With the Oklahoma Sooners’ undeserved national championship game approaching, let’s look back at the history of rules breaking at this fine institution.
1889: The Land Run
Territories in Oklahoma were opened for settlement at high noon on April 22, 1889, with an estimated 50,000 people lined up for their piece of the available two million acres. It was called a land run as land was claimed on a first come, first served basis.
Those who broke the rules by crossing the border into the territory before it was allowed were said to have been crossing the border sooner, leading to the term “sooners”, which eventually became the state’s official nickname.
Thus, the state institutionalized the approval of cheating.
1955: Recruiting Violations
Accusations were made by the NCAA of paying player’s tuition after their eligibility had expired, paying the bills of player’s families, and of the liberal spreading around of money in general. OU was put on probation for two years, with the NCAA noting how much it appreciated OU’s cooperation.
1960: The Slush Fund
A NCAA report stated that an OU athletic department official (unnamed) failed to report a slush fund operated by OU staff. The official stonewalled when its existence was revealed. OU was put on “indefinite suspension” until OU proved the slush fund was gone.
1973: Various Violations
Accusations included boosters providing transportation to recruits, and a Sooner assistant falsifying QB Kerry Jackson’s transcript so he would be eligible (the assistant was not terminated). The NCAA gave OU a TV ban and a bowl game ban. Barry Switzer was on the staff at this time, but was an assistant to head coach Chuck Fairbanks.
1980: Sweating the Small Stuff
Lots of smoke, but not much fire. Switzer mocked the NCAA for prosecuting them in his book, “Bootlegger’s Boy”, but players Charles Thompson and Brian Bosworth reported getting paid well in their respective books.
1988: Switzer’s True Colors Show
Any doubts that Switzer ran a dirty program were dispelled by the NCAA’s report covering 1985 and 1986. Assistant coaches offered envelopes with cash to recruits, cars were provided, bills were taken care of, and game tickets were sold. An internal OU investigation revealed no additional violations. Unfortunately, ex-players and recruits talked, so the NCAA reported additional violations.
OU again investigated and found nothing more. The NCAA sanctioned OU, and informed them that if they fought the sanctions, the NCAA had more they could investigate.
Oklahoma received a three year probation, a two year television ban, and a one year bowl ban. Switzer was fired.
April 2006: A Phone Addiction
The NCAA revealed an investigation into hundreds of improper recruiting phone calls by former basketball coach Kelvin Sampson’s staff. Oklahoma escaped major sanctions, as the NCAA found OU guilty of a “failure to monitor,” a less severe ruling than “lack of institutional control,” which had been recommended by the NCAA’s enforcement staff.
The NCAA backed OU’s self-imposed two year probation, but also issued a public reprimand and censure.
August 2006: Big Red Imports
Right before the 2006 football season, it was revealed that Rhett Bomar and J.D. Quinn had been kicked off the team. They had been “employed” by car dealership Big Red Imports, and being paid for work they did not perform. They were let go from the team right before the NCAA came down on OU.
Additional investigations by OU concluded that no additional violations had occurred, even though Adrian Peterson had purchased a vehicle from the dealership before securing financing, driven it for several weeks, and then returned the car. Oklahoma ruled Peterson did not violate rules because the dealership said it was normal business practice.
Oklahoma was forced by the NCAA to forfeit its wins from the 2005 season and lost two scholarships for the 2008-09 and 2009-10 school years. It’s probation from the Sampson problem was also extended.
So there you are. Quite a history of dishonesty and cheating the Sooners have.
In all fairness, Bob Stoops seems to be trying to run a clean program. Their 2000 national championship is likely one of the cleanest ever. And there are indications that Stoops didn’t know about the Big Red Imports violations until right before he kicked Bomar and Quinn off the team, although the clearing of Peterson is a bit bothersome.
I’m sure this honesty is just a temporal situation, and Oklahoma will return to its cheating ways soon enough.