sims||Running back||773|
|2004||Adrian Peterson||Running back||997|
|Bold indicates winner.|
Every year, several publications release lists of the their ideal "team." The athletes on these lists are referred to as All-Americans. The NCAA recognizes five All-American lists. They are the Associated Press, American Football Coaches Association, Football Writers Association of America, The Sporting News, and the Walter Camp Football Foundation. Some of these also have levels such as a first team All-American, or second team, or third team. A consensus All-American is determined using a point system; three points if the player was selected for the first team, two points for the second team, and one point for the third team. Oklahoma has had 148 All-Americans (70 consensus) in its history.