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The Touchdown Club's actual financial contribution to Oklahoma football is fairly modest as those things go; last year it was $26,000, and it is seldom more than that. This money is deposited in the university's general fund, ear-marked for football scholarships, and it is administered by the University Athletic Council under Dean Earl Sneed Jr., of the OU law school. "We have a surplus we're saving for any possible lean years," explains Paul Brown, an Oklahoma attorney and oilman who was the moving spirit behind the foundation of the Touchdown Club ten years ago. "Last year Gomer Jones said they needed $26,000, and that was the check we made out."
The enthusiasm for football which has become endemic in the state of Oklahoma is fostered, too, by the Touchdown Club, which has membership in all the small towns in the state. This gives the university a network of people interested in furthering OU football; no high school prospect in the state of Oklahoma can play a football game without an interested OU alumnus watching him. The network spreads into Texas, too, so that OU alumni can keep their alma mater informed on the bright prospects in the vast complex of Texas high schools. Although the Oklahoma coaching staff discourages any alumnus from contacting a high school player, it obviously does no harm to have someone on hand to remind the youngster quietly—and by example, since many of the alumni are well-to-do oil people—of the advantages of education on the red clay flats of Norman.
X = SPIRIT
Once a football player has decided to enroll at Oklahoma, he is caught up in the kind of unabashed college spirit that characterized U.S. campus life in the 1920s. At OU, a fifth-team guard is a hero on the campus, an idol in his home town and a celebrity wherever he goes. The stars of the Oklahoma teams are accorded all the adulation football heroes used to receive in the less-sophisticated glory days of the game, and this is true not only on the campus but all over the state. Much of this campus hero-worship is due to the fact that the Oklahoma athletes are a homogeneous part of the student body. They talk with the same western accent, wear the same faded blue jeans and join the same fraternities as do the nonathletic members of the student body. The team is affectionately known as the " Big Red," and Big Red is a favorite name for Oklahoma small businesses. Driving through the state you see Big Red hamburger huts, cleaning and pressing establishments, grocery and furniture stores.
One happy by-product of football fever in Oklahoma is that it has finally cured the state of a swollen inferiority complex stemming from the Depression days of the Dust Bowl when so many Oklahomans were forced off their farms and had to move west to California and subsist as migratory farm laborers. The "Okie" label of those days—immortalized for all to see in John Steinbeck's The Grapes of Wrath—was a long time dying. Now with the Sooners blasting football opposition far and wide, E. K. Gaylord, publisher of the state's most influential newspaper, the Daily Oklahoman , is having little trouble popularizing a slogan which goes—a trifle defensively—"I'm an Okie and I'm proud of it!"
This might be the slogan of the Oklahoma football team, too. The tremendous pride the state and the school has in its football team places tremendous and possibly an unfair pressure on the youngsters to win; the coaches have little trouble getting them psychologically ready Saturday after Saturday. Clendon Thomas, Oklahoma's All-America halfback candidate, waxed philosophical on this point the other day. "You can't pinpoint it," he said. "The guys way back started it. Then it rubs off on you. We go out to win and we play to win. None of us wants to be on the team that ends this streak. I guess no matter what else you ever did, people would remember you were' on the football team that lost the game that ended the streak."
This inordinate pride has led the crowds at Oklahoma home games into something less than sportsmanship once in a while. During the Colorado game this year Colorado, which pushed Oklahoma around with considerable ease for three quarters, was driving hard for a touchdown. With third down and two yards to go on the Oklahoma 7-yard line, Colorado bustled out of the huddle only to find that the crowd was screaming so loudly that it was impossible to hear the quarterback's voice. The quarterback held up both hands in the mute appeal quarterbacks make for quiet under such circumstances, but the crowd only howled louder. Finally, in desperation, the Colorado quarterback tried to call the signal. He called a change on the play originally signaled in the huddle, but his center could not hear him and thought he had called the snap signal. He moved the ball and Colorado drew a 5-yard penalty for illegal procedure. The drive died, and Oklahoma went on to win 14—13. While the ethics of the crowd are open to criticism, they reflect the fanatic loyalty of Oklahomans to the Big Red.
f = FOE
Seldom, however, is the crowd called upon to lend such concrete vocal aid to Oklahoma in a Big Eight game. Since 1947 Oklahoma has won 60 and tied two conference games without a loss. This very clearly reflects the quality of the competition within the conference, which is something short of the competition in the Big Ten, Southwest or Southeast conferences. Colorado is the only team in the Big Eight which has consistently played Oklahoma on nearly even terms. Oklahoma State, just admitted to the group, has been a traditional OU rival as has the University of Texas. These teams, then, with the six conference foes, make up eight of the 10 games on the OU schedule. The other two games, scheduled five or six years in advance, are selected for drawing power and are usually with relatively strong teams. With only a minimum of tough games Oklahoma can prepare, psychologically and technically, for the really strong opponents on its schedule and expect to take the rest in stride. And the weak schedule allows the Oklahoma sophomores nearly a full season of preparation, since they see action rather early and stay late in the big-score victories.
b = BOSS