COLUMN: There's more to OU sports than football, basketball
Melodie Lettkeman, The Oklahoma Daily
With a history of success and a high national profile, there is no doubt football is the big man on campus as far as OU sports are concerned.
But the athletic accomplishment spans farther than the gridiron at OU, and you have a front-row ticket to all of the action.
Last season, 16 of Oklahoma’s 21 teams advanced to the postseason, ending with top-10 finishes in seven sports, and no, football wasn’t one of them.
The softball and men’s gymnastics teams were national runners up in their sports, while women’s golf (sixth), men’s cross country (sixth), women’s track and field (seventh), women’s gymnastics (seventh), and men’s tennis (10th) all ended the season with a top-10 ranking.
With that level of success, it’s no surprise OU added several conference titles to its trophy cases last year.
Five teams — women’s golf, men’s and women’s gymnastics, softball, and men’s tennis — combined for an astounding 57-7 in conference play to finish atop of the standings in their prospective sports.
All five coaches of the teams also earned Coach of the Year awards, while six Sooners were honored with Player of the Year awards from the conference.
Oklahoma also added four individual national champions last season, including the first-ever women’s golf champion, junior Chirapat Jao-Javanil.
Track throwing veterans Tia Brooks and Brittany Borman also earned national champion honors in the shot put and javelin, respectively.
Junior gymnast Jake Dalton became the first OU gymnast to earn All-America honors in all six events and added his third and fourth national titles last year as the NCAA All-Around and Parallel Bars champion. The latter three athletes also were selected to represent Team USA in the 2012 Olympics.
What probably makes all of this prestige more interesting for OU fans is the fact that most of these athletes will return this year: Softball only graduated one starting senior, and Jao-Javanil, Brooks and Dalton all have eligibility remaining.
OU’s athletic success makes Norman a prime spot for regional host sites and a hot bed to see some of the best athletes in the county.
Just north of the football field, you can find the McCasland Field House, where men’s gymnastics, volleyball and wrestling compete. Most events are scheduled during the evening, which provides a great break from studying, and the close proximity of the student section to the court gives you the best seat in the house.
But if outdoor sports are more to your liking, take a short trip down Asp Avenue — that’s the street east of the dorms — to L. Dale Mitchell Park, which consistently hosts some of the top teams in baseball. You’ll quickly learn the Red River Rivalry between OU and Texas isn’t limited to football, and most fans line up lawn chairs on the hills surrounding the ball field, so you’ll always be a part of the crowd.
And don’t miss out on smelling the freshly cut grass mixed with hot dogs and salty popcorn for Sunday afternoon games at OU’s softball complex. Skip over two blocks from the baseball field to find Marita Hynes Field bustling with softball fans who continuously witness some of the best power hitters in the country.
The OU softball team boasts one of the top facilities in the country and is one of the only places that allows you to sit directly behind the umpire, where the best heckling against opponents can be found. And best of all for students, all of these experiences will fit in a college budget.
THE PRICE (OR LACK THEREOF...)
While NCAA games are required to charge admission, your student ID is your VIP pass to every sporting event sans football and men’s basketball.
As a student, it’s hard to argue with free admission to anything, and most student sections also give away prizes and food just for showing up. Swipe your card and get into the Friday night soccer game, where you can sit in the stands at midfield without needing a season pass.
Use your ID to watch coach Sherri Coale and her women’s basketball team battle last year’s national champion,
Baylor. And I don’t know what it is about ice cream in December, but the delicious swirl at Lloyd Noble Center during a basketball game is some of the best in Norman.
Whether you join a team’s fan club or just take some time to enjoy being outside your dorm room, one of the best reasons to go to an OU sporting event is watching and supporting fellow students during their competition.
You’ll hear all about how the university is a family and that there’s only one Oklahoma, but both statements bear no weight without athletic fan support for every sport.
The fact that the teams are successful makes the competition that much more enjoyable because sports fans don’t like to be on the losing end.
The fact that the facilities are easy to get to means you don’t have to drive your car all around campus just to find out there isn’t enough parking anyway.
And the fact that students get into the games for free means you really don’t have a good excuse not to make it to at least one game of every sport during your time here at OU.
Tobi Neidy is a public relations senior and sports reporter for The Daily. Follow her on Twitter at @TobiAnn.