Discover the tremendous stories surrounding Oklahoma Sooners football traditions. From the Sooners Nickname, the Sooner Schooner Mascot and more that makes cheering for OU so much fun!
Oklahoma Sooners Mascot: Sooner Schooner: Spirits are High When the Sooners are on the Wagon!
Perhaps the most famous form of transportation in college football is OU’s Sooner Schooner. Introduced in 1964, the schooner is a small covered wagon that represents the mode of travel the pioneers used when they settled into Oklahoma. The Schooner is powered by matching small white ponies named Boomer and Sooner, and plays a vital role in OU gameday activities. The Schooner makes a triumphant victory ride onto Owens field celebrates Oklahoma scores.
“There’s nothing like riding the Schooner,” said Corey Lapinsky, who served as a member of the university’s spirit group known as the Ruf-Necks. “You’re in front of 80,000 cheering fans. You drive out and hit the 25-yard line, turn around and the crowd goes crazy.” Fellow Ruf-Nek member Kevin Wolf added, “It gets hairy in the Schooner when its going fast and you make a quick turn.”
The Schooner’s ride to glory has made it well recognized by football fans across the country. However, the wagon mascot has taken the wrong fork in the road on more than one occasion. During a wild rush across Owens field one year the Schooner tipped over, spilling the riders and ponies. Initially, a hush filled the stadium as the fans feared the possibility of serious injuries. However, OU spirits were lifted when the wagon team was O.K. and rolling again.
Perhaps the biggest impact on a football game by the Sooner Schooner was the 1985 Orange Bowl loss to Washington. Following a 22-yard, fourth quarter Sooner field goal that split the uprights, the wagon burst onto the field to celebrate what appeared to be a late 17-14 OU lead. However, the Schooner crew had failed to notice that the Sooners had been penalized for an illegal formation. With the wagon on the field at a premature time, a referee’s yellow flag that flew through the air further subdued the crimson cheers. OU was penalized an additional 15 yards for unsportsmanlike conduct, forcing what would be a failed 42-yard kick.
“The penalty really affected the outcome of the game,” said longtime OU fan Bob Jackson. “The officials didn’t want the Boomer Schooner on the field because they considered it a delay of the game.”
The Sooners never recovered from the penalties that led to the blocked field goal as the Huskies rode the momentum to a 28-17 victory. When the Sooners returned to the Orange Bowl the following year the Schooner was in no danger of being ticketed. OU sports officials ordered the wagon to stay in a parked position in hopes of avoiding a repeat.
Although the Boomer Schooner has a long tradition dating back to 1964, OU has been represented by other mascots. A dog named Mex served the school fr om 1915 to 1928. The beloved mascot was first discovered in Mexico by a U.S. Army medic who would later bring the abandoned pup with him to college at OU.
Mex became a regular on the Sooner sidelines, wearing a red sweater with a big red letter “O” on the side. One of the responsibilities that Mex had was to keep stray dogs from wandering onto the field because access was much easier than it is now. The mascot enjoyed a lifestyle much more elaborate than the strays he chased away, since he resided in the Kappa Sigma fraternity house. Mex encountered many adventures and even survived being poisoned by non-Sooner fans. The beloved mascot finally subsumed to old age and died in 1928, after 13 years of faithful service. He was so popular that the university closed for his funeral and procession. Mex was laid to rest in a small casket somewhere under the existing stadium.
An Indian dancer named Little Red once supported the Sooners on the Owens field sidelines. Little Red first danced in Sooner delight in the 1940s and was part of OU game tradition until he was banished by the school president in 1970.
University of Oklahoma Nickname: Sooners
As a fan interested in collegiate nicknames, you figured that ‘sooner’or later you’d find out what an Oklahoma Sooner is. The nickname is tied to Oklahoma being know as the “Sooner State.” Since the word is associated with state pride, it was natural for the University of Oklahoma to adopt Sooners as its nickname.
The term derived from the Land Run of 1889 when the Oklahoma territory opened. Settlers from around the world converged in hopes of gaining free land and staking new lives for themselves. One of the few rules to claiming a lot of land was that all participants were to start at the same time, on the boom of a cannon. These settlers became known as “Boomers” and the ones who started too soon were dubbed “Sooners.”