Oklahoma Sooners football

Oklahoma Sooners football
2018 Oklahoma Sooners football team
First season 1895
Athletic director Joe Castiglione
Head coach Lincoln Riley
2nd season, 12–2 (.857)
Other staff Cale Gundy (Co-OC/RC/IWR)
Bill Bedenbaugh (Co-OC/OL)
Ruffin McNeill (AHC/DT)
Mike Stoops (DC/OLB)
Shane Beamer (AHC/TE)
Stadium Gaylord Family Oklahoma Memorial Stadium
(Capacity: 86,112)
Field Owen Field
Field surface Grass
Location Norman, Oklahoma
NCAA division Division I FBS
Conference Big 12 Conference
Past conferences Independent (1895–1914)
SWAC (1915–1919)
Big 8 (1920–1995)
All-time record 89732453 (.725)
Bowl record 29211 (.578)
Playoff appearances 2 (2015, 2017)
Playoff record 0–2 (.000)
Claimed nat'l titles 7 (1950, 1955, 1956, 1974, 1975, 1985, 2000)
Unclaimed nat'l titles 10 (1915, 1949, 1953, 1957, 1967, 1973, 1978, 1980, 1986, 2003)
Conference titles 47[1]
Rivalries Nebraska (rivalry)
Texas (rivalry)
Oklahoma State (rivalry)
Heisman winners 6
Consensus All-Americans 80
Current uniform
Colors Crimson and Cream[2]
Fight song Boomer Sooner
Mascot Sooner Schooner
Marching band The Pride of Oklahoma Marching Band
Website soonersports.com

The Oklahoma Sooners football program is a college football team that represents the University of Oklahoma (variously "Oklahoma" or "OU"). The team is a member of the Big 12 Conference, which is in Division I Football Bowl Subdivision (formerly Division I-A) of the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA). The program began in 1895 and is one of the most successful programs since World War II with the most wins (606) and the highest winning percentage (.762) since 1945.[3][4] The program has 7 national championships, 45 conference championships, 162 First Team All-Americans (80 consensus),[5][6] and six Heisman Trophy winners. In addition, the school has had 23 members (five coaches and 18 players) inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame[7] and holds the record for the longest winning streak in Division I history with 47 straight victories. Oklahoma is also the only program that has had four coaches with 100+ wins. They became the sixth NCAA FBS team to win 850 games when they defeated the Kansas Jayhawks on November 22, 2014. The Sooners play their home games at Gaylord Family Oklahoma Memorial Stadium in Norman, Oklahoma. Lincoln Riley is currently the team's head coach.


Early history (1895–1946)

Football at Oklahoma made its start in September 1895, 12 years before statehood and one year after the first organized football game in the Oklahoma Territory.[8] The team was organized by John A. Harts, a student from Winfield, Kansas who had played the game in his home state.[9][10] That first team was composed of mostly non-students, including a local fireman.[10] 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).[10] The first game was played on a field of low prairie grass just northwest of the current site of Holmberg Hall.[11] 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.[12]

The team got its first real coach in 1897 when the new modern language professor, Vernon Louis Parrington, was named head coach (they played two games in 1896 with no coach).[13] Parrington played some football at Harvard and was more exposed to football coming from the East coast. In his four years as head coach (1897–1900), Parrington's teams racked up nine wins, one loss and two ties.[13][14] 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.[13]

The Sooners had three more 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 in 1902 and 1903,[15] and Fred Ewing recorded a 4–3–1 record in 1904.[14] The most notable event of those four years came in 1904 when Oklahoma had its first match against its instate rival, Oklahoma A&M.[16] The game was played on November 6, 1904 at Mineral Wells Park in Guthrie, Oklahoma.[16] The Oklahoma team soundly defeated the Oklahoma Aggies 75–0, but it was an unusual touchdown that is remembered most of that game. 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 head coach. They found Bennie Owen,[17] a former quarterback of the undefeated Kansas team of 1899 led by famous coach Fielding H. 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 a big enough budget to keep him there all year.[18] The early years of Owen's tenure were tough because of budget issues. Due to a low travel budget, his teams would regularly have to play as many as three games in one trek.[9][17] 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.[18] In Owen's first year, 1905, he gave Oklahoma its first victory over rival Texas, defeating them 2–0.[19] Owen's first dominant team came in 1908 when they went 8–1–1, losing only to the powerful Kansas team.[20] His 1908 team used hand-offs directly to large runners as the forward pass was just becoming common.[21] His 1911 team, on the other hand, had several small and fast players that the quarterback would pass directly to.[18] That team went 8–0.[22] Owen had two more undefeated seasons in 1915[23] and 1918.[24] 1920 was also Oklahoma's first season in the stronger Missouri Valley Intercollegiate Athletic Association.[25] In the new conference, they went 6–0–1 tying only Kansas State.[26] Owen retired after the 1926 season.[17] During Owen's 22-year career at Oklahoma, he went 122–54–16, a 67.7% winning percentage.[14][20] In 1951, he became the first person from Oklahoma to be inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in its inaugural year.[17]

Adrian Lindsey was hired by Oklahoma to coach the football team in 1927.[27] Before coming to Oklahoma, Lindsey was an assistant football coach at Kansas, his alma mater.[28] Lindsey is remembered as the coach who resigned quietly after failing to produce a winning team.[28] Lindsey's record (19–19–6)[29] was not that shabby, however. His players were small in size and number and the schedules they faced were too difficult for such a small squad.[30] Lindsey's 1929 Sooners team defeated Nebraska, 20–7, marking the worst defeat the Cornhuskers saw from a Big Six team in two decades.[27] In 1931, he took his team and defeated the Hawaii Warriors in Honolulu by a score of 7–0.[31] This game marked the first time a university located in the central continental United States was asked to play in the islands.[27] Lindsey resigned as head coach after the 1931 season.[27]

The running backs coach for Vanderbilt before accepting the head coaching position at Oklahoma in 1932, Lewie Hardage played football as well as baseball for the Commodores.[32] During his tenure at OU, he developed a lightweight football uniform consisting of foamed rubber head gear, knee pads and shin guards along with pants that ended three inches above the knee.[27] This gear weighed approximately eight pounds, half of what the old style had weighed.[27] He also built OU's fastest all-weather football field in his time.[27] For much of his tenure at OU, Hardage suffered from sickness that resulted from accidentally swallowing a poison tablet his mistook for a headache tablet.[33] Only 12 players attended spring practice in 1932, but running back Bill Pansze kept the Sooners up 3–0 for the first half of the season.[34] A knee injury in the Texas game took Pansze out for the remainder of the season and severely slowed the OU running game. "The same wolves who had harassed Ad Lindsey, began to yip at Hardage's heels" because of the Sooners' poor running and blocking.[27] Hardage was fired as head coach of the Sooners after the 1934 season. His final record at OU was 11–12–4.[35]

The next head coach, Lawrence "Biff" Jones, went 9–6–3 in his two seasons at the helm,[36] 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.[9] Jones was a "blunt-spoken, hard-nosed military man" who graduated from West Point in 1917.[37] Jones coached Army from 1926 to 1929 and then was the head coach of LSU.[36] His tenure at Oklahoma came during the Dust Bowl.[38] The dust storms were so thick it would block the sun and the players would be covered in dust at the end of practice.[37] In 1954, Jones was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame.[39]

Biff Jones hired Tom Stidham to coach the Oklahoma line in 1935.[40] When Jones left in 1937, Stidham became the head coach.[40] As Oklahoma's 10th football coach, Stidham posted OU's most successful record of all time against Texas with only one loss in four years.[41] His greatest triumph while at OU was his 23–0 demolition in 1939 of Coach Pappy Waldorf's Northwestern team that was picked to win the national championship.[42] Stidham was the first Oklahoma coach to defeat Waldorf (both Adrian "Ad" Lindsey and Lewie Hardage had also tried).[43] Stidham's 1938 Sooners were undefeated in the regular season and were ranked No. 4 in the AP poll, but lost in the Sooners' first bowl appearance, the Orange Bowl, to Tennessee.[44][45][46] After OU's hard-fought loss to the Volunteers, Stidham went back to his hotel room, took off the gray suit he had worn triumphantly in the 10 games Oklahoma had won and dropped it out the fifth-floor window.[47] In his time, Stidham placed more of his Oklahoma players into the pros than any other coach. In 1940, 17 Sooners started in pro football and 10 stayed all season.[27]

When Stidham left in 1941, his assistant coach, Dewey Luster, succeeded him.[48] After Luster's first season, a 6–3 campaign,[49] the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor.[50] As was the case with schools all over the country, many players left the team to join the military.[9] Luster stepped down after the 1945 season due to ill health.[51] He attained a 27–18–3 record in his four seasons at OU,[52] and his team never finished below second place in the Big Six.[53] After Luster's resignation, the OU Board of Regents interviewed several candidates for the head football coaching job, among them North Carolina native Jim Tatum.[54] With him, he brought another coach, Bud Wilkinson, who would be his assistant coach.[54] 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.[55] In the end, they decided to hire Tatum and his assistant over several other coaches including Paul "Bear" Bryant.[54] The Sooners had a relatively successful season in 1946, finishing with an 8–3 record[56] including a 73–12 win over archrival Oklahoma A&M (now Oklahoma State).[57] Tatum left OU after one season to accept the head coaching position at Maryland.[58]

Bud Wilkinson era (1947–1963)

When Tatum left for Maryland after the 1946 season,[59] Bud Wilkinson got the promotion to head coach.[60] In 1947, his first year as a head coach, Bud Wilkinson's Sooners went 7–2–1[61] and shared the conference title with Kansas for the second year in a row. In 1949, the Sooners went undefeated, defeating LSU 35—0 in the Sugar Bowl.[62][61] However, the game is best known for the "spy incident", where former LSU player Piggy Barnes was caught spying on the Sooners' practices.[63] Despite going undefeated and winning their bowl game, the Sooners were denied a national championship, which was awarded to the Notre Dame Fighting Irish, though they did not play in a bowl game.[64] The following year, Wilkinson went on to guide the Sooners to their first national championship, though they lost in the Sugar Bowl to Bear Bryant's Kentucky team.[60] That loss was the Sooners' first loss since a season opener loss to Santa Clara in 1948, 31 games earlier.[60] It was in 1951, while seeking funding to improve the university, that OU president George Cross said to the Oklahoma legislature that he "would like to build a university of which the football team would be proud."[65]

In 1952, Oklahoma had its first Heisman Trophy winner in halfback Billy Vessels, a local player from Cleveland, Oklahoma.[66] In 1953, the Sooners opened with a loss to Notre Dame[67] and tied Pittsburgh the next week.[67] The Sooners would not lose or tie another game until losing to Notre Dame in November 1957, a streak of more than three years.[60][68] This record of 47 consecutive wins has never been seriously threatened.[60][61] During this streak, the Sooners won the national championship in 1955 and '56.[60][61] Additionally, the Sooners won 14 straight conference titles from 1946 to 1959, one under Jim Tatum and 13 under Wilkinson.[69] The Sooners also went undefeated in conference play from November 23, 1946 to October 31, 1959; their record was only blemished by two ties.[60]

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%.[60][61] 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.[60][61] During Wilkinson's tenure, another first would be recorded. Prentice Gautt would become the first black football player at the University of Oklahoma.[60] Gautt had been a superior student at his Oklahoma City high school.[70] He was a member of the National Honor Society and president of his senior class.[70] During his junior and senior years of high school, he helped his team amass a 31-game win streak.[70] He was also the first black player to participate in the Oklahoma state all-star game.[71][72] Because of Gautt's academic success in high school, he was supported financially by a group of local black doctors and pharmacists.[71][70] A couple months into his freshman year, Gautt was placed on athletic scholarship and the money was returned to the investors.[70] Unfortunately, some members of Gautt's team were not too happy to play with him.[71] One player even left Oklahoma because he refused to play with an African American.[72] However, most of the team had his support. After a freshman game in Tulsa, Gautt was refused service in the restaurant where the team was scheduled to eat.[71] His teammates abruptly left and found an eating establishment that would also serve him.[72] As a player, Gautt broke out in 1958. In 1959, he was named the Orange Bowl MVP. He was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 1985.[73]

Gomer Jones era (1964–1965)

Wilkinson's assistant coach, Gomer Jones, took over as head coach in 1964, a move Wilkinson engineered himself.[74] His first year would prove to be a sharp contrast from Wilkinson's early years as the Sooners went 6–4–1.[75] They started the season 1–3 with three consecutive losses to Southern California, Texas and Kansas. The final loss came in the Gator Bowl to Florida State.[76] Prior to the game, it was found that four of Oklahoma's starters had signed professional football contracts before their college eligibility had expired. Those four were dismissed from the team prior to the bowl game,[77] ultimately causing Oklahoma to lose the 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 while he was head coach.[78]

Jim Mackenzie era (1966)

Following Jones's 9–11–1 record, Oklahoma brought in a young assistant coach from Arkansas named Jim Mackenzie.[79] He wanted discipline for his players, so he set a curfew and required them to enroll in physical education class.[80] His first season was an improvement from the previous. The 1966 team went 6–4[81] 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.[82]

Chuck Fairbanks era (1967–1972)

After the 1964 season, Chuck Fairbanks, an assistant coach at 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 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.[83] 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.[83] 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. In his first season in 1967, his squad went 10–1.[84] They entered their sixth game with a 5–1 record (their only loss was a two-point loss to rival Texas) and unranked[85] 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 #2 Tennessee 26–24 in the Orange Bowl.[84] 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's 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 6—4 record, Owens was named the Sooners' second Heisman Trophy winner. 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 the season ranked #20. They began the 1971 season ranked number ten. In consecutive weeks, they beat #17 USC, #3 Texas and #6 Colorado. These early-season wins propelled them to a #2 national ranking and set the stage for one of the great college football games of the century against top-ranked Nebraska.[86] Led by quarterback Jack Mildren and running back Greg Pruitt, Oklahoma was a scoring machine, averaging 44.5 points per game, the second highest in team history.[87] Equally impressive that season was Pruitt's nine yards per carry. 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.[84] Following this season, Fairbanks accepted a position with the NFL's New England Patriots.[88]

Barry Switzer era (1973–1988)

Soon after Barry Switzer, who previously served as Oklahoma's offensive coordinator, 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.[89] They finished the season ranked #3 after beating six teams who spent time in the top 20. The next year, Switzer's Sooners 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.[87] They were led 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.[90] In 1978, Oklahoma would get their 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. His 1978 season currently ranks third in team history in yards per attempt with 7.41, behind fellow Sooners Greg Pruitt and Marcus Dupree.[91] Sims also held the record at Oklahoma for most rushing yards in a career with 4,118 until it was broken by Samaje Perine in 2017.[92] He finished second in the Heisman race the following year, 1979.[93]

The early 1980s saw the Sooners begin to slip under Switzer. They lost four games each 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 things around in 1984 when they went 9–2–1 and finished the season at #6. The 1984 team featured Buster Rhymes at wide receiver, Spencer Tillman at running back and Tony Casillas at defensive tackle. Over the next three years, the team continued to grow and went 11–1 each year (with all three losses coming to Miami), including a national championship in 1985 (they finished ranked number three in 1986 and 1987).[94] 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.

Suddenly, 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[95] 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.[96] The three-year probation included a two-year ban on TV and bowl appearances and a reduction in scholarships from 25 to 18.[97] Nonetheless, the 1988 team established the NCAA Division I single-game record of 768 yards rushing against Kansas State on October 15, 1988, a record that stands to this day.[98] After the season, Switzer resigned as head coach.[99]

Gary Gibbs era (1989–1994)

Switzer was succeeded by his longtime defensive coordinator, Gary Gibbs.[99] Gibbs appeared to be a solid choice, having spent the first two decades of his adult life at OU as a player and assistant coach. He largely succeeded in his primary task—cleaning up the program's image. However, even though his rosters were smaller than normal due to the scholarship reductions, Gibbs found it hard to please boosters and administrators with an 8–3 year.

Gibbs' squads struggled to build success off two moderately successful seasons, 1991 and 1993. In 1991, OU went 9–3, finished the season ranked No. 16 in the nation by the Associated Press, and soundly defeated Virginia in the Gator Bowl. In the 1992 follow-up campaign, however, OU finished 5–4–2, unranked and did not earn an invitation to a post-season bowl. Further, OU dropped games to rivals Nebraska and Texas and tied Oklahoma State. The draw with the Cowboys marked the first time since 1976 OU did not beat OSU in the annual Bedlam game. Gibbs' Sooners rebounded with a 9–3 record, a No. 17 finish in the final Associated Press poll and a Sun Bowl victory in 1993. En route, OU beat then-fifth-ranked Texas A&M, 44–14, and recorded its only victory against Texas under Gibbs. The 1994 season proved to be another letdown, though, as OU finished 6–6. Gibbs announced his resignation prior to OU's losses to Nebraska in the regular-season finale and Brigham Young University in the Copper Bowl.[100] Ultimately, it was his record against Oklahoma's major rivals that did him in. Gibbs went 2–15–1 against Texas, Nebraska and Colorado. In addition to his record, he was thought to be uncomfortable around alumni and the media, and with being a head coach in general.[97] Gibbs' final record as head coach at OU was 44–23–2.[101]

Howard Schnellenberger era (1995)

To replace Gibbs, Oklahoma looked towards the seasoned Howard Schnellenberger, then 61 years old.[102] Schnellenberger had a well-established reputation for turning teams around. He had built Miami from an also-ran to a national champion in 1983, 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."[97][103] His 1995 team started out well, reaching the top 10 after a 3–0 start. However, an embarrassing loss to Colorado on national television started a downward spiral. The Sooners ultimately finished 5–5–1,[104] including only their second losing conference record since World War II. Schnellenberger resigned a month after the season ended.[103] To this day, Schnellenberger is not held in high esteem by Sooner fans, in part because he made no secret of his lack of interest in the program's history.[103] For instance, he vowed to make "Sooner Nation" forget about Wilkinson and Switzer—a boast considered to be almost heretical by the fan base. He ordered numerous old files to be thrown out; instead, they were archived without his knowledge.[97]

John Blake era (1996–1998)

For the 1996 season, Oklahoma hired former player John Blake as head coach. Blake was the favorite to succeed Schnellenberger and was backed by Barry Switzer, Steve Owens, and former Oklahoma president George Lynn Cross.[97] However, many were skeptical of Oklahoma's choice for the new coach. His coaching experience was very limited, especially compared to his predecessor. In his seven-year coaching career (four years at OU, three years with the Dallas Cowboys and one year at Tulsa), he had never been more than a position coach. The skeptics were proven right. In Blake's first season, he went 3–8.[105] 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 for a final record of 12–22.[105] 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 help lead the program's resurgence, including J.T. Thatcher, Josh Norman, Roy Williams and Rocky Calmus. Many of them got a chance to play fairly quickly, since Blake's teams were often out of games early. Blake was fired after the 1998 season.[106]

Bob Stoops era (1999–2016)

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.[107] 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 7–5.[108] After the season, offensive coordinator Mike Leach left OU to take the head coaching position at Texas Tech.[109] 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 with a new offensive coordinator, Mark Mangino, and ranked number 19,[110] 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 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."[111] 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 Torrance 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 13–2 win over a heavily favored Florida State team in the 2001 Orange Bowl and claimed the Sears Trophy.[108] 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. After the 2001 season, Mark Mangino stepped down as OU offensive coordinator to accept the head football coach position at Kansas.[112]

OU promoted Chuck Long from quarterbacks coach to offensive coordinator for the 2002 season. The Sooners had continued success in the 2002 season, going to the 2003 Rose Bowl after a season which saw the 2nd loss in so many years to Oklahoma State, and an upset loss to Texas A&M 30–26. The team's national success reemerged 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. Prior to the Big 12 Title Game, the Sooners Defensive Coordinator, Mike Stoops, accepted the head coaching position at Arizona, becoming the third Sooners coordinator to take a head coaching job during the Stoops era.[113] 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 LSU 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 USC. Although the Sooners lost in the title game 55–19, USC later vacated the win due to NCAA infractions.

In 2005, Stoops finished the season with an 8–4 record, his worst season record since his inaugural season.[108] 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 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, coached by former OU offensive coordinator Mike Leach, 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.[114] 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 South 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 was placed over Oklahoma). The unranked Sooners would represent the Big 12 in the Holiday Bowl and they would play the sixth-ranked Oregon. Oklahoma went on to beat the Ducks, 17–14; Bomar was named the Bowl MVP and the Sooners finished the season ranked #22.[85] 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.[115] However, on February 22, 2008, the NCAA reversed the decision and reinstated the vacated wins.[116] Following the season, Sooners offensive coordinator Chuck Long left to become the head coach at San Diego State, becoming the third Stoops offensive coordinator to become a head coach and fourth coordinator overall.[117]

2006 was a very tumultuous year for the Sooners. In the offseason, OU made Kevin Wilson the new offensive coordinator. 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 Oregon for the third time in three years. The Sooners lost this game 34–33. During the game a controversy arose when game officials awarded an onside kick to the Ducks when it should have been Oklahoma's ball.[118][119] Following the game, all officials were suspended for one game but replay official Gordon Riese said he would take the year off;[118] later in the year, he would quit completely.[120] Gordon Riese later acknowledged that he knew Oklahoma recovered the onside kick but replay rules prevented him from correcting the on-field officials.[121] 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[122] but by the end of the regular season, they were ranked 17th.[123] 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 to finish a tough touchdown run.[124] 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 the wild, thrilling game in overtime, on a trick two-point conversion play by a score of 43–42 to Boise State in the 2007 Fiesta Bowl.[125]

The 2007 Oklahoma team opened up with a home game against 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 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, Tulsa. Just as it had been all season (except for the Sep 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 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.[126] 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 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.[127] Oklahoma was down 14 points at halftime and never pulled close than 20–15, eventually losing 48–28.[127] After the 2007 season ended, offensive coordinator Kevin Sumlin resigned to accept the head football coach position at Houston, becoming the fourth Sooners offensive coordinator under Stoops to take a head coaching job and the fifth coordinator overall.[128]

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 24th ranked 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 up 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 defeat their next three opponents by more than 30 points each, scoring 60 or more points. A home victory over Nebraska, a road win at Texas A&M and another home win over then-ranked #2 Texas Tech would result in some controversy. Along with an upset of Texas at the hands of Texas Tech and a previous loss by Penn State against Iowa, Oklahoma was 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 Sooners at number two in the Associated Press poll, and number one in both the USA Today Coaches' Poll and the BCS. The result 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.[129] 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.[130] On January 8, 2009, the Sooners were defeated by the Florida Gators for the BCS Championship at Dolphin Stadium in Miami by a score of 24–14.[131] This was the fourth time that the Sooners were playing for the National Championship under Coach Stoops.

The 2009 season was a challenge for the Sooners. After losing star quarterback Sam Bradford in the first game, and eventually for the whole season, freshman quarterback Landry Jones had to take over. The Sooners ended up with a total of fifteen injuries at the end of the season. The season ended in an 8–5 record.[108] The Sooners went on to beat Stanford in the El Paso Sun Bowl 31–27, setting them up for a title run in the 2010 season.

The 2010 season turned out to be much more successful than the 2009 campaign. The Sooners ended the season with a record of 12–2[108] and became the Tostito's Fiesta Bowl champions by defeating Connecticut by a score of 48–20 in Glendale, Arizona.[132] This was the first BCS bowl game victory for Bob Stoops and the Sooners since the 2003 Rose Bowl.[108][132] Marquee victories for the Sooners in 2010 were against Florida State, Texas, Oklahoma State and Nebraska. The Bedlam match-up between the Sooners and Cowboys proved to be the decisive game in who would represent the Big 12 South in the conference championship game. The Sooners defeated the Cowboys in a high scoring affair 47–41. The Sooners went on to win the Big 12 Championship game 23–20, the final match between conference rival Nebraska. After the 2010 season, offensive coordinator Kevin Wilson left OU to become head coach at Indiana, becoming the fifth Sooners offensive coordinator under Bob Stoops to become a head coach and the sixth coordinator overall.[133]

With star players, Landry Jones, Ryan Broyles, and Travis Lewis coming back for the 2011 season, there were high expectations for Bob Stoops and his Sooner football team. Stoops hired former Sooners quarterback Josh Heupel as offensive coordinator to replace the departed Wilson. OU began the season ranked #1 in both the AP and Coaches polls. The Sooners became the first teams to reach the top ranking in the Associated Press poll 100 times since the poll began in 1936.[134] Under Stoops, OU has been ranked No. 1 more weeks than they have not been ranked in the top 25. They were able to accomplish this feat without even stepping foot on the field, as they had their bye week this weekend. Their early season match-up with fellow top five team Florida State proved to test the Sooners, as they looked to prove that their #1 ranking was warranted. As the Sooners played well the first few weeks the Sooners were thought to be out of the National Title race with a heartbreaking loss to the unranked Texas Tech Red Raiders snapping a school-record 39 game home win streak. However, the Sooners bounced back the following. few weeks to become ranked fifth in the country despite losing star receiver Ryan Broyles only to lose to Baylor for the first time in school history. They stayed in the hunt for a share of the conference title and a Fiesta Bowl appearance until losing to in-state rival Oklahoma State in the last game of the season. They finished the regular season 9–3 and went on to defeat Iowa 31–14 in the Insight Bowl.[108]

The 2013 Oklahoma Sooners football team represented the University of Oklahoma in the 2013 college football season, the 119th season of Sooner football. Conference play began at home on September 7 with a win against the West Virginia Mountaineers and ended in the annual Bedlam Series on December 7 against the Oklahoma State Cowboys in Stillwater with the Sooners upsetting the Cowboys 33–24. With the victory over the Kansas State Wildcats on November 23, head coach Bob Stoops got his 158th career win to move past Barry Switzer for the most wins in program history. After finishing the regular season with a record of 10–2 (7–2 in Big 12 play), finishing in a tie for second place in the conference. The Sooners received an at-large bid to participate in the Sugar Bowl, where they defeated the Alabama Crimson Tide, the previous year's national champions, with a final score of 45–31.

In 2014, the Oklahoma Sooners football team represented the University of Oklahoma in their 120th season and the inaugural season for the College Football Playoff. The Sooners opened the season ranked 4th and quickly jumped to a 4–0 record. The Sooners then lost their 5th game to TCU.[135] They then slid past their old rival Texas but suffered a loss to Kansas State, 30–31 at home. The Sooners closed the regular season with an 8–4 record after losing to in-state rival OSU in overtime. The Sooners got one more chance to redeem themselves as they faced the 18th-ranked Clemson Tigers in the Russell Athletic Bowl (Orlando, Florida), but instead suffered one of the worst bowl losses in Sooner history as they lost, 40–6. The Oklahoma Sooners football team beat the Oklahoma State Cowboys 38–20 to win the 2016 Big 12 Conference title. On June 7, 2017, it was confirmed that Stoops would retire effective immediately after 18 seasons as the Sooners head football coach.[136]

Lincoln Riley era (2017–present)

After Stoops' retirement, OU promoted offensive coordinator Lincoln Riley to head coach.[137]

In his first season, Riley led the Sooners to a 12–1 regular season record, beating the 10 win record held by Barry Switzer and Chuck Fairbanks for most wins by a first-year coach in program history.[138] Riley and the Sooners beat TCU 41-17 in the 2017 Big 12 Championship Game at AT&T Stadium in Arlington on December 2, 2017 and were crowned Big 12 football champions for the third time in a row (2015, 2016, 2017).

Riley and the Sooners played Georgia Bulldogs on January 1, 2018 at the Rose Bowl in the College Football Playoff Semi-Final game. The game was the first matchup between the two teams in program history. Oklahoma lost in double overtime 54-48.[139]

Conference affiliations

Oklahoma has been independent and a member of three conferences.[140]


National championships

Oklahoma has won 17 national championships from NCAA-designated major selectors.[141]:108–115 Oklahoma claims 7 of those national championships.[142]:13

Season Coach Selector(s) Record Bowl Opponent Result
1915Bennie OwenBillingsley MOV[141]:11110–0
1949Bud WilkinsonFootball Research[141]:11211–0Sugar BowlLSUW 35–0
1950Bud WilkinsonAP, Berryman, Helms, Litkenhous, UPI Coaches, Williamson[141]:11210–1Sugar BowlKentuckyL 7–13
1953Bud WilkinsonBerryman, Football Research[141]:1139–1–1Orange BowlMarylandW 7–0
1955Bud WilkinsonAP, Berryman, Billingsley, DeVold, Dunkel, Foot-ball Research, FW, Helms, INS, Litkenhous, National Championship Foundation, Poling, Sagarin, Sagarin (ELO-Chess), UPI coaches, Williamson[141]:11311–0Orange BowlMarylandW 20–6
1956Bud WilkinsonAP, Billingsley, Boand, DeVold, Dunkel, FW, Helms, INS, Litkenhous, National Championship Foundation, Sagarin, UPI coaches, Williamson[141]:11310–0
1957Bud WilkinsonBerryman[141]:11310–1Orange BowlDukeW 48–21
1967Chuck FairbanksPoling[141]:11310–1Orange BowlTennesseeW 26–24
1973Barry SwitzerDeVold, Dunkel, Football Research, Sagarin[141]:113–11410–0–1
1974Barry SwitzerAP, Berryman, Billingsley, DeVold, Dunkel, FACT, FB News, Football Research, Helms*, Litkenhous, National Championship Foundation*, Poling, Sagarin, Sagarin (ELO-Chess)[141]:11411–0
1975Barry SwitzerAP, Billingsley, DeVold, Dunkel, FACT*, FB News, Football Research, FW, Helms*, National Championship Foundation*, NFF, Sagarin, Sagarin (ELO-Chess), UPI Coaches[141]:11411–1Orange BowlMichiganW 14–6
1978Barry SwitzerDeVold, Dunkel, FACT, Helms, Litkenhous, Matthews, Poling, Sagarin[141]:11411–1Orange BowlNebraskaW 31–24
1980Barry SwitzerDunkel, Matthews[141]:11410–2Orange BowlFlorida StateW 18–17
1985Barry SwitzerAP, Berryman, Billingsley, DeVold, Dunkel, FACT, FB News, Football Research, FW, National Championship Foundation, NFF, NY Times, Sagarin*, Sporting News, UPI, USA/CNN coaches[141]:11411–1Orange BowlPenn StateW 25–10
1986Barry SwitzerBerryman, DeVold, Dunkel, Football Research, NY Times, Sagarin[141]:11411–1
2000Bob StoopsAP, Berryman, Billingsley, DeVold, Dunkel, Eck, FACT, FB News, FW, Massey, Matthews, National Championship Foundation, NFF, Sagarin, Sagarin (ELO-Chess), Seattle Times, Sporting News, USA/ESPN[141]:11513–0Orange BowlFlorida StateW 13–2
2003Bob StoopsBerryman[141]:11512–2BCS Nat'l Championship GameLSUL 14–21

Claimed national championships

Conference championships

The team has captured 47 conference titles, including 14 in a row from 1946 to 1959.

# Season Conference Coach Overall Record Conference Record
11915SouthwestBennie Owen10–03–0
21918SouthwestBennie Owen6–02–0
31920MVIAABennie Owen6–0–14–0–1
41938Big 6Tom Stidham10–15–0
51943Big 6Dewey Luster7–25–0
61944Big 6Dewey Luster6–3–14–0–1
71946Big 6Jim Tatum8–34–1
81947Big 6Bud Wilkinson7–2–14–0–1
91948Big 7Bud Wilkinson10–15–0
101949Big 7Bud Wilkinson11–05–0
111950Big 7Bud Wilkinson10–16–0
121951Big 7Bud Wilkinson8–26–0
131952Big 7Bud Wilkinson8–1–15–0
141953Big 7Bud Wilkinson9–1–16–0
151954Big 7Bud Wilkinson10–06–0
161955Big 7Bud Wilkinson11–06–0
171956Big 7Bud Wilkinson10–06–0
181957Big 7Bud Wilkinson10–16–0
191958Big 8Bud Wilkinson10–16–0
201959Big 8Bud Wilkinson7–35–1
211962Big 8Bud Wilkinson8–37–0
221967Big 8Chuck Fairbanks10–17–0
231968Big 8Chuck Fairbanks7–46–1
241972Big 8Chuck Fairbanks11-16-1
251973Big 8Barry Switzer10–0–17–0
261974Big 8Barry Switzer11–07–0
271975Big 8Barry Switzer11–16–1
281976Big 8Barry Switzer9–2–16–1
291977Big 8Barry Switzer10–27–0
301978Big 8Barry Switzer11–16–0
311979Big 8Barry Switzer11–17–0
321980Big 8Barry Switzer10–27–0
331984Big 8Barry Switzer9–2–16–1
341985Big 8Barry Switzer11–17–0
351986Big 8Barry Switzer11–17–0
361987Big 8Barry Switzer11–17–0
372000Big 12Bob Stoops13–08–0
382002Big 12Bob Stoops12–26–2
392004Big 12Bob Stoops12–18–0
402006Big 12Bob Stoops11–37–1
412007Big 12Bob Stoops11–36–2
422008Big 12Bob Stoops12–27–1
432010Big 12Bob Stoops12–26–2
442012Big 12Bob Stoops10–38–1
452015Big 12Bob Stoops11–28–1
462016Big 12Bob Stoops11–29–0
472017Big 12Lincoln Riley12–19–1

† Co-championship

Division championships

The Sooners have been a member of only one division, the Big 12 South, in their entire history. They were members from 1996 until 2010, after which the Big 12 ceased divisional play.

Season Conference Division Coach Overall Record Conference Record
2000Big 12 SouthBob Stoops13–08–0
2002Big 12 SouthBob Stoops12–26–2
2003Big 12 SouthBob Stoops12–28–0
2004Big 12 SouthBob Stoops12–18–0
2006Big 12 SouthBob Stoops11–37–1
2007Big 12 SouthBob Stoops11–36–2
2008Big 12 SouthBob Stoops12–27–1
2010Big 12 SouthBob Stoops12–26–2

† Co-championship

Head coaches

The team has had 22 head coaches, with Lincoln Riley as the current head coach in his second season.[143] Oklahoma started organized football with the nickname Sooners in 1895.[144] The Sooners have played in more than 1,100 games in a total of 96 seasons.[144] 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 winning percentage. Bob Stoops is the leader in wins. 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.[143]

Of the 22 Sooner coaches, Owen, Lawrence Jones, Tatum, Wilkinson, and Switzer have been inducted in the College Football Hall of Fame.[145] Wilkinson, Switzer, and Stoops have each received National Coach of the Year honors from at least one organization. The current coach is Lincoln Riley, who was promoted in June 2017.[146]


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).[147] 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.[148] 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.[148] 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 official seating capacity of the stadium, following renovations in 2015, is 83,489. which makes it the 15th largest college stadium in the U.S. and second largest in the Big 12 Conference.[148] Despite the official capacity, the Sooners routinely average well above capacity, most recently 86,857 for the 2017 season. The largest crowd ever was 88,308 on November 11, 2017 against TCU.[149]



Oklahoma's rivalry with the Nebraska Cornhuskers historically had national championship implications, with the winner usually advancing to the Orange Bowl. The teams often met on Thanksgiving.[150] For the majority of the twentieth century Oklahoma and Nebraska competed as part of the Big Eight Conference where from 1907 to 1995 the programs won a combined 77 conference titles. The teams are noted for playing in the Game of the Century, in 1971 which OU lost 35–31. In 1996, the teams joined the Big XII Conference when Nebraska joined the North Division, and Oklahoma joined the South Division, thus ending the annual match-ups between the programs in 1998 and 1999. In 2000 the series resumed with Nebraska and Oklahoma being ranked number one and two in the BCS rankings. OU won 31–14. Oklahoma leads the inactive series 45–38–3 as of 2018 with the last game being the 2010 Big 12 Championship Game, won by Oklahoma 23–20. The two programs are scheduled to resume the rivalry in 2021, and 2022.[151]

Oklahoma State

Oklahoma leads the series 87–18–7 as of the end of the 2017 season.[152]


The Red River Showdown or the OU–Texas Game is the annual matchup in Dallas during the State Fair of Texas between Oklahoma and the Texas Longhorns. Since 1929, the game has been played annually at the Cotton Bowl, halfway between Norman and Austin.[153] For the majority of the twentieth century the game was a non-conference match-up. Texas competed in the Southwest Conference. In 1996, the two programs became part of the Big XII Conference South division. That year Oklahoma won the first overtime game of the series, after a tie the previous year.[154] The stadium is split along the fifty yard line with Oklahoma fans occupying the south half of the field. Texas leads the series 61–46–5 as of the end of the 2017 season.[155]


Oklahoma leads the inactive series 67–24–5 as of 2018 with the last game played in 2011.[156]


School colors

Crimson Cream

Oklahoma's official school colors are crimson and cream.[157] 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.[158] 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 stray dog named Mex. Mex was found in Mexico during the Mexican Revolution by Mott Keys, an army hospital medic.[65] 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.[65] 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.[159] 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.[65]

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 last portrayed by Randy Palmer.[65] In April 1970, Little Red was banished by Oklahoma president John Herbert Hollomon, Jr. The student court issued a temporary restraining order to keep Little Red from appearing at Sooner games.[65] 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.[65]

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.[159] 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.[159]


The official fight song of the Sooners is "Boomer Sooner." This song is played frequently at football games and is played by the band after touchdowns, field goals, after significant plays, and when the team or crowd need a boost of energy. "OK Oklahoma" is another school song that is played after an extra point and when the Sooner Schooner rolls onto the field. The official Alma Mater song is the "OU Chant", which is sung by OU fans before sporting events and at ceremonial occasions. Other tunes frequently heard at OU football games include the state song "Oklahoma" and an alternate fight song titled "Fight for OKU."

The Pride of Oklahoma Marching Band is a nationally renowned ensemble founded in 1904. The largest student organization on campus, the band performs at all home games frequently travels to other games. The band holds a game ball from the Bedlam Series game in 1983, the day "the Pride" won.[160]


Heisman Trophy

The Heisman Trophy is awarded annually to the nation's most outstanding college football player. Six Oklahoma players have won the Heisman Trophy, five more finished runner-up. Baker Mayfield is the most recent winner having won the 2017 Heisman Trophy[161]

1952Billy VesselsHalfback525[161]
1954Kurt BurrisCenter838[161]
1969Steve OwensRunning back1,488[161]
1972Greg PruittRunning back966[161]
1978Billy SimsRunning back827[161]
1979Billy SimsRunning back773[161]
2000Josh HeupelQuarterback1,552[161]
2003Jason WhiteQuarterback1,481[162]
2004Adrian PetersonRunning back997[163]
2008Sam BradfordQuarterback1,726[164]
2017Baker MayfieldQuarterback2,398[165]

Other awards

Maxwell Award[166]
Best player
1956Tommy McDonaldRB
2004Jason White – QB
2017Baker Mayfield – QB
Walter Camp Award[167]
Best player
1969Steve Owens – RB
1978Billy Sims – RB
2000Josh Heupel – QB
2017Baker Mayfield – QB
Dick Butkus Award[168]
Best linebacker
1985Brian Bosworth
1986Brian Bosworth
2001Rocky Calmus
2003Teddy Lehman
John Mackey Award
Best Tightend
2017 Mark Andrews
Bronko Nagurski Trophy[169]
Best defensive player
2001Roy Williams – DB
2003Derrick Strait – DB
Chuck Bednarik Award[170]
Best defensive player
2003Teddy Lehman – LB
Davey O'Brien Award[171]
Best quarterback
2003Jason White
2004Jason White
2008Sam Bradford
2017Baker Mayfield
Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Award[172]
Best senior quarterback
2004Jason White
Fred Biletnikoff Award
Best receiver
2016Dede Westbrook
Jim Thorpe Award[173]
Best defensive back
1987Rickey Dixon[174]
2000Roy Williams
2003Derrick Strait
Lombardi Award[175]
Best lineman or linebacker
1975Lee Roy Selmon – DT
1985Tony Casillas – DL
2003Tommie Harris – DL
Outland Trophy[176]
Best interior lineman
1951Jim Weatherall
1953J.D. Roberts
1975Lee Roy Selmon
1978Greg Roberts
2004Jammal Brown
Associated Press College Football
Player of the Year Award
Most Outstanding College Football Player
2000Josh Huepel
2003Jason White
2008Sam Bradford
2017Baker Mayfield
Sporting News College Football
Player of the Year

Most Outstanding College Football Player
1952Billy Vessels
1956Tommy McDonald
1969Steve Owens
1978Billy Sims
2003Jason White
2008Sam Bradford
2015Baker Mayfield
Mosi Tatupu Award
Best Special Teams Player
2000J.T. Thatcher
Burlsworth Trophy
Top player who began college as a walk-on
2015Baker Mayfield – QB
2016Baker Mayfield – QB


Every year, several publications release lists of 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.[178] 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.[178] Oklahoma has had 162 First Team All-Americans[179] (80 consensus) in its history.

Future non-conference opponents

Announced non-conference schedules as of June 23, 2018[180]

2019 2020 2021 2022 2023 2024
vs Houston vs Missouri State (FCS) at Tulane vs UTEP vs Temple
vs South Dakota (FCS) vs Tennessee vs Nebraska at Nebraska at Tennessee
at UCLA at Army vs Tulane
2025 2026 2027 2028 2029 2030
vs Michigan at Michigan vs Temple vs Nebraska at Nebraska
at Temple

See also


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Further reading

  • Athlon Sports (August 2006). Game Day Oklahoma Football: The Greatest Games, Players, Coaches, And Teams in the Glorious Tradition of Sooner Football. Foreword by Jason White. Triumph Books. ISBN 1-57243-883-5. 
  • Bosworth, Brian (August 1, 1988). The Boz. Doubleday. ISBN 0-385-24747-8. 
  • Bruns, Bill (1974). "Sooner": A season as lived and played by Tinker Owens. Josten's Publications. ASIN B0006CE382. 
  • Brush, Daniel J.; David Horne; Marc C. B. Maxwell (2007). University of Oklahoma Football: An Interactive Guide to the World of Sports. Savas Beatie. ISBN 1-932714-33-2. 
  • Clark, J. Brent (October 1995). Sooner Century: 100 Glorious Years of Oklahoma Football. Quality Sports Publications. ISBN 1-885758-04-9. 
  • Corcoran, Mike (September 28, 2004). The Game of the Century: Nebraska Vs Oklahoma in College Football's Ultimate Battle. Simon & Schuster. ISBN 0-7432-3621-1. 
  • Cromartie, Bill (March 1982). Annual Madness: A Game by Game History of the Texas-Oklahoma Football Rivalry, 1900–1980. Gridiron Pub. ISBN 0-932520-05-7. 
  • Cross, George Lynn (September 1977). Presidents Can't Punt: The OU Football Tradition. Norman, Oklahoma: University of Oklahoma Press. ISBN 0-8061-1419-3. 
  • Dent, Jim (September 24, 2002). The Undefeated: The Oklahoma Sooners and the Greatest Winning Streak in College Football. St. Martin's Griffin. ISBN 0-312-30326-2. 
  • Dozier, Ray (August 1, 2005). Oklahoma Football Encyclopedia. Sports Pub. ISBN 1-58261-699-X. 
  • Hartley, Danny (1982). Oklahoma football, the winningest team of the seventies. Western Heritage Books. ISBN 0-86546-036-1. 
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