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Sooner Tradition: The OU Flag

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Flags have long been a way of identifying who you are.  From a pirate ship’s ominous skull and crossbones to the famed stars and stripes of America, flags are a good way to send a message.  Most flags are flown with great pride and the OU flag is no different.  When fans see the flag they rise to the occasion, cheering in support of OUr team.  When opponents see the OU flag and show of support, the ominous message is clear:  This is our turf.
 
The History of the OU Flag:


Ted Jacobs, ’78, stands next to the original OU flag, now hanging framed in Crossroads Restaurant in the Oklahoma Memorial Union.  (Photo by Robert Taylor)

Prior to the beginning of the 1975 football season, Ted Jacobs, a sophomore from Waco, Texas and the grandson of former OU Track coach, John Jacobs, had been selected as a member of the OU cheerleading squad.  At that time the only major requirement for being a Sooner cheerleader was being able to perform “double stunts” with a partner.  Though he learned how to do the double-stunt routines, Jacobs soon discovered he was the only cheerleader on the squad who was unable to perform any of the typical gymnastics moves that were so routine to others.  Jacobs loved his place on the squad, and just days before the first game, he was frantic for a way to keep his gymnastics shortcomings from being exposed to 76,000 game-day spectators.

Oklahoma National Guard soldiers from Bravo Company, 179th Infantry, and Alpha Company, show their Sooner spirit. (Photo courtesy Mike Boettcher, University of Oklahoma)

Driving down Lindsey Street, Jacobs passed a car dealership flying several OU flags. He screeched to a stop and inquired where such a flag could be purchased. Then he convinced the OU cheerleader sponsor, Chris Purcell (then assistant director of the Center for Student Development and now vice president for university governance), to buy a flag and allow him to lead the team onto the field.

Running with the flag at the OU Women’s Bedlam Basketball Game.  (Photo courtesy Bob and Tina @ The Lazy W Blog)
While tradition was born, Jacobs’ standing in the school spirit world was short-lived; the following year gymnastics skills were added to the tryout requirements, and Jacobs was out. He cannot swear that he originated the now-universal school flag practice across the nation, but he insists he knew of none other, certainly not in the Big 8, except for the banner used by the Texas band in halftime shows.
By today’s measure, Jacob’s flag might be considered puny. While the cheerleaders launch themselves airborne with increasing daring on the sidelines, the OU Ruf/Neks have assumed responsibility for leading the team with a much larger version of the University’s standard; using it to celebrate touchdowns, victories and to draw the fans to greater frenzy.
Every game day, Mrs. Elizabeth Bullard would fly her homemade flag from her home in Noble to let passersby know she is a loyal Sooner fan.  (This photo appeared with a story in the Norman Transcript in 1972.)
The original flag landed in Ted’s possession. He later went on to be the director of the Energy Management Program in OU’s Price College of Business and donated the historic relic to the University several years ago. It was framed and is displayed in Crossroads Restaurant in Oklahoma Memorial Union.

Close inspection of this original flag reveals some stains on the white “OU” portion, which Ted claims came from oranges tossed onto the field during OU’s 35-10 trouncing of Nebraska. That win earned the Sooners the 1975 Big 8 title and sent them to the Orange Bowl, where a 14-6 victory over Michigan gave Oklahoma its second back-to-back national championship.

Today, the Sooners continue to be led on the field by a much larger flag, carried by a member of the OU Ruf/Neks, and now, as much as then, gets fans on their feet and cheering for their team.  So the next time you see an OU flag, be sure to get on your feet and cheer!  After all, the OU flag is a timeless piece of Sooner history and tradition!

A Ruf-Nek runs with the OU Flag at a football game against Baylor.  (Photo courtesy Steve Sisney, The Oklahoman)

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