The Oklahoma Sooners football program represents the University of Oklahoma. It has existed since 1895. However, it is interesting to note that the Oklahoma Sooners have had the most success since 1945, so much so that it can be considered one of the best teams in college football. Here are 10 things that you may or may not have known about the Oklahoma Sooners football program:
1. The Name Refers to Settlers
Sooners refer to the settlers who rushed into the Unassigned Lands in the Land Run of 1889 before President Harrison Benjamin announced that it was open for non-native settlement. The name comes from the so-called “sooner clause,” which stated that those entered the region before opening time would be forbidden from claiming land. Combined with its meaning, this explains why the term Sooner used to have very negative connotations.
2. Tried Rough Riders
With that said, Sooners wasn’t the first name for the University of Oklahoma’s sports teams. Instead, that would be the Rough Riders, which is a term used to refer to people who either can ride unbroken horses or can break unbroken horses. As a result, it is a term with strong connotations of skill because breaking unbroken horses isn’t something that should be attempted by those without the right expertise and experience. Some people might suspect this name to be connected to the 1st United States Volunteer Cavalry, but it should be noted that said unit wasn’t raised until 1898.
3. Tried Boomers
Later, the University of Oklahoma tried Boomers in 1890. This time, the term referred to settlers who had attempted to enter the Unassigned Lands well before Harrison’s announcement rather than just before it. Suffice to say that the combination of both Boomers and Settlers made for a lot of headaches for the U.S. government because of litigation between legitimate land-run participants and their not so legitimate counterparts.
4. Settled Upon Sooners
It wasn’t until 1908 that the University of Oklahoma settled upon Sooners. By that point, the negative connotations of the term had started to change because the perception of the term had started to change, which makes sense because there was a fair amount of time between 1889 and 1908.
5. Founded by John A. Harts
The University of Oklahoma’s football program was founded by a student from Kansas named John A. Harts, who was also a teacher who taught elocution. Hart is the one head coach of the football team to complete his tenure without a single win, seeing as how he departed following his first season to prospect for gold in the Arctic.
6. Got Crushed in the First Game
Perhaps unsurprisingly, the new football team got crushed in its first game against the Oklahoma City Town Team, though the sheer extent of the crushing experience can nonetheless be shocking. For example, the team couldn’t get so much as a first down. Likewise, the team saw so many injuries that it needed to borrow players from the other team to maintain a full line-up.
7. First Real Head Coach Was Vernon Louis Parrington
The football team persevered in spite of its loss, as shown by how it went on to play a couple of games without a coach. Eventually, it managed to secure a real head coach in the form of Vernon Louis Parrington, a modern language professor who led the football players to a record of nine wins, one loss, and two ties. With that said, Parrington eventually stopped because the coaching was interfering with his true passion, which would in time, lead him to the Pulitzer Prize for History in 1928 at a different school.
8. Colors Chosen by May Overstreet
In 1895, the Oklahoma Sooners’ crimson and cream color scheme was chosen by the one female faculty member May Overstreet, who made the initial choice after reviewing potential combinations of colors and materials. After she made the choice, she presented it to the student body, which greeted it with enthusiastic approval.
9. First Mascot Was a Stray Dog Named Mex
The Oklahoma Sooners’ first mascot was a stray dog named Mex, who was presumably named thus because he was found in Mexico during the Mexican Revolution by an army medic named Mott Keys. When Keys enrolled at the school, his canine companion went with him.
10. Current Mascot Is the Sooner Schooner
Currently, the mascot is a conestoga wagon called the Sooner Schooner, which is very similar to the kind that would have been used by early settlers in what is now the state of Oklahoma. The wagon is pulled by ponies named Boomer and Schooner, which also serve as the names of the costumed mascots that step in whenever and wherever a full-sized wagon wouldn’t be appropriate.