Oklahoma Sooners Football: The 5 Strangest Moments in School History
Strange things happen when your football program has more victories since World War II than any other school in the country. Just considering OUr mascots causes us problems.
First there was Mex the Dog. This idea of having a dog for a mascot might work at the University of Georgia, but it was a one-time shot for the Sooners. Supposedly the dog was found by some Sooner Soldiers in Mexico during the incursion to hunt for Pancho Villa. Once found, Mex was brought "home" to Norman. Sporting a red doggy sweater with a white "O" on it, he was taught to bark on command. Thus when OU would score a touchdown, the dog would give out with a stirring bark to confirm the score—perhaps he should have learned to speak, saying, "After further review..."
The dog finally died during the 1920s and was buried under the bleachers, where the massive Memorial Stadium now sits. I never heard if the dog was buried in the sweater.
We next came up with "Little Red." This was a student that dressed up as an Indian chief that would dance on the sidelines to excite the crowds. That was good enough until 1964, when the Sooner Schooner was then introduced to the Oklahoma fans. While this tradition has endured, Little Red still stalked the stadium for five more years. When the Indian dancer had started roaming the sidelines in the 1940s, there was less of a drive to be "politically correct." With a less innocuous wagon rolling out across the field after each score, by April of 1970 there was simply too much of a downside to that particular mascot and the Indian chief went the way of Mex the Dog. I am fairly certain, however, that we did not bury an Indian chief in a red sweater under the stadium.
Then EA Sports later developed a game called NCAA football. In it they showed the mascots for each team, including the option of playing with a team made entirely of student-athletes dressed as that particular team's mascot. Having a mascot of a small wagon with two small horses pulling it, the makers of NCAA Football did not see fit to having 11 little wagons being pulled by 22 little horses on the field at the same time. Therefore, OU had to have a "personal" mascot. Thus, I went to my regular season ticket seats in 2009 and we saw these things we jokingly called OUr "horse-pigs" because they just didn't look right. Especially the tail. It protrudes from the proper position for a horse, but a seeming inappropriate place for a human. Somehow I just couldn't bring myself to post a picture of one of the horse-pigs from the rear view. It simply would not have been good.
In any case, with this as an introduction, let's move along to the assigned task of reviewing five strange events in Sooner history.
We Were Robbed!
Even though this is in black and white, it still makes me see red to this day!
The referees had already stolen two fumbles from us that day, so they had established their pattern. With under a minute left in the fourth quarter and OU leading by three, the Texas quarterback threw a pass to the end zone that was clearly a catch in bounds! As you can see, Keith Stanberry had the ball, two feet down (with water splashing to indicate contact with the ground), and was well over a yard inside the marker. However, the two SouthWest Conference refs, standing only a few yards away, ruled it no catch because he caught it out of bounds!
Texas then kicked a field goal the left the No. 1-ranked Longhorns tied with the No. 2 Oklahoma Sooners!
The following week the SWC officials admitted it was a blown call, but the damage was done and OU would have to wait a year for OUr sixth MNC.
We were robbed!
Kingfisher: No Photo Available
This story I will have to "wing it" on.
As the story goes, OU was playing a very early game when they were uncertain of the rules. I believe the game was against Kingfisher College, but some other knowledgeable Sooner fans may have to help me on this.
Since their was no Owen Field or Memorial Stadium, the two teams played in a field that was near a stream. On one play, a player was tackled and the ball was fumbled. With assistance from the players of the two teams as they fought to recover it, the ball wound up in the stream. Fortunately, an OU player got the ball, swam out of the stream that was swollen from a recent rain and carried into the end zone for a touchdown.
Wouldn't that have had some hits if there had been a YouTube back then, before Oklahoma was even a state!
Speaking of Mascots...
On New Year's Day in 1985, the Sooners were rewarded for winning the Big 8 Conference with a trip to the Orange Bowl. Having a loss and the infamous "tie" with Texas, OU was out of the MNC race; but were still playing for pride against the University of Washington. History would be made that night, but not as anyone had imagined.
Prior to the game, the Ruf/Neks (the rather rowdy bunch of guys who beat the ground around the goalpost before each game—which is a story unto itself) who drove the Sooner Schooner had received permission from the Orange Bowl officials to perform their job as they had done in previous years.
Sadly for the Ruf/Neks, it had been raining in Miami and the field was soggy. In the third quarter of a very close game, the Oklahoma placekicker successfully made a field goal to put OU ahead, and the Ruf/Neks rolled the Schooner out in celebration of the kick. What they didn't know was that there was an illegal procedure flag that had been thrown and OU would have to make the kick from five yards further back.
While the refs were working this out, the Schooner hit a patch of mud on the field and got stuck. The Ruf/Neks got out to push and even one official tried to help dislodge the poor trapped wagon. Since the ball was then marked, the referee marked the ball ready to play. No play could be run, however, because they had not been able to free the Schooner from the mud. The ref threw a flag for unsportsmanlike conduct and moved the Sooners another 15 yards back. Now with a much harder try, the placekicker missed the field goal and the points were taken away.
From that point things went downhill, and OU lost to Washington 28-17 .
The lesson: You've got to be careful what you do with your mascots!
To further illustrate this lesson, back in the 1920s when Mex the Dog was alive, OU had played in the state of Kansas against a team and boarded the train to go home. The bad part was that someone had forgotten to load the dog on the train ride to Norman. The team was concerned about the dog so they put out a 50-cent reward if anyone could find the dog and get it home. A trio of Sooner fans found the dog and took it back to Norman. While I doubt this was the cause of his demise, I believe the dog died the next year. At least the dog wasn't around to jump into the stream to retrieve the lost football in the earlier game.
What Goes Around Comes Around!
It may not be a specific moment but it is strange for OU fans to see Texas fans filling up a stadium named for one of the best players on some of the best teams Oklahoma ever had.
Darrell Royal was a multi-purpose player for the Sooners. He played in the offensive backfield, the defensive backfield and even did some kicking. He still holds the record for the longest punt by any Sooner in team history. He became an assistant coach to Bud Wilkinson and seemed destined to take over the reins when Coach Wilkinson stepped down.
However, Wilkinson kept coaching and seemed uncertain exactly how long that would last, so Royal chose to accept a position as head coach for the hated Texas Longhorns. With time Royal turned the program around, gaining three national championships for the most bitter rivals of the OU program. Royal came to despise the very program the Sooners ran that had vaulted him to his lofty position in the college football world.
Then Barry Switzer came along. And just as Royal's success led to an early departure of Coach Wilkinson, Switzer's success stymied Coach Royal, leading to his early departure.
The result was that the Longhorns honored the former Sooner player by naming their stadium after him.
Kind of strange.
The Ultimate Strange Moment in Sooner History
September 16, 2006.
Through multiple unwarranted penalties and questionable calls, the refs managed to keep Oregon close, in spite of Oklahoma's obvious dominance. They finally managed to allow Oregon to score to pull to within striking distance very late in the fourth quarter. Then came "The Refs Most Ridiculous Call Ever!"
Oregon tried an onside kick, with players jumping into the pile. The field judge comes in and immediately signals a recovery for Oregon. The only problem was that an Oklahoma player had run to midfield with the football he had recovered, showing the crowd in Autzen Stadium that the Sooners had beaten the upstart Ducks. However, the referee still gave the ball to Oregon.
Not to worry, though, because instant replay was available. The Pac-8 review official chose to side with the Pac-8 crew and confirmed the play as Oregon's possession, in spite of the blatantly obvious possession by the Sooners. Even Oregon TV cameramen showed video later demonstrating this gross miscarriage of justice. The review official later admitted that he had "blown" the call, and the Pac-8 conference officials recognized the "problems" with the officiating on that September day.
The rest is history and the 18-player Oregon team (11 student-athletes and seven officials) pulled off the upset.
And Sooner fans are still upset with this officiating to this day.
As the strangest moment in Oklahoma football history, it just doesn't get worse than this.
We were robbed!