ENID, Okla. —
I was brought up in a Yellow dog Democrat and University of Oklahoma loving family.
The two evils in life, my late father said, were Richard Nixon (always Tricky Dicky) and Notre Dame. Dad said he knew Nixon was a crook in 1946.
Notre Dame being 9-1 against OU (5-1 against Bud Wilkinson) might have had something to do with the latter.
Dad just didn’t like how Notre Dame operated, and there’s a lot of other OU fans who have been brought up the same way. The biggest hand at Owen Field comes with a Notre Dame loss.
The attitude toward the Irish is different from archrivals Texas and Oklahoma State. A lot of it is frustration — a Notre Dame fan friend of mine reminded me in junior high that OU’s 47-game winning streak came between losses to the Irish.
Let’s face it, FOX Sports Oklahoma hasn’t been replaying the 1956 OU-Notre Dame game (Sooners’ 40-0 win over the Irish) this week because it needs an hour of programming.
My dad always talked about the hit Jerry Tubbs put on Heisman Trophy winner Paul Hornung that day. Former State Sen. Norman Lamb, a counselor in the athletic dorm, recalled that hit as if it was yesterday when he spoke of Tubbs after the linebacker’s death last year.
Then there’s the culture of the rivalry.
Notre Dame, of course, had integrated teams long before OU. Read the history of Notre Dame football (“Wake Up the Echoes’’) and one feels the anger of the Irish when they had to stay in dumpy hotels because most places in the state wouldn’t take African- Americans.
There was a story before the 1957 game about the Irish meeting some Mexican children, who begged them to beat the Sooners because of the prejudice they felt being Catholics in the state.
There was a real prejudice against Catholics in Oklahoma in the 1950s and 1960s ... check John F. Kennedy’s vote total in the state. Powerful U.S. Sen. åRobert S. Kerr was worried about how his support for JFK — however weak it was (Kerr was a strong supporter of Lyndon Johnson for the Democratic nomination) would hurt him.
Former WKY-TV sports director Ross Porter, then a employee of the OU sports information office, was getting quotes from the Notre Dame locker room after the Irish stunned OU 7-0 in 1957.
He said on the back of a chalk board was “Win It For the Catholics of Oklahoma.’’ Notre Dame players were quoted in the book as saying they felt if they beat OU, it might make it easier for Catholics in the state.
Jim Dent’s book “The Undefeated’’ recalls Notre Dame fullback Nick Pietrosante shouting out “Take that rednecks’’ after the 1957 game.
Notre Dame has dominance over OU no other school does. Texas won 12 out of 13 game from the Sooners from 1958-70, but OU has held its own against the Longhorns ever since.
An OU fan’s nightmare would be in a movie theater with the double bill of Knute Rockne All-American (with Ronald Reagan as George Gipp) and Rudy, the story of a walkon with an ego the size of Notre Dame Stadium.
Notre Dame can make a legend overnight.
OU’s Billy Vessels, in a losing effort, might have won the Heisman in 1952 when he rushed for 195 yards on 17 carries in a 27-21 loss to the Irish. Famed broadcaster Lindsey Nelson said he never saw a better football game.
Of course, my dad and Norman Lamb would say they never saw a better football game than OU’s 40-0 win over Notre Dame. There would be no better feeling for an OU fan than a win today.
Campbell is a News & Eagle sports writer.