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The Day Woody Discovered the Sooners

“Columbus Day – Sept. 24, 1977 – The Day Woody Discovered the Sooners.” Half the state of Oklahoma plastered that bumper sticker on their vehicle at the beginning of the summer of 1977. I did, too, on my 1968 327 Chevy Malibu four barrel V-8. It was the summer before my senior year at OU and we didn’t have social media, cell phones, a thousand TV channels, and so many other entertainment options like we have now. Our school had won two national football championships in the previous three years, but we had never played the Ohio State Buckeyes, nor their legendary coach, Woody Hayes, though we were going to, in their house, on September 24th.

Uwe VonSchamann and "The Kick."


Looking back now, I can see why Woody told his team in the locker room before the game that they were upholding the honor not only of their team and school, but their entire conference against a team like us. Our coach, Barry Switzer, was a swashbuckling, riverboat gambler (figuratively and literally), whose father was murdered and whose mother committed suicide and died in his arms when he was seventeen. His New York Times best-selling autobiography would later be named Bootlegger’s Boy and he was a generation younger than old school Woody. I played basketball with most of the guys on our team and hung out with many of them. Most were good ole boys never meanin’ no harm, rakes and ramblers, many with funloving habits for which the chickens would come home to roost in later years, but I never heard of one of them who committed a mean spirited act or physically hurt anyone off the field. What acts they may have committed that today might be considered felonies, back then, as my Duncan friend, retired Judge Joe Enos, says, would have been considered pranks.

Anyhow, most of us had been looking forward to this game not just all summer, but the entire time we had been at OU. I don’t know if that is how it is now at the school, but that is how it was back then. And so twenty-two of us Delta Tau Delta fraternity boys convoyed north and east for the big game, my old Chevy Malibu in the vanguard. No offense to my friends from the North, but back then, nearly all of us at OU were actually from Oklahoma and very few of us were National Merit Scholars. Ohio was like a foreign country to us, especially when we sat down to a formal dinner with our Ohio State Delt “brothers” the Thursday night before the game and rather than welcoming us, they began to make fun of us, calling us hillbillies and hicks (Could it have been my $25 calfskin boots I bought at Draeger’s in Chelsea, Oklahoma, and which lasted me twenty years, through a few soles and heels?), making fun of how we talked, and shouting, “What the h---‘s a SOONAH!!” Not to mention their constant and loud boasts of how badly they were going to crush us on the football field.