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Oklahoma Football Traditions Include a Lot More Than 'Boomer Sooner'

Alabama and Oklahoma have occasionally played in college football, but now could be regular opponents depending on how the restructured Southeastern Conference looks. 

From the crimson and cream colors, to the songs played at sporting events, Oklahoma stands out in many ways:  

The Nickname 

The Sooner nickname dates back to when Oklahoma was a territory that had a famous land run that was open to all settlers. There weren't many rules, except the land was free to anyone who staked a claim during a race. 

A cannon blast signaled the start, and those who did start on time were known as "Boomers." Those who got an early start, and broke the rules, were known as "Sooners."

Oklahoma eventually became known as the "Sooner State" and the term came to be associated with a can-do spirit. 

The school's first teams were known as the Rough Riders, or Boomers, but near 1908 the switch started to be made to Sooners with the booster club named the Sooner Rooters. 

The Sooner Schooner  

Pulled by ponies Boomer and Sooner, Oklahoma's trademark Sooner Schooner is one of college football's most recognizable traditions. Introduced in 1964, it didn't become an official mascot until 1980. 

The Sooner Schooner is a replica of the Conestoga (covered) wagons that were often used for transportation by the pioneers who first settled the territory. It is piloted by a member of the Ruf/Neks spirit group, with a Ruf/Neks queen riding alongside. 

Boomer and Sooner 

Oklahoma's other mascots are costumed horses who wear jerseys. 

A century ago, from 1915-28, Oklahoma also had a live mascot, Mex the dog. Mex would roam the sidelines of football and baseball games while wearing a red sweater with the letter O. However, his primary role was to prevent stray dogs from wandering on to the field. 

Mex was adopted in 1914 by U.S. Army medic Mott Keys, who was deployed to Mexico during the Mexican Revolution. When Keys, from Hollis, Oklahoma, attended OU he took Mex with him.

When Mex died in 1928, the university closed for his funeral. We only mention him here because he's buried somewhere underneath the football stadium.

The Seed Sower    

Standing near the edge of the South Oval on the main campus, the Seed Sower statue is one fo the school's most recognizable symbols. It represents a parable told by the school's first president, David Ross Boyd, about a seed sower planting the seeds of knowledge. 

Per football tradition, when Oklahoma learns its bowl destination, the statue is appropriately adorned. For example, a trip to the Orange Bowl resulted in the statue's sack of seeds being filled with fresh oranges. 

The Stadium

Gaylord Family Oklahoma Memorial Stadium is also known as its original name, Owen Field, or The Palace on the Prairie. Bernie Owen was the team's coach during the initial construction in 1923. 

It was renamed to honor the Oklahoma students who died during World War I, while the Gaylord Family contributed millions to the athletic program and the school.  

From 1970 to 1993, the Sooners played on artificial turf, but switched to grass in 1994. The south end has been enclosed since the 2015-2016 offseason, when the stadium was renovated as part a $160 million project dubbed as phase I of upgrading the facility. Phase II has yet to happen. 

Capacity is now 86,112. 

The Songs 

There are two that the Pride of Oklahoma marching band will regularly play.

The fight song "Boomer Sooner" was borrowed from Yale's "Boola Boola," with some of the lyrics inspired by North Carolina's "I'm a Tar Heel Born."

Boomer Sooner, Boomer Sooner
Boomer Sooner, Boomer Sooner
Boomer Sooner, Boomer Sooner
Boomer Sooner, OK U!

Oklahoma, Oklahoma
Oklahoma, Oklahoma
Oklahoma, Oklahoma
Oklahoma, OK U!

I'm a Sooner born and Sooner bred
and when I die, I'll be Sooner dead
Rah Oklahoma, Rah Oklahoma
Rah Oklahoma, OK U! 

Of course, then there's the chorus to the Rodgers and Hammerstein's musical "Oklahoma!" It became the official state song in 1953. 

Oklahoma, where the wind comes sweepin' down the plain

And the wavin' wheat can sure smell sweet
When the wind comes right behind the rain.

Oklahoma, Ev'ry night my honey lamb and I
Sit alone and talk and watch a hawk
Makin' lazy circles in the sky.

We know we belong to the land
And the land we belong to is grand!
And when we say:
Ee-ee-ow! A-yip-i-o-ee-ay!
We're only sayin',
You're doin' fine, Oklahoma!
Oklahoma, O-K!

This is the second story in a series that will examine the history of the Sooners football program, and what it will bring to the SEC. Parts of this post originated from the book, Huddle Up: Oklahoma Football.

Welcome to the Southeastern Conference, Oklahoma!