Oklahoma football has been blessed with some legendary head coaches, seven Heisman winners, 48 conference championships— the most among Football Bowl Subdivision teams — and more than its fair share of All-Americans.
All that has contributed to the Sooners winning seven national championships, the third most in the Associated Press/Coaches Poll era. There’s no question that the Oklahoma football brand is one of the most successful in the history of college football, one of the sport’s historic blue bloods.
When he became the Sooners’ head coach in 1973, Barry Switzer famously said:
“I didn’t create the monster, George Cross (former University of Oklahoma president) and Bud Wilkinson did. My job is to feed the monster.”
And that’s what Switzer, Bob Stops, Lincoln Riley and others have been doing ever since.
More than 70 percent of Oklahoma’s 928 all-time wins have come since the Wilkinson era of OU football (1947-1963). And you can bet your bottom dollar that Sooner fan base has broadened and has proudly released in all that success and national prominence.
New head coach Brent Venables knows how important the Oklahoma fan base is to the success attained by the OU football program. He has lived it in his previous coaching stop in Norman as an assistant, and that was one of the first things he addressed when he got off the plane at the Norman Airport after being named the Sooners’ 23rd head coach.
“You make this place so special,” Venables said. “Continue being you. People have no idea of the love and appreciation ya’ll have in this state for your team. We separate ourselves.
“This is one of the richest, storied programs in the history of college football. There’s a lot of good football teams out there, but there’s only one OU.”
The attendance at Oklahoma football games the past two decades has been phenomenal. Since Stoops’ first season in 1999, the Sooners have lost just 11 times in 140 games played at Gaylord Family–Oklahoma Memorial Stadium since the start of the 1999 season. Moreover, the 80,000-plus stadium has been sold out for all 140 of those home games.
You’ve got to believe that those capacity home crowds have had a lot to do with the Sooners’ .921 home winning percentage over the last 23 seasons. Since the 2000 national championship season, Oklahoma has won more Big 12 championships (14) than games lost at home (11).
In drumming up fan attendance for this year’s Red-White spring game, Venables issued a challenge to Sooner fans that went beyond the annual spring scrimage that traditionally concludes the spring practice period.
“I know what the expectations are in that stadium,” the new OU head coach said pointing to the Palace on the Prairie during a spring practice press conference. “That’s why my expectations from the fans and administration are no different than my expectations for players and the coaches.
“Everybody has a part, everything we do in this program matters,” he continued. “It doesn’t matter what the temperature is, what time it is, where the sun is during the day. (whether) we’re at home or away, (or) what uniforms we’re wearing. None of that matters. How we show up matters.
“If you want to talk about this program being one of the rich tradition and best programs in the history of college football, then show up (every game) with some pride.”
Sooner fans may not have needed that pep talk to continue showing up in huge numbers and show out their deep-seated passion and pride for Oklahoma football, but it doesn’t hurt to remind them and reinforce their importance to the success of the program.
History has shown that many times over. Boomer Sooner!