DALLAS – On Thursday’s stop of the Sooner Caravan, Brent Venables made it clear how things have changed.
Venables wanted to “Pack the Palace” for Oklahoma’s annual spring game last month.
It was a major talking point for the new head coach of the Sooners all through spring camp leading up to the game on April 23 — and the fans delivered.
A program-record 75,360 people piled into Gaylord Family - Oklahoma Memorial Stadium on that fateful Saturday afternoon, the most of any spring game across the country in 2022.
It was an opportunity for OU fans to have their voices be heard across the college football world after an offseason filled with shake-ups, to which they absolutely responded.
But to Venables, this was far more than just a big display of Oklahoma pride — instead serving as a loud “message” to the rest of college football.
“We sent a message that best is the standard,” Venables told OU fans at a Coaches Caravan stop in Dallas on Thursday night. “That is what it looks like. That’s what excellence looks like. That’s what being ‘all in’ looks like. That’s what commitment looks like. That’s what Sooners look like.”
With the national narrative over the course of the winter seemingly being one to throw dirt on Oklahoma in the wake of Lincoln Riley and Caleb Williams’ departures for USC, Venables saw the impressive crowd turnout as a reminder of where OU resides in the hierarchy of college football.
“It sent a message to college football how important Oklahoma football is,” Venables said. “This is the winningest team in college football since 1940. Been the most consistent program in college football since 1999. The only program that has not had a losing season in all of college football (since 1999). Fifty conference championships, Alabama second at 29. So, just make sure we know who we are.”
But, while Venables is certainly more than willing to acknowledge the past at Oklahoma, his eyes are squarely on the future.
He reminds the team regularly that while it’s important to know the history of the program, the 2022 edition of the Sooners haven’t accomplished anything…yet.
“This is Team 128,” Venables said. “128th team in the history of Oklahoma football. And this team, I know everybody is excited, but this team hasn’t earned anything. I know we’re all excited about the spring game and what a great showing that was by the fans. I know our players appreciated that. (It) gave our players a real opportunity to play in what a game day atmosphere is going to look like in Norman, Oklahoma.
“But, this team hasn’t earned anything yet. So I’m really excited about the work this team is getting ready to put in. They don’t put championship rings on smooth hands. You got to put the work in.”
While the Sooners are undeniably one of the blue bloods of college football with success that rivals just about any other program in the country, the eighth national title in program history has proven to be elusive.
Despite seemingly always being a contender, Oklahoma’s last championship came over two decades ago when OU defeated Florida State for the 2000 crown.
With April's spring game just serving as the starting point, this is something Venables vows will change in his tenure in Norman.
“It’s been 22 years since we won the national championship,” Venables said. “I’m going to tell you one thing, it’s not going to be 22 more before we win that next one. I promise you.”