When it comes to rooting for the Oklahoma Sooners, the first thing a fan must do is learn what in the world a “Sooner” actually is. Crack open a history book, and you’ll learn that the nickname comes from the late 1800s, when settlers were scrambling to claim land in the area. Those who jumped the gun were on the scene “too soon,” and the phrase stuck. These days, the only time that “Sooner” and “land” come up in the same sentence is when someone says: “The Sooners are the finest college football program in all the land.”
Oklahoma University has been around longer than Oklahoma the state (or the musical, for that matter). The school has claimed national championships in sports such as baseball, wrestling, softball and gymnastics, but it’s their exploits on the gridiron that have made them a national power. Under the guidance of coach Bud Wilkinson, the football team captured titles in 1950, ‘55 and ‘56. There’s an old rumor that the classic “Play Like a Champion Today” mantra was born in Norman, and while it can’t be confirmed, it also can’t be proven that it originated anywhere else. Not only does OU stake claim to the most iconic phrase in collegiate sports, but the school is also at the center of two of the most celebrated rivalries in the country.
Each October, Sooner Nation travels to the State Fair in Dallas for the annual Red River Showdown with the University of Texas. These two longtime Big 12 foes are known to put big points up on the board when they square off, while the tailgating that takes place has become legendary in its own right. The school’s other classic clash can’t be confined to just one matchup. No, the Bedlam Series with Oklahoma State is a twelve-month exercise in one-upmanship. Across fourteen varsity sports, wins and losses are tallied to decide who reigns supreme in the Sooner State.
While bragging rights are nice, it’s titles that OU football fans covet the most. In the modern era, the Sooners have captured the national championship in ‘74, ‘75, ‘85 and 2000 and have claimed more than 40 conference crowns. The long-standing success has also created a clear-cut path to the professional level, as more than 300 Oklahoma players have been drafted into the NFL.
On Saturdays at Gaylord Family - Oklahoma Memorial Stadium, you can find 80,000 members of Sooner Nation cheering on the Crimson and Cream. Not only are they rooting fervently for their home team, but the Pride of Oklahoma marching band and the horse-drawn Sooner Schooner also elicit rounds of mega-cheers. It can be hard to keep track of all the traditions sometimes, but when everyone in attendance joins together to belt out the university rallying cry, it becomes clear that one phrase matters more than the rest. “Boomer Sooner, Boomer Sooner, Boomer Sooner,” the crowd will roar. “There’s no other place I’d rather be,” you’ll think to yourself.