Understanding Oklahoma Football: Part One

Jeff JohnsonCorrespondent IAugust 7, 2008

If you’ve ever met an Oklahoma football fan, you will have noticed a few things.  There would appear to be a number of esoteric memories and heroes that each fan has that change with the generations.

While this article cannot cover every memory or hero that Oklahoma has produced (a set of books would be needed for that), what is offered here is the start of a quick list.  It will at least enable you to carry on an intelligent conversation with a Sooner—and maybe even understand him.


The Situation: Sooner football history

The Facts: The program has been around since 1895, 12 years longer than Oklahoma has been a state. 

Why We Care: The 2008 season will be the 114th for Oklahoma football.  While not the longest-running program in college football, it is one of the most storied and revered.


The Situation: “The Three B's”

The Facts: “The Three B's” stands for three Oklahoma football coaching greats—Bud Wilkinson (1947-1963), Barry Switzer (1973-1988), and Bob Stoops (1999-present).

Why We Care: Bud Wilkinson is the man credited for making Oklahoma the powerhouse it has become in the modern era.  His 47-game win streak from 1953 to 1957 stands to this day.  He coached the Sooners to their first three national titles and 14 conference titles.

Barry Switzer brought a new feel to Oklahoma football, perfecting the Wishbone Offense and averaging 472 rushing yards per game in his first season.  During his tenure the Sooners brought home three more national titles and 13 conference titles.

After coaches such as Gary Gibbs, Howard Schnellenberger, and John Blake turned Oklahoma into the doormat of the conference, Bob Stoops revived the program and won a national championship in his second year.  That season also saw the most lopsided victory over Texas in the history of the “Red River Rivalry” (63-14).  Bob Stoops has also added five more conference titles to the resume.


The Situation: Heisman Trophy Winners

The Facts: Oklahoma has four—Billy Vessels in 1952, Steve Owens in 1969, Billy Sims in 1978, and Jason White in 2003.

Why We Care: The Heisman Trophy is given each year to the most outstanding college football player of that season.  To receive the Heisman in the modern era is a reflection not only on one’s personal skills, but the quality of the program one represents.  Each player from Oklahoma that has won the Heisman has been revered not only as a football player but also as a leader.


The Situation: Red River Rivalry

The Facts: The “Red River Rivalry” (or “Red River Shootout” as it was known for over a century) is the annual game between Oklahoma and the University of Texas at Arlington.  The games began in 1900 and since 1929 have been held in the Cotton bowl in Dallas on the first weekend of October during the State Fair of Texas.

Why We Care: The OU-Texas game is almost always the first big game of the season for each team.  Texas is Oklahoma’s most bitter rival.  The success of a coach, while not officially, is based on his record against the opposing team.

The history of this game is spoken of in revered tones and the games are where legends are born.  60 of the past 65 contests have had national championship consequences.

Texas currently leads the series 57-40-5, but the Sooners have won six of the past eight meetings.  In 2005 the Red River Rivalry was ranked the third best rivalry game in college football by NCAA Division I-A coaches.


The Situation: Bedlam

The Facts: Originally named after the atmosphere during a heated wrestling match between the two universities (a newspaper writer emerged exclaiming "It's bedlam in there!"), “Bedlam” is the name now given to any sporting contest between the Sooners and in-state rival Oklahoma State University.

Why We Care: Like any rivalry game, the football contest between these two schools gets heated.  This game is played more for bragging rights in the state than any championship stake, as OSU has yet to win a national or even Big 12 championship.  Starting with the first game in 1904 (which OU won 75-0), OU leads the series 78-16-7.


Next week's article will include "What is a 'Sooner,'" "Red October," "Crimson and Cream," and "Greatest Defeats of Texas by Oklahoma."