OU football: Being in tune with Sooners for 40 years … or am I?


It wasn’t easy tuning into OU football games in the 1970s.

I can trace my OU football consciousness to 1972. Bored with a visit to a nursing home in Eufaula, I retired to the fam’s sedan and began to channel surf AM radio, looking for a way to kill three hours, maybe find some Three Dog Night.

What I happened upon was something that, for over four decades now, would cause me to obsess over a certain team and become a recluse on fall Saturday afternoons.

That day in 1972, I tuned into a McAlester station and found Bob Barry calling OU’s methodical 49-0 rout of Utah State. Bob described it in such a clinical way, not frantic nor over the top, like my dad was explaining the game to me. The next week, back in the same parking lot, I tuned to OU’s 68-3 blowout of Oregon. The next week, same place, it was 49-3 over Clemson.

So, through AM radio, I was beginning to see the big deal about OU football. My dad was a big OU fan who went to all the games in the Bud Wilkinson era. I had seen the Selmons when they played at Eufaula High. I watched the 1971 Game of the Century, but I barely understood the significance until I found it all being presented to me on radio.

I bring this up because on Saturday night, 40 years later, I’ll be tuning into the Sooners’ game with Florida A&M on radio. Well, not exactly radio. It’s a smartphone app, but it’s my best option since I don’t plan on paying $40 to see this game on pay-per-view.

The year after that season of OU consciousness, things changed — dramatically. OU was slapped with NCAA probation. No bowl games. No TV. No Bob Barry.

With the TV ban, that meant OU was only available via radio. And not only were things changing because of the probation (new players, new coaches), the guys calling the game were changing. John Brooks and Mike Treps were the new play-by-play guys, but they, of course, weren’t Bob Barry, whose station lost the broadcast rights.

John Brooks

It seemed strange at first. But after a while, Brooks and Treps began to grow on me. They brought me into the Barry Switzer era. I especially liked Brooks’ signature “Jiminy Christmas!” call. I liked Treps’ style, including his 1973 call of Joe Washington’s 71-yard touchdown run against Missouri (click on video below).

Still, it was hardly the good old days of OU radio. Listening to OU play-by-play was a challenge — especially at night and especially if you lived in the country. Nothing would make you punch the dashboard more than a rockabilly station bleeding over into OU play-by-play, especially when the Sooners were locked into a big game with USC or Miami.

Over the years, the signal improved and the voices changed. And I lost interest in who was calling OU games when the Sooners started appearing on TV on a regular basis. I know that when I start up the app Saturday, I’ll hear one familiar voice, Merv Johnson, who provides that bridge between the Switzer and Bob Stoops eras while bringing insider context and perspective into the broadcast.

Bob Barry returned in 1991, but unfortunately it was about the same time OU slipped into its dark era under Howard Schnellenberger and John Blake.  Frustrated at OU’s program,  it was difficult to make the same connection with Bob Barry — or OU football on the radio — that I had in 1972.

I’ll give it another try, but it won’t be the same.

ABOUT THE GAME: Bob Stoops’ biggest challenge will be when to take out Landry Jones. OU will have its way with Florida A&M and might score in the 80s (Stoops won’t let that happen). Landry will play until halftime and the first series of the third quarter with Stoops, who’s been criticized for not substituting earlier, will defend the move by saying he wanted Landry to get more snaps. Blake Bell QBs the rest of the third quarter and half the fourth. Drew Allen finishes it out. About 15 receivers will catch passes and OU will intercept about six passes. OU wins 77-0.

BLOWOUT TIPS FROM DANTE: From 1984-87, linebacker Dante Jones was around for several of the Sooners’ routs, including 77-0, 65-0, 63-0. In his day, was OU’s approach any different for an obviously outmanned opponent? Heck, no. “We wanted to beat everyone as bad as we could. You could see the teams that were scared and didn’t have much fight in them. The old saying, ‘If you let a under dog stay in the fight. They start thinking they have a chance to win.’ … It’s true, so we went out and punched teams in the mouth early. Showing them everything they heard was true.” Jones also expressed a “kids-these-days” moment: “We were always motivated. [Defensive back] Javon Harris missed four tackles last week. On the team I played on, he wouldn’t be seeing the field this week.”

MY FAVORITE LINE ABOUT BLOWOUTS: For Huskers Illustrated back in 1993, I wrote this just before North Texas was about to take on Nebraska for a big payday and lose 76-14: “Who knows how many more Christians would have taken on the lions for a bigger paycheck?”

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