Oklahoma Sooners football
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.
The program claims 7 national championships, 49 conference championships, 162 First Team All-Americans (80 consensus), 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 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. Lincoln Riley is currently the team’s head coach.
Early history (1895–1905) – Oklahoma Sooners football
Football at Oklahoma made its start in September 1895, 12 years before statehood and one year after the first organized football game in Oklahoma Territory. The team was organized by John A. Harts, a student from Winfield, Kansas who had played the game in his home state. That first team was composed of mostly non-students, including a local fireman. 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). The first game was played on a field of low prairie grass just northwest of the current site of Holmberg Hall. 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 become a gold prospector.
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). 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, two losses, and one tie. 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.
Oklahoma vs. Arkansas City (Kansas) Town Team in 1899 with Vernon Parrington as coach.
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, and Fred Ewing recorded a 4–3–1 record in 1904. The most notable event of those four years came in 1904 when Oklahoma had its first match against its in-state rival, Oklahoma A&M. The game was played on November 6, 1904 at Mineral Wells Park in Guthrie, Oklahoma
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.
Oklahoma Sooners football – Bennie Owen era (1905–1926)
After ten years of football, the program began to get serious and started looking for a permanent head coach. They found Bennie Owen, a former quarterback of the undefeated Kansas team of 1899 led by famous coach Fielding H. Yost.
The undefeated team of 1915.
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. 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. 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. In Owen’s first year, 1905, he gave Oklahoma its first victory over rival Texas, defeating them 2–0. Owen’s first dominant team came in 1908 when they went 8–1–1, losing only to the powerful Kansas team. His 1908 team used hand-offs directly to large runners as the forward pass was just becoming common. His 1911 team, on the other hand, had several small and fast players that the quarterback would pass directly to. That team went 8–0. Owen had two more undefeated seasons in 1915 and 1918. 1920 was also Oklahoma’s first season in the stronger Missouri Valley Intercollegiate Athletic Association after three season in the Southwest Conference of which it was a founding member. In the new conference, they went 6–0–1 tying only Kansas State. Owen retired after the 1926 season. During Owen’s 22-year career at Oklahoma, he went 122–54–16, a 67.7% winning percentage. In 1951, he became the first person from Oklahoma to be inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in its inaugural year.