Oklahoma Sooners football

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Oklahoma Sooners football
2022 Oklahoma Sooners football team
Oklahoma Sooners logo.svg
First season1895
Athletic directorJoe Castiglione
Head coachBrent Venables
1st season, 6–6 (.500)
StadiumGaylord Family Oklahoma Memorial Stadium
(capacity: 86,112)
Field surfaceGrass
LocationNorman, Oklahoma
NCAA divisionDivision I FBS
ConferenceBig 12 Conference
Southeastern Conference (Beginning July 1, 2025)
Past conferencesIndependent (1895–1914)
Southwest (1915–1919)
Big Eight (1920–1995)
All-time record934–337–53 (.725)
Bowl record31–23–1 (.573)
Playoff appearances4 (2015, 2017, 2018, 2019)
Playoff record0–4 (.000)
Claimed national titles7 (1950, 1955, 1956, 1974, 1975, 1985, 2000)
Unclaimed national titles10 (1915, 1949, 1953, 1957, 1967, 1973, 1978, 1980, 1986, 2003)
Conference titles50[1]
RivalriesOklahoma State (rivalry)
Missouri (rivalry)
Nebraska (rivalry)
Texas (rivalry)
Heisman winners7
Consensus All-Americans82[2]
Current uniform
Big12-Uniform-Oklahoma.png
ColorsCrimson and cream[3]
   
Fight songBoomer Sooner
MascotSooner Schooner
Marching bandThe Pride of Oklahoma Marching Band
OutfitterJordan
Websitesoonersports.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 of the modern era, with the most wins (606) and the highest winning percentage (.762) since 1945.[4][5]

The program claims 7 national championships,[6] 50 conference championships,[1] 167 first-team All-Americans (82 consensus),[2] and seven 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 900 games when they defeated the Texas Tech Red Raiders on September 28, 2019.

The Sooners play their home games at Gaylord Family Oklahoma Memorial Stadium in Norman, Oklahoma. Brent Venables is the head coach and has served since 2022.

On July 26, 2021, while showing interest in joining the Southeastern Conference (SEC) the University of Oklahoma and the University of Texas sent a joint letter of intent to the Big 12 Conference stating that they do not intend to extend their media contracts with that conference, which is set to expire following the 2024–25 season. However, Oklahoma and Texas could join the SEC as early as the 2023 season, potentially incurring a nearly $80 million early termination fee from each school for terminating their contracts with the Big 12 prior to the contract expiration.

History[edit]

Early history (1895–1904)[edit]

The first football game in the university's history was played on December 14, 1895, 12 years before Oklahoma became a state.[8] The team was organized by John A. Harts, a student from Winfield, Kansas who had played the game in his home state.[9] Oklahoma was shut out 34–0 by a more experienced team from the Oklahoma City High School in what was the Sooners' only game that season.[8][10] Oklahoma failed to record a first down throughout the entire game,[10] which was played on a field of low prairie grass just Northwest of the current site of Holmberg Hall.[citation needed] Several members of the Oklahoma team were injured, including Harts; by the end of the game, the Oklahoma team was borrowing members from the opposing squad so they would have a full lineup.[10] After that year, Harts left Oklahoma to become a gold prospector.[10]

Oklahoma vs. Arkansas City (Kansas) Town Team in 1899 with Vernon Louis Parrington as coach

After playing two games without a coach in 1896, a professor named Vernon Louis Parrington became head coach in 1897.[11] Parrington had played football at Harvard and was more exposed to the game, having come from the East Coast.[11] In his four years as head coach (1897–1900), Parrington's teams recorded nine wins, two losses, and one tie.[11][12] After the 1900 season, football began interfering with Parrington's teaching, and he stepped down as head coach.[11] He would go on to win the Pulitzer Prize for History in 1928 at the University of Washington.[11]

The Sooners had three more coaches over the next four seasons, beginning with Fred Roberts, who led the Sooners to a 3–2 season in 1901.[12] Mark McMahon followed, recording an 11–7–3 record in his two years as coach in 1902 and 1903.[12] Fred Ewing followed McMahon, achieving a 4–3–1 record in 1904.[12] The 1904 season marked the first game between Oklahoma and in-state rival Oklahoma A&M.[13] The game was played on November 6 at Mineral Wells Park in Guthrie, Oklahoma, with Oklahoma winning 75–0.[13][14] The game marked the first football matchup in the Bedlam Series, the athletic rivalry between the University of Oklahoma and Oklahoma State University.

Bennie Owen era (1905–1926)[edit]

After a decade of football, the program acquired its first long-term head coach in Bennie Owen, a former quarterback of the undefeated 1899 Kansas Jayhawks team led by coach Fielding H. Yost.[15] Owen had previously coached under Yost at Michigan, and his Bethany College teams had defeated Oklahoma in 1903 and 1904.[9]

The undefeated team of 1915

Owen's first two years at Oklahoma were spent between Norman and Arkansas City since Oklahoma lacked a large enough budget to employ him all year.[9] As a result of these budgetary limitations, Owen would occasionally schedule up to three road games in a single short trip, exhausting his players in the process.[9] However, even early in his tenure, Owen's teams found success. In 1905, Oklahoma won its first victory over rival Texas, winning the eighth meeting between the two schools by a 2–0 margin.[9][16] In 1908, the Sooners went 8–1–1, losing only to the undefeated Kansas Jayhawks.[9][17] Owen's 1908 team relied on hand-offs to large runners, as the forward pass was just becoming common.[9][18] In contrast, his 1911 team had several small and fast players that the quarterback would pass to directly.[9] That team finished 8–0.[19]

Oklahoma had undefeated seasons in 1915[20] and 1918.[21] In 1920, the Sooners moved to the Missouri Valley Intercollegiate Athletic Association after three seasons in the Southwest Conference, of which it was a founding member.[22] In the new conference, they went 6–0–1, tying only Kansas State.[23] Owen retired after the 1926 season.[15] During his 22-year career at Oklahoma, he went 122–54–16 (.677), won three conference championships, and achieved four undefeated seasons.[12][17] In 1951, the inaugural year of the College Football Hall of Fame, he became Oklahoma's first inductee.[15]

Between Owen and Wilkinson (1927–1946)[edit]

In 1927, Adrian Lindsey became Oklahoma's first new head coach in over two decades.[12] Like Owen, Lindsey had played football at Kansas and been the head coach at Bethany College prior to his arrival in Norman.[24] However, he was unable to achieve Owen's success, resigning quietly after a five-year tenure.[24] The Sooners achieved a notable win in 1930, defeating Nebraska 20–7 in the Cornhuskers' worst in-conference loss in two decades.[24] Despite this achievement, Lindsey finished an inconsistent stint in Norman with a 19–19–6 record.[25]

Following Lindsey's resignation, Owen, who had remained Oklahoma's athletic director after his retirement from coaching, hired hired Vanderbilt backfield coach Lewie Hardage as head coach.[24] Upon his hire, Hardage emphasized speed by fabricating new lighter uniforms and trimming the grass on Owen Field.[citation needed] However, in three seasons he failed to produce a successful team. His final record at Oklahoma was 11–12–4,[26] making him the first coach in program history with a losing record aside from John A. Harts, who only coached a single game.[12]

Coach Biff Jones

Although the next head coach, Lawrence "Biff" Jones, went an unspectacular 9–6–3 in his two seasons at the helm,[27] his impact on the athletic department's administration and finances was significant.[9] Jones was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 1954 following a career that also included coaching stints at Army, LSU, and Nebraska.[28] After his departure from Norman, assistant coach Tom Stidham became head coach.[29] In 1938, Stidham led the team to a 10–1 record, a fourth-place finish in the final AP poll, and the first bowl game in school history, a 17–0 Orange Bowl loss to undefeated Tennessee.[30][31] Although Stidham's other teams would not be as successful, he left Oklahoma after four seasons with a .750 winning percentage, the highest of any coach since Vernon Louis Parrington (.792).[12]

Stidham left for Marquette in 1941, and assistant coach Dewey "Snorter" Luster succeeded him.[32] After Luster's first season, a 6–3 campaign,[33] with the United States having entered World War II, many players left the team to join the military.[9] The Sooners regressed to a 3–5–2 record but rebounded to finish 7–2 in 1943 and 6–3–1 in 1944.[34] Luster stepped down after the 1945 season due to ill health.[35] He attained a 27–18–3 record in five seasons at Oklahoma,[34] and his teams never finished below second place in the Big Six.[36] However, despite two conference championships, the Sooners were not invited to a bowl game during Luster's tenure.[34]

After Luster's resignation, several candidates were interviewed for the head coaching job, among them North Carolina native Jim Tatum.[37] Tatum was joined at his interview by his assistant, Bud Wilkinson, with whom athletic director Lawrence Haskell was more impressed.[37] However, it was decided that usurping Tatum and giving the job to Wilkinson would be unethical.[38] Tatum was hired as head coach, with Wilkinson joining the staff as an assistant, over several other coaches, including Bear Bryant.[37] The 1946 season saw the Sooners finish 8–3, including a 73–12 Bedlam Series win and a victory over NC State in the Gator Bowl.[39] Tatum left Oklahoma after one season to accept the head coach position at Maryland.[40]

Bud Wilkinson era (1947–1963)[edit]

Coach Wilkinson with President John F. Kennedy at the White House in 1961

Following Tatum's departure, Bud Wilkinson was promoted to head coach.[41] In his first season, the Sooners went 7–2–1[42] and shared the conference title with Kansas for the second year in a row. Over the next two years, Oklahoma lost only a single game and went undefeated in conference play, winning two straight Sugar Bowls.[42] In 1949, despite going undefeated and winning the Sugar Bowl, the Sooners were not awarded the national championship, which went to the Notre Dame Fighting Irish, though they did not play in a bowl game.[43] At the time, however, most major championship selectors, including the AP and Coaches' Polls, did not consider bowl game results when deciding their champion.[citation needed]

In 1950, Wilkinson guided the Sooners to their first national championship, though they lost the Sugar Bowl to Bear Bryant's Kentucky team.[41] That loss was the Sooners' first since a season-opening defeat to Santa Clara in 1948, 31 games earlier.[41] The team's success began to influence the culture of football at the university. "People talk a lot about the tradition of football at Oklahoma. The person who started that tradition was Bud Wilkinson," Oklahoma native and Hall of Fame wide receiver Steve Largent later said.[41] In 1951, while seeking funding to improve the school, university president George Lynn Cross told the Oklahoma legislature that he "would like to build a university of which the football team would be proud."[44]

In 1952, Oklahoma had its first Heisman Trophy winner in halfback Billy Vessels, a local player from Cleveland, Oklahoma.[45] Vessels became the first thousand-yard rusher to win the Heisman and scored 18 touchdowns for the Sooners,[45] who finished 8–1–1, their only loss coming on the road to Notre Dame.[46] The 1953 team would open the season with a loss to the Fighting Irish and a tie with Pitt.[47]

47-game winning streak[edit]

The Sooners went undefeated for the remainder of the 1953 season, culminating in an Orange Bowl victory over national champions Maryland,[48] coached by Jim Tatum. They went 10–0 in 1954 and 11–0 in 1955, concluding the latter season with another Orange Bowl win over Tatum and Maryland.[48] The Sooners won the national championship in 1955 and in 1956, when they went 10–0, including a 40–0 rout of Notre Dame that marked the 35th win in the streak.[48]

At the start of the 1957 season, with the streak standing at 40 games, speculation arose that the team was not as good as it had been in previous years, having lost 18 lettermen from 1956.[49] Wilkinson commented that "this year we'll have to work faster and organize better than ever before."[49] The Sooners won their first seven games that year, but fell to Notre Dame on November 16, suffering their first defeat in more than three years.[48]

The record of 47 consecutive wins has never been seriously threatened; since it ended, no FBS school has achieved a streak longer than 35 wins.[48] During the streak, the Sooners outscored their opponents 1620–269 and recorded 23 shutouts.[48] In addition to their back-to-back national championships during the streak, the Sooners won 14 straight conference titles from 1946 to 1959, one under Jim Tatum and 13 under Wilkinson.[1] Oklahoma went undefeated in conference play from November 23, 1946, to October 31, 1959; their record was only blemished by two ties.[41]

Dominance and decline[edit]

Wilkinson's best teams came during the first 11 years of his tenure. In that time, he recorded winning streaks of 31 and 47 games and went 114–10–3 for a .909 winning percentage.[41][42] After a pair of one-loss seasons in 1957 and 1958, the Sooners fell to 7–3 in 1959, then 3–6–1 in 1960.[42] Oklahoma would finish that season unranked, the first time that they had done so under Wilkinson.[50] They finished unranked in 1961 as well, and although they rebounded to secure a conference championship in 1962,[50] the Sooners were unable to replicate the success of the previous decade. Wilkinson retired from coaching after the 1963 season, finishing with a record of 145–29–4, 14 conference titles, and 123 straight games without being shut out.[41][42] He was elected to the College Football Hall of Fame in 1969.[51]

Prentice Gautt[edit]

During Wilkinson's tenure, Prentice Gautt became the first black football player at the University of Oklahoma.[41] Gautt had been a superior student in high school, where during his junior and senior years he had helped his team amass a 31-game winning streak.[52] He was also the first black player to participate in the Oklahoma state all-star game.[53] Some members of Gautt's team did not want to play with him; one player even left Oklahoma because he refused to play with an African American.[53] However, most of the team had his support. After a freshman game in Tulsa, when Gautt was refused service at a restaurant, his teammates left and found a restaurant that would serve him.[53] Gautt was twice named to the All-Conference team and scored a touchdown in the 1959 Orange Bowl.[53]

Jones, Mackenzie, and Fairbanks (1964–1972)[edit]

Coach Gomer Jones, pictured in 1929

Following Wilkinson's retirement, his assistant coach, Gomer Jones, was promoted to head coach, a move supported by Wilkinson.[54] His first year was a sharp contrast from Wilkinson's early years; the Sooners went 6–4–1.[55] Less than a month before the team's Gator Bowl loss to Florida State, it was discovered that four starters had signed professional football contracts before their college eligibility had expired, and they were dismissed from the team.[56]

Following a 3–7 season in his second year as head coach,[57] Oklahoma's worst record since its inaugural season in 1895, Jones was replaced by Arkansas assistant Jim Mackenzie.[58] Seeking discipline from his players, Mackenzie set a curfew and required them to enroll in a physical education class.[58] His first team went 6–4,[59] including a win in the Red River Shootout over a rival Texas team coached by former Oklahoma defensive back Darrell Royal, their first win over Texas since 1957. They also beat rival Nebraska, then ranked fourth in the nation, by a score of 10–9.[59] On April 28, 1967, at the age of 37, Mackenzie died of a heart attack.[60]

Assistant coach Chuck Fairbanks succeeded Mackenzie, and in 1967, the Sooners went 10–1, including a 26–24 win over second-ranked Tennessee in the Orange Bowl.[61] The Sooners finished the season ranked third in the country.[62] The Sooners lost four games in each of the next three seasons,[63] with highlights including Steve Owens becoming the Sooners' second Heisman Trophy winner in 1969.[64]

The wishbone offense[edit]

A variant of the wishbone formation with two wide receivers (WR). At Oklahoma, Barry Switzer's wishbone formation used one wide receiver (also known as a split end) and one tight end.[65]

In the 1970s, several college football teams began implementing the wishbone offense, a run-based scheme designed to expand the possibilities of the option offense by placing three rushers in the backfield behind the quarterback.[65][66] In a traditional option play, the quarterback determines which rusher carries the ball by reading the alignment of the defense.[66] The wishbone relies on the triple option, in which the quarterback has three potential candidates to carry the ball (himself and two backfield rushers).[65][66] One innovation of the wishbone was to place a third rusher in the backfield to serve as a lead blocker.[66] Head coach Fairbanks and offensive coordinator Barry Switzer were among the early adopters of the wishbone and used it to widespread success in Norman. Their 1970 team tied Bear Bryant's Alabama Crimson Tide, another team using the wishbone, in the Astro-Bluebonnet Bowl.[67] During the next season, the Sooners beat No. 17 USC, No. 3 Texas and No. 6 Colorado in consecutive weeks.[68][69] After these wins, Oklahoma was ranked second in the country ahead of a "Game of the Century" matchup against top-ranked Nebraska. On November 25, Nebraska edged Oklahoma, 35–31, Oklahoma's only loss of the season.[68] Nebraska went on to win the national championship with a 13–0 record,[70] while Oklahoma went on to beat fifth-ranked Auburn in the Sugar Bowl to finish the season ranked second.[68] Led by quarterback Jack Mildren and running back Greg Pruitt, Oklahoma's wishbone offense averaged 44.5 points per game, at the time the second most in team history.[71] The offense gained 472.36 rushing yards per game, an FBS record that still stands.[72] Pruitt averaged nine yards per carry,[73] and Mildren's performance led to his adopting the moniker "the Godfather of the Wishbone."[74]

In 1972, the Sooners went 11–1, finishing the year at No. 2 after a Sugar Bowl victory over Penn State.[75] Following the season, Fairbanks left Oklahoma to become the head coach of the New England Patriots.[76]

Barry Switzer era (1973–1988)[edit]

Coach Switzer, pictured in 2006

Switzer ascended to head coach following the departure of Fairbanks. His tenure began with a scandal when the university self-reported violations involving the alteration of a player's high school transcript.[77][78] Although the Sooners forfeited eight games from the 1972 season, the university now recognizes the wins[79] and the Big Eight Conference championship[1] won that year.

The Big Eight punished the team with a two-year bowl ban beginning in 1973 and a two-year ban on television appearances beginning in 1974.[80] During the next three years, while the bans were in place, Oklahoma went 32–1–1 and won three straight conference championships.[81] They claimed back-to-back national championships in 1974 and 1975, the two years in which they could not appear on television during the regular season. As it was a postseason game, NBC did air Oklahoma's 1976 Orange Bowl win over Michigan, which secured the team's fifth national championship.[82]

Oklahoma performed exceptionally well during their probation. In 1973, the Sooners had seven ranked teams on their 11-game schedule and beat six of them, tying No. 1 USC and finishing the year undefeated.[83] In 1974, the run-heavy wishbone offense averaged 43 points per game[71] and set an FBS record that still stands with 73.91 rushing attempts per game.[72] In both 1974[84] and 1975,[85] the team had six players rush for over 300 yards, with Joe Washington earning All-America honors in both seasons as the team's rushing leader.[86] Additionally, due to the frequency of quarterback rushes in the wishbone, signal caller Steve Davis rushed for more yards than he passed in both seasons.[87]

Following the 1975 season, several key players left the team. Defensive tackle Lee Roy Selmon was selected first overall in the 1976 NFL Draft, and Washington was taken three picks later. Davis departed and was replaced at quarterback by Dean Blevins, who was unable to match his predecessor's contributions in the running game.[88] In 1978, Oklahoma would get their third Heisman Trophy winner in running back Billy Sims, who rushed for 1,896 yards and broke the Big Eight regular season rushing record.[89] The Sooners finished third in the final AP poll after an Orange Bowl victory over Nebraska,[90] the closest they came to a national championship in the second half of the 1970s. Despite never losing more than two games in any season during the these years, Oklahoma never finished in the top two in the final AP poll.[81]

During the 1970s, Switzer's teams went 73–7–2 in seven years,[81] and the Sooners won the Big Eight every year from 1972 to 1980.[1] However, during the early 1980s, the team's performance worsened. They lost four games each in 1981, 1982, and 1983.[81] In 1984, the team improved to 9–2–1 and defeated Nebraska when the Cornhuskers were ranked No. 1 in the country.[91] The win allowed Oklahoma to claim a share of the conference championship and receive an Orange Bowl bid against Washington, which they subsequently lost.[91]

Switzer's teams returned to contention for the national championship during the next three seasons, earning an 11–1 record and a Big Eight title in each.[81] However, in all three years, the Sooners lost to Miami, directly costing them the opportunity to win at least one championship. In 1985, the Sooners won the national championship despite their loss, rebounding to defeat top-ranked Penn State in the Orange Bowl.[92] In 1986, the Sooners won another Orange Bowl but finished No. 3[93] behind Penn State and Miami, who had faced each other for the championship in the Fiesta Bowl with the Nittany Lions emerging victorious.[94] 1987 saw the Sooners play in two No. 1 vs. No. 2 games in a row, defeating top-ranked Nebraska to end their regular season undefeated before facing Miami the Orange Bowl to decide the national title. No. 2 Miami defeated the Sooners, who had risen to the top of the polls following the Nebraska game, 20–14.[95] In 1988, the Sooners finished 9–3,[96] with highlights including a 70–24 win against Kansas State in which the team rushed for 768 yards, which remains an FBS record.[97]

Switzer's tenure ended in scandal. After the 1988 season, the NCAA placed the Sooners on probation for violating several rules, including offering improper benefits to players and recruits. In one example, a recruit was offered $1,000 to enroll at the university.[98] It was determined that Switzer had personally paid for rental cars for students entertaining recruits on campus.[98] Meanwhile, several of his players were in trouble with the law. Despite knowing that certain players had problems with alcohol or drugs, Switzer had recruited them anyway due to their talent.[99] Notable players Charles Thompson and Brian Bosworth were found to be involved with drugs or steroids.[99][100] Switzer's home was robbed in 1989, and Thompson was alleged to be one of the burglars.[101] On multiple occasions, players were caught attempting to sell cocaine to undercover agents.[102][103] A shooting and a gang rape took place in the athletic dorm within eight days of each other;[102] two players were later convicted for the rape.[104] Former Sooner Jim Riley later said that amid the turmoil, "Barry was just trying to keep it together."[99]

The probation lasted three years, including a two-year bowl ban, a one-year television ban, and a two-year reduction in scholarships.[98] Facing immense pressure to resign, Switzer stepped down as head coach in 1989.[105] He finished his tenure in Norman with a 157–29–4 record, an .837 winning percentage, 12 conference championships, and three national titles.[81]

Gibbs, Schnellenberger and Blake (1989–1998)[edit]

Switzer's ouster marked the beginning of what Stan Dorsey, writing for The Sporting News, called "a pratfall of unspeakable scope and unfathomable dimension" for the Sooners.[99] Defensive coordinator Gary Gibbs was promoted to head coach. Dorsey characterized Gibbs as being uncomfortable around alumni and the media, as well as with being a head coach in general.[99] During his six-year tenure, while Oklahoma attempted to recover from probation, the team finished a combined 44–23–2, never reaching higher than second in the conference or No. 16 in the final AP poll.[106] Gibbs punctuated a middling record with losses to Oklahoma's rivals; the Sooners went a combined 2–15–1 against Texas, Nebraska, and Colorado during his tenure.[99] He announced his resignation prior to the end of the 1994 season.[107]

Gibbs was replaced by Howard Schnellenberger, whose resume included a national championship at Miami. Convinced that the 1994 Copper Bowl loss to BYU was "clearly the lowest point in the great history of Oklahoma football," Schnellenberger sought to reshape the program, beginning by ordering files from previous seasons to be thrown out. Instead, they were archived without his knowledge.[99] Schnellenberger often said that "they will write books and make movies about my time [at Oklahoma],"[99] and his first team started out well. The Sooners rose to No. 10 in the AP poll after three wins to begin the 1995 season, but a home loss to fourth-ranked Colorado started a 2–5–1 stretch to finish the year.[108] The season ended with shutout losses to Oklahoma State and national champions Nebraska.[108] Schnellenberger resigned after one season in Norman, having failed to live up to his own expectations for success.[109]

Oklahoma then hired former player John Blake as head coach.[99] Although he was Switzer's preferred candidate, Blake had very little experience, having never previously held a head coach or coordinator position.[99] In the 101 years preceding Blake's hire, Oklahoma had nine losing seasons.[99] Under Blake, the Sooners had three losing seasons in three years.[110] The team's eight losses in 1996 set a team record that was matched the following season.[111] Blake's 12–22 record gave him the worst winning percentage of any Oklahoma head coach since the single-game tenure of John A. Harts in 1895.[12] He was fired after presiding over the worst three-year stretch in team history.[111]

Despite his poor record as head coach, Blake contributed to success after his tenure by recruiting several players who would help achieve more favorable results for his successor. Future NFL players Roy Williams and Rocky Calmus were key starters on teams that returned the Sooners to national prominence under Bob Stoops.[112]

Bob Stoops era (1999–2016)[edit]

1999–2002: Return to glory[edit]

Coach Stoops

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.[113] 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.[114] 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.[115] After the season, offensive coordinator Mike Leach left OU to take the head coaching position at Texas Tech.[116] 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,[117] 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 number one ranked Nebraska 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."[118] 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 Orange Bowl and claimed the Sears Trophy.[115] 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.[119] 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.

Mid 2000s[edit]

Jason White

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.[120] Due to their impressive strength of schedule, the Sooners were able to retain their position in the polls and their chance for the title. On 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 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.

Adrian Peterson

In 2005, Stoops finished the season with an 8–4 record, his worst season record since his inaugural season.[115] 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.[121] 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 in-state rival Oklahoma State in Norman by a final score of 42–14. The Sooners finished third in the Big 12 South behind Texas (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 No. 22. 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.[122] However, on February 22, 2008, the NCAA reversed the decision and reinstated the vacated wins.[123] 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.[124]

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.[125][126] Following the game, all officials were suspended for one game but replay official Gordon Riese said he would take the year off;[125] later in the year, he would quit completely.[127] Gordon Riese later acknowledged that he knew Oklahoma recovered the onside kick but replay rules prevented him from correcting the on-field officials.[128] 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[129] but by the end of the regular season, they were ranked 17th.[130] 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.[131] 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.[132]

Sam Bradford and Landry Jones (2007–2012)[edit]

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 No. 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 No. 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.[133] 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.[134] Oklahoma was down 14 points at halftime and never pulled close than 20–15, eventually losing 48–28.[134] 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.[135]

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 No. 16 ranked 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 No. 2 ranked 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.[136] 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.[137] 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.[138] 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 15 injuries at the end of the season. The season ended in an 8–5 record.[115] 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[115] and became the Tostito's Fiesta Bowl champions by defeating Connecticut by a score of 48–20 in Glendale, Arizona.[139] This was the first BCS bowl game victory for Bob Stoops and the Sooners since the 2003 Rose Bowl.[115][139] 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.[140]

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 No. 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.[141] 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 No. 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.[115]

Late Stoops era (2013–2016)[edit]

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. Trevor Knight was named Sugar Bowl MVP.

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. Knight was the starting quarterback for the season. The Sooners opened the season ranked 4th and quickly jumped to a 4–0 record. The Sooners then lost their 5th game to TCU.[142] They then slid past their old rival Texas but suffered a loss to Kansas State, 31–30 at home. The Sooners closed the regular season with an 8–4 record after losing to in-state rival Oklahoma State 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.

Baker Mayfield

The Sooners regained national prominence during the 2015 season, despite a preseason AP ranking of No. 19. Baker Mayfield took over as the starting quarterback at the start of the season and led the Sooners to a 11–1 regular-season record with the help of his high-powered offense, including wide receiver Sterling Shepard and running back Samaje Perine. The non-conference schedule included a dramatic double-overtime win on September 12 at Tennessee, as Mayfield led the Sooners from a 17–3 deficit with eight minutes left in regulation.[143] The Sooners captured the Big 12 conference title for the first time since 2010. Oklahoma earned the fourth and final spot in the College Football Playoff, and Mayfield finished fourth in Heisman Trophy voting. The stage was set for a rematch against Clemson in the 2015 Orange Bowl. They lost, once again, to Clemson by a score of 37–17, even though they led at halftime 17–16. Shepard declared for the 2016 NFL Draft.

The 2016 season was a continuation of the success the Sooners had the year before. Mayfield was granted the season of eligibility that he had lost due to Big 12 Conference transfer restrictions, and Dede Westbrook and the controversial, oft-suspended Joe Mixon had breakthrough years. The Sooners were unable to make the College Football Playoff this time around, as they lost 2 of their first 3 games, in Week 1 vs. Houston and Week 3 vs. Ohio State. They still enjoyed a successful season, defeating Oklahoma State 38–20 to win their second Big 12 Conference Title in a row, and having two Heisman Trophy finalists (Mayfield and Westbrook). They defeated the Auburn Tigers in the 2017 Sugar Bowl, 35–19. During the game, Perine became the school's career rushing yards leader with 4,122, and later forwent his senior year to declare for the 2017 NFL Draft.

On June 7, 2017, it was confirmed that Stoops would retire effective immediately after 18 seasons as the Sooners head football coach.[144]

Lincoln Riley era (2017–2021)[edit]

After Stoops' retirement, OU promoted offensive coordinator Lincoln Riley to head coach.[145]

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.[146] In his second-ever game as a head coach, he led the fifth-ranked Sooners to a 31–16 win at No. 2 Ohio State, avenging the previous season's home loss.[147] 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 Conference champions for the third consecutive season. Mayfield finally won the Heisman Trophy in 2017, his fifth-year senior season, and later became the first pick in the 2018 NFL Draft. Riley and the Sooners played the Georgia Bulldogs on January 1, 2018, at the Rose Bowl in the College Football Playoff semifinals. The game was the first matchup between the two teams in program history. Oklahoma lost in double overtime 54–48.[148]

With Mayfield leaving for the NFL, Kyler Murray took over the reins as the starting quarterback for the 2018 season. He immediately picked up where Mayfield left off, with help from star wide receivers Marquise Brown and CeeDee Lamb, a strong offensive line that featured four NFL draft picks, and future NFL kicker Austin Seibert. In his only season as a Sooner starter, Murray led the team to a 12–2 finish, a fourth consecutive Big 12 championship, and a repeat College Football Playoff appearance, winning the Heisman Trophy for his efforts. He was the second straight OU quarterback to win the award, and in the 2019 NFL Draft, also the second straight drafted #1 overall. Brown was selected #25 overall.

While the Sooner offense was potent, the defense continued a years-long struggle, and amid clear failures on the field and mounting criticism, Riley fired defensive coordinator Mike Stoops after a 48–45 loss to rival Texas in the Red River Showdown.[149] Though they avenged the loss to Texas by defeating them in the 2018 Big 12 Championship Game, the Sooners lost 45–34 to Alabama in the 2018 Orange Bowl as part of the CFP semifinals.

Riley hired new defensive coordinator Alex Grinch away from Ohio State in January 2019. To replace Kyler Murray, he turned to yet another experienced transfer, ex-Alabama starter Jalen Hurts. A talented former SEC Offensive Player of the Year, Hurts kept the Sooner offense strong, with a receiving corps led by returning star CeeDee Lamb. Despite a midseason stumble at Kansas State, the Sooners once again finished 12–2, winning a fifth consecutive Big 12 championship, and appearing in the College Football Playoff for a third consecutive time. The season was highlighted by a pair of dramatic comeback wins against Baylor, the second in the 2019 Big 12 Championship Game. The defense improved from 101st in team defense during 2018 to 64th in 2019.[150] However, the Sooners were badly beaten, 63–28, by eventual national champion LSU in their CFP semifinal match in the 2019 Peach Bowl. Jalen Hurts finished second in Heisman Trophy voting, behind LSU quarterback Joe Burrow. After the season, Lamb was drafted #17 overall and linebacker Kenneth Murray #23 overall in the 2020 NFL Draft.

In March 2020, former U.S. President Donald J. Trump closed the U.S. border to European travel due to the spread of COVID-19 (SARS-CoV-2).[151] Officially declared a global pandemic by the World Health Organization (WHO) on March 11, 2020,[152] COVID-19 sent shockwaves through the world resulting in mandatory shelter-in-place orders, suspension of in-person work and schooling, and other quarantine measures that reshaped modern socio-economic norms. While the COVID-19 pandemic placed an ominous cloud over the 2020 NCAA College Football season, for FBS schools the NCAA left the decision to play largely up to the conferences and individual schools. Though some conferences (e.g., Big Ten Conference) quickly elected to suspend their 2020 college football season,[153] ultimately a groundswell of player, fan, and coach support for playing the season combined with several conferences opting to play led to participation by FBS conferences, albeit in various truncated forms. As protocols and understanding of COVID-19 evolved daily, athletic departments were forced to implement strict measures to ensure player safety.

Despite the medical and administrative upheaval brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, the Sooners were able to play a truncated season that included an out-of-conference game against FCS Western Carolina and a 9-game conference schedule. Leaning on redshirt freshman QB Spencer Rattler, Riley led the Sooners to their first 1–2 start since 2016 and only the Sooners' third since 2000. This was also the Sooners first 0–2 (losses to Kansas State and Iowa State) start in conference play since 1998, the final year of the John Blake era. Nevertheless, with return of some key talent on both sides of the ball in the annual rivalry game against Texas, Riley and the Sooners took back control of their season with a win. The Sooners would not lose another game until November 2021. The Sooners finished the 2020 regular season with a 7–2 record (the game against West Virginia was cancelled due to COVID-19 issues with their team) and a shot to win their sixth straight conference championship in the 2020 Big 12 Championship Game. Winning that game, the Sooners earned a bid to the 2020 Cotton Bowl Classic where they defeated the Florida Gators 55–20.

Returning to a full schedule in 2021, expectations were high. Spencer Rattler appeared on numerous award watchlists and was named preseason Big 12 Offensive Player of the Year. However, the team struggled, winning their first five games by less than seven points each, except a blowout of returning FCS opponent Western Carolina. In the Cotton Bowl against #21 Texas, the Sooners' first ranked opponent, Rattler threw two early interceptions that resulted in Texas touchdowns, and the team fell into a quick 28-7 hole. Riley chose to replace Rattler with true freshman Caleb Williams, who led a dramatic comeback that resulted in a 55–48 win on Kennedy Brooks' game-winning touchdown with three seconds remaining.[154] The newfound energy helped fuel a blowout of TCU, but one week later, the Sooners found themselves down 10–0 to Kansas at halftime. They didn't take the lead until the fourth quarter of a 35–23 win.[155] Hopes of another conference title dimmed with a 27–14 loss three weeks later at Baylor, and were extinguished by a loss to Oklahoma State in the 2021 Bedlam game, in which the Sooners blew a nine-point lead in the fourth quarter.[156] In the aftermath, Riley announced his departure to become the head coach of USC, stunning fans and administrators alike.[157][158] Bob Stoops was named interim head coach for the team's post-season Alamo Bowl appearance. He coached the 16th-ranked Sooners to a 47–32 defeat of #14 Oregon, highlighted by three touchdowns each for Williams and Brooks.[159] However, in February 2022, Williams became one of numerous players to follow Riley to USC, leaving the starting QB job vacant. Spencer Rattler would also leave, going to play for Shane Beamer's University of South Carolina Gamecocks team.[160]

The Sooners placed seven players in the 2022 NFL Draft, highlighted by linebackers Nik Bonitto and Brian Asamoah, who went only two picks apart at #64 and #66. An additional five players signed as undrafted free agents.

Brent Venables era (2022–present)[edit]

On December 5, 2021, Brent Venables was named the 23rd head coach of the Oklahoma Sooners.[161] Venables arrived with no prior head coaching experience and previously served as the associate head coach (2018–2021), defensive coordinator and linebackers coach (2012–2021) at Clemson University.[162] Venables also previously served as an assistant coach for the Oklahoma Sooners under former head coach Bob Stoops from 1999 to 2011.[163] Venables signed a six-year contract with OU worth $43.5 million excluding incentives.[164][165] The starting quarterback job went to incoming transfer Dillon Gabriel, an experienced three-year starter at Central Florida.[166]

Conference affiliations[edit]

Oklahoma has been independent and a member of three conferences.[167]

Championships[edit]

National championships[edit]

Oklahoma claims seven consensus national championships won by selection in the major college football polls.[168]: 13  In addition, in ten years other than those seven championship seasons, Oklahoma has appeared atop lists by selectors designated by the NCAA as "major", primarily using math rating formulas.[169][170]: 108–115 

Claimed national championships[edit]

Season Coach Selector(s) Record Bowl Opponent Result Final AP Final Coaches'
1950 Bud Wilkinson AP, Berryman, Helms, Litkenhous, UPI Coaches, Williamson[170]: 112  10–1 Sugar Bowl Kentucky L 7–13 No. 1 No. 1
1955 AP, Berryman, Billingsley, DeVold, Dunkel, Football Research, FW, Helms, INS, Litkenhous, National Championship Foundation, Poling, Sagarin, Sagarin (ELO-Chess), UPI coaches, Williamson[170]: 113  11–0 Orange Bowl Maryland W 20–6
1956 AP, Billingsley, Boand, DeVold, Dunkel, FW, Helms, INS, Litkenhous, National Championship Foundation, Sagarin, UPI coaches, Williamson[170]: 113  10–0
1974 Barry Switzer AP, Berryman, Billingsley, DeVold, Dunkel, FACT, FB News, Football Research, Helms*, Litkenhous, National Championship Foundation*, Poling, Sagarin, Sagarin (ELO-Chess)[170]: 114  11–0
1975 AP, Billingsley, DeVold, Dunkel, FACT*, FB News, Football Research, FW, Helms*, National Championship Foundation*, NFF, Sagarin, Sagarin (ELO-Chess), UPI Coaches[170]: 114  11–1 Orange Bowl Michigan W 14–6 No. 1
1985 AP, Berryman, Billingsley, DeVold, Dunkel, FACT, FB News, Football Research, FW, National Championship Foundation, NFF, NY Times, Sagarin*, Sporting News, UPI, USA/CNN coaches[170]: 114  11–1 Orange Bowl Penn State W 25–10
2000 Bob Stoops AP, Berryman, BCS, Billingsley, DeVold, Dunkel, Eck, FACT, FB News, FW, Massey, Matthews, National Championship Foundation, NFF, Sagarin, Sagarin (ELO-Chess), Seattle Times, Sporting News, USA/ESPN[170]: 115  13–0 Orange Bowl (BCS National Championship Game) Florida State W 13–2

Unclaimed national championships[edit]

Season Coach Selector(s) Record Bowl Opponent Result
1915 Bennie Owen Billingsley MOV[170]: 111  10–0
1949 Bud Wilkinson Football Research[170]: 112  11–0 Sugar Bowl LSU W 35–0
1953 Berryman, Football Research[170]: 113  9–1–1 Orange Bowl Maryland W 7–0
1957 Berryman[170]: 113  10–1 Orange Bowl Duke W 48–21
1967 Chuck Fairbanks Poling[170]: 113  10–1 Orange Bowl Tennessee W 26–24
1973 Barry Switzer DeVold, Dunkel, Football Research, Sagarin[170]: 113–114  10–0–1
1978 DeVold, Dunkel, FACT, Helms, Litkenhous, Matthews, Poling, Sagarin[170]: 114  11–1 Orange Bowl Nebraska W 31–24
1980 Dunkel, Matthews[170]: 114  10–2 Orange Bowl Florida State W 18–17
1986 Berryman, DeVold, Dunkel, Football Research, NY Times, Sagarin[170]: 114  11–1 Orange Bowl Arkansas W 42–8
2003 Bob Stoops Berryman[170]: 115  12–2 BCS Nat'l Championship Game LSU L 14–21

In general, math formula rankings are not recognized as national championships.[171] For years other than the seven in which Oklahoma was selected by a major poll as national champion, the following created math rating systems that selected Oklahoma:

Richard Billingsley: 1915*
Clyde P. Berryman: 1953*, 1957*, 1986*, 2003
Richard Poling: 1967, 1978
Richard C. Dunkel, Sr.: 1973, 1978, 1980, 1986
Harry DeVold: 1973, 1978, 1986
Jeff Sagarin: 1973*, 1978, 1986
David Rothman: 1978
Edward Litkenhous: 1978
Herman Matthews: 1978, 1980
The New York Times: 1986

Others:

own selection: Bill Schroeder[172][173] 1978
member polling: College Football Researchers Association 1949* 1953*, 1973*, 1986
* retrospective selection

Conference championships[edit]

The team has captured 50 conference titles, including 14 in a row from 1946 to 1959.[1]

# Season Conference Coach Overall Record Conference Record
1 1915 Southwest Bennie Owen 10–0 3–0
2 1918 6–0 2–0
3 1920 MVIAA 6–0–1 4–0–1
4 1938 Big 6 Tom Stidham 10–1 5–0
5 1943 Dewey Luster 7–2 5–0
6 1944 6–3–1 4–0–1
7 1946 Jim Tatum 8–3 4–1
8 1947 Bud Wilkinson 7–2–1 4–0–1
9 1948 Big 7 10–1 5–0
10 1949 11–0 5–0
11 1950 10–1 6–0
12 1951 8–2 6–0
13 1952 8–1–1 5–0
14 1953 9–1–1 6–0
15 1954 10–0 6–0
16 1955 11–0 6–0
17 1956 10–0 6–0
18 1957 10–1 6–0
19 1958 Big 8 10–1 6–0
20 1959 7–3 5–1
21 1962 8–3 7–0
22 1967 Chuck Fairbanks 10–1 7–0
23 1968 7–4 6–1
24 1972 11–1 6–1
25 1973 Barry Switzer 10–0–1 7–0
26 1974 11–0 7–0
27 1975 11–1 6–1
28 1976 9–2–1 6–1
29 1977 10–2 7–0
30 1978 11–1 6–0
31 1979 11–1 7–0
32 1980 10–2 7–0
33 1984 9–2–1 6–1
34 1985 11–1 7–0
35 1986 11–1 7–0
36 1987 11–1 7–0
37 2000 Big 12 Bob Stoops 13–0 8–0
38 2002 12–2 6–2
39 2004 12–1 8–0
40 2006 11–3 7–1
41 2007 11–3 6–2
42 2008 12–2 7–1
43 2010 12–2 6–2
44 2012 10–3 8–1
45 2015 11–2 8–1
46 2016 11–2 9–0
47 2017 Lincoln Riley 12–2 8–1
48 2018 12–2 8–1
49 2019 12–2 8–1
50 2020 9–2 6–2

† Co-championship

‡ Both Nebraska[174] and Oklahoma[168]: 6  claim the 1972 championship, despite Oklahoma in early 1973 forfeiting eight games from the 1972 season and the Big 8 crown.[77][78]

Division championships[edit]

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 Division Coach Overall Record Conference Record Opponent CG result
2000 Big 12 South Bob Stoops 13–0 8–0 Kansas State W 27–24
2002 12–2 6–2 Colorado W 29–7
2003 12–2 8–0 Kansas State L 7–35
2004 12–1 8–0 Colorado W 42–3
2006 11–3 7–1 Nebraska W 21–7
2007 11–3 6–2 Missouri W 38–17
2008 12–2 7–1 Missouri W 62–21
2010 12–2 6–2 Nebraska W 23–20

† Co-championship

Head coaches[edit]

The team has had 23 head coaches, with the current head coach being Brent Venables who was hired on December 5, 2021.[175] Oklahoma started organized football with the nickname Sooners in 1895.[176] The Sooners have played in more than 1,100 games in a total of 96 seasons.[176] In those seasons, nine coaches have led the Sooners to postseason bowl games: Tom Stidham, Jim Tatum, Bud Wilkinson, Gomer Jones, Chuck Fairbanks, Barry Switzer, Gary Gibbs, Bob Stoops, and Lincoln Riley. Nine coaches have won conference championships with the Sooners: Bennie Owen, Stidham, Dewey Luster, Tatum, Wilkinson, Fairbanks, Switzer, Stoops, and Riley. 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.[175]

Of the 23 Sooner coaches, Owen, Lawrence Jones, Tatum, Wilkinson, Switzer, and Stoops have been inducted in the College Football Hall of Fame.[177] Wilkinson, Switzer, and Stoops have each received National Coach of the Year honors from at least one organization.[178]

Coaching staff[edit]

Oklahoma Sooners
Name Position Consecutive season at Oklahoma in current position Previous position
Jeff Lebby Offensive coordinator / quarterbacks 1st Ole Miss – Offensive coordinator / quarterbacks (20202021)
Ted Roof Defensive coordinator / linebackers 1st Clemson – Defensive analyst (2021)
Todd Bates Associate head coach / co–defensive coordinator / defensive tackles 1st Clemson – Defensive tackles / recruiting coordinator (2020–2021)
Jay Valai Co–defensive coordinator / cornerbacks & nickelbacks 1st Alabama – Cornerbacks (2021)
L'Damian Washington Interim wide receivers 1st
Bill Bedenbaugh Offensive line 10th Oklahoma – Co–offensive coordinator / offensive line (2017–2021)
DeMarco Murray Running backs 3rd Arizona – Running backs (2019)
Joe Jon Finley Associate head coach for offense / tight ends & h-backs 2nd Ole Miss – Passing game coordinator / tight ends (2020)
Miguel Chavis Defensive ends 1st Clemson – Defensive player development (2017–2021)
Brandon Hall Safeties 1st Troy – Interim head coach / defensive coordinator / safeties (2021)
Jerry Schmidt Director of sport enhancement / strength & conditioning 1st Texas A&M – Director of athletic performance (20182021)
Reference:[179]

Stadium[edit]

Gaylord Family – Oklahoma Memorial Stadium

The Sooners play their home games at Gaylord Family Oklahoma Memorial Stadium also known as The Palace on the Prairie. 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).[180] 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.[181] 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.[181] 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.[181] Despite the official capacity, the Sooners routinely average well above capacity, most recently 86,735 for the 2018 season. The largest crowd ever was 88,308 on November 11, 2017, against TCU.[182]

Rivalries[edit]

Nebraska[edit]

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.[183] For the majority of the 20th 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 series 47–38–3. On September 18, 2021, Oklahoma defeated Nebraska 23–16. Oklahoma beat Nebraska 49–14 on the last matchup on September 17, 2022.[184]

Oklahoma State[edit]

Oklahoma leads the series 90–19–7 through the 2021 season.[185]

Texas[edit]

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.[186] For the majority of the 20th 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.[187] The stadium is split along the 50-yard line with Oklahoma fans occupying the south half of the field. Texas leads the series 62–50–5 through the 2021 season.[188][189]

Missouri[edit]

Oklahoma leads the inactive series 67–24–5 as of 2021 with the last game played in 2011.[190]

Pageantry[edit]

School colors[edit]

   
Crimson Cream

Oklahoma's official school colors are crimson and cream.[191] 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.[192] After her decision, the colors were brought in front of the student body who enthusiastically approved of her selections. In recent years,[when?] red and white have sometimes replaced crimson and cream.

Mascot[edit]

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.[193] 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.[193] 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.[194] 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.[193]

The Sooner Schooner on the field during a football game.

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.[193] 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.[193] 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.[193]

The mascot for Oklahoma is the Sooner Schooner, a conestoga wagon similar to the primary method of transportation used by early settlers in Oklahoma.[194] The Schooner is maintained and driven by members of the RUF/NEKS, the university's all-male spirit organization, along with 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.[194]

Music[edit]

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 "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 and frequently travels to other games. The band holds a game ball from the Bedlam Series game in 1983, the day "the Pride" won.[195]

Awards[edit]

Heisman Trophy[edit]

The Heisman Trophy is awarded annually to the nation's most outstanding college football player. Seven Oklahoma players have won the Heisman Trophy, six more finished runner-up. Kyler Murray is the most recent winner having won the 2018 Heisman Trophy.[196]

Year Player Position Points Notes
1952 Billy Vessels HB 525 [196]
1954 Kurt Burris C 838 [196]
1969 Steve Owens RB 1,488 [196]
1972 Greg Pruitt RB 966 [196]
1978 Billy Sims RB 827 [196]
1979 Billy Sims RB 773 [196]
2000 Josh Heupel QB 1,552 [196]
2003 Jason White QB 1,481 [197]
2004 Adrian Peterson RB 997 [198]
2008 Sam Bradford QB 1,726 [199]
2017 Baker Mayfield QB 2,398 [200]
2018 Kyler Murray QB 2,167 [201]
2019 Jalen Hurts QB 762 [202]

Other awards[edit]

Outland Trophy[203]
Best college football interior lineman
1951 Jim WeatherallT
1953 J.D. RobertsG
1975 Lee Roy SelmonDT
1978 Greg RobertsG
2004 Jammal BrownOT
Sporting News College Football
Player of the Year
[204]
Player of the year
1952 Billy Vessels – HB
1956 Tommy McDonaldHB
1969 Steve Owens – HB
1978 Billy Sims – HB
2003 Jason White – QB
2008 Sam Bradford – QB
2015 Baker Mayfield – QB
Maxwell Award[205]
Best all-around college football player
1956 Tommy McDonald – HB
2004 Jason White – QB
2017 Baker Mayfield – QB
Walter Camp Award[206]
Collegiate football player of the year
1969 Steve Owens – HB
1978 Billy Sims – HB
2000 Josh Heupel – QB
2017 Baker Mayfield – QB
Lombardi Award[207]
Best lineman or linebacker (1970–2016)
Best college football player (2017–present)
1975 Lee Roy Selmon – DT
1985 Tony CasillasNG
2003 Tommie HarrisDT
Dick Butkus Award[208]
Top linebacker
1985 Brian Bosworth
1986 Brian Bosworth
2001 Rocky Calmus
2003 Teddy Lehman
Jim Thorpe Award[209]
Top defensive back
1987 Rickey Dixon[210]DB
2000 Roy WilliamsS
2003 Derrick StraitCB
Associated Press College Football
Player of the Year Award
[211]
Most outstanding collegiate football player
2000 Josh Heupel – QB
2003 Jason White – QB
2008 Sam Bradford – QB
2017 Baker Mayfield – QB
2018 Kyler Murray – QB
Bronko Nagurski Trophy[212]
Best defensive player
2001 Roy Williams – S
2003 Derrick Strait – CB
Chuck Bednarik Award[213]
Best defensive player
2003 Teddy Lehman – LB
Davey O'Brien Award[214]
Best quarterback
2003 Jason White
2004 Jason White
2008 Sam Bradford
2017 Baker Mayfield
2018 Kyler Murray
Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Award[215]
Outstanding senior quarterback
2004 Jason White
Burlsworth Trophy[216]
Most outstanding player who began his career as a walk-on
2015 Baker Mayfield – QB
2016 Baker Mayfield – QB
Fred Biletnikoff Award[217]
Outstanding receiver
2016 Dede Westbrook
John Mackey Award[218]
Most outstanding tight end
2017 Mark Andrews

All-Americans[edit]

Claude Reeds – Oklahoma's first All American.

Every year, several publications release rosters of the best college football players in the country. 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. A consensus All-American is typically defined as a player who is named to three or more lists. Oklahoma has had 167 first-team All-Americans in its history, with 82 of them being named consensus All-Americans.[2]

College Football Hall of Fame[edit]

Oklahoma has 29 inductees in the College Football Hall of Fame. The first was coach Bennie Owen who was inducted as part of the inaugural class in 1951. The most recent is Roy Williams inducted in 2022.[219]

Name Position Tenure Inducted
Brian Bosworth LB 1984–1986 2015
Tom Brahaney C 1970–1972 2007
Kurt Burris C 1951–1954 2000
Tony Casillas DL 1982–1985 2004
Rickey Dixon CB 1984–1987 2019
Forest Geyer FB 1913–1915 1973
Keith Jackson TE 1984–1987 2001
Biff Jones Coach 1934–1936 1954
Tommy McDonald WR 1954–1956 1985
Bennie Owen Coach 1905–1926 1951
Steve Owens RB 1967–1969 1991
Jim Owens TE 1946–1949 1982
Greg Pruitt RB 1970–1972 1999
Claude Reeds FB 1910–1912 1961
J. D. Roberts OG 1951–1953 1993
Rod Shoate LB 1972–1974 2013
Barry Switzer Coach 1973–1988 2001
Lee Roy Selmon DE 1972–1975 1988
Billy Sims RB 1975–1978 1995
Bob Stoops Coach 1999–2016 2021
Jim Tatum Coach 1946 1984
Clendon Thomas RB/DB 1955–1957 2011
Jerry Tubbs C/LB 1954–1956 1996
Billy Vessels RB 1950–1952 1974
Jim Weatherall OT 1949–1951 1992
Joe Washington RB 1972–1975 2005
Bud Wilkinson Coach 1947–1963 1969
Roy Williams DB 1999–2001 2022
Waddy Young End 1936–1938 1986

Future non-conference opponents[edit]

Announced non-conference schedules as of October 8, 2022.[220]

2023 2024 2025 2026 2027 2028 2029 2030 2031 2032 2033 2034 2035 2036
Arkansas State Temple Illinois State (FCS) UTEP LSU* Temple Nebraska Tulsa Alabama* Tulsa at Clemson Clemson
SMU Tulane Michigan at Michigan at SMU at LSU* at Nebraska at Alabama*
at Tulsa at Temple New Mexico

*Opponent becomes intra-conference opponent with Oklahoma's impending move to the Southeastern Conference.

See also[edit]

Notes[edit]

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External links[edit]