As we approach the start of another college football season for the Oklahoma Sooners, I thought I would share a story from my youth.
Growing up in Oklahoma, I quickly became a fan of the Sooner football team. Unfortunately, the team went through a rather mediocre stretch during my younger days. The team finished with 6 wins and 6 losses at the end of the 1994 season. Having gone 2-15-1 in his career against Texas, Nebraska, and Colorado, Coach Gary Gibbs (no relation) was forced to resign.
Before the 1995 season, the University of Oklahoma hired Howard Schnellenberger. With a national championship at Miami and a notable turnaround at Louisville, Schnellenberger arrived with great promise - declaring, “They’ll write books and make movies about my time here.”
Fast-forward to the summer of 1995. I was shopping with my mom at the now defunct Shepherd Mall in Oklahoma City. As we were walking around, I stopped dead in my tracks. “Holy crap, Mom! The new OU football coach is over there giving out free autographs!” I exclaimed. So we moved into line to meet Howard Schnellenberger and get his autograph. I don’t know if I can properly capture exactly how excited I was in meeting the coach of the state’s larger-than-life football team.
After a short while, we reached Coach and he greeted me. “Hi there, youngster.” he said in his uniquely gruff voice, “What’s your name?” Nearly forgetting, I shyly told him that my name was Jeremy. “Jerry?!?” he asked in a loud voice. “No sir, Jeremy.” I timidly replied. “Oh okay! Great!” he said handing me the signed note card, “Thanks for coming out and seeing me. Be sure and cheer us on this year. Boomer Sooner!”
I clenched that note card, not wanting to lose my new prized possession. I gushed to my mom how awesome it was meeting the coach of the Sooners. That may have been the coolest moment of my eleven-year-old life. As we walked to the car, I looked down at the autograph. Immediately, I noticed something didn’t quite look right. I read the note card once again. “Dang!” I yelled. My mom asked me what was wrong. I read her the autograph, “Best Wishes, Jim. Howard Schnellenberger. Sooners ‘95.”
The Sooners finished the 1995 season at 5-5-1 and Schnellenberger resigned under pressure following a series of controversial events. The story will hopefully bring you a chuckle and remind all Sooner fans that things can be, and were, much worse. So before jumping off any buildings following a close, unexpected defeat, just remember Howard.