Oklahoma football fun fact: Sooners featured on first Sports Illustrated cover

NORMAN, OK - SEPTEMBER 17: Baker Mayfield
NORMAN, OK - SEPTEMBER 17: Baker Mayfield /

Only Ohio State among college  football teams has made more appearances on a Sports Illustrated cover than the storied Oklahoma football program.

A couple of days ago I wrote about Sports Illustrated covers and, specifically the urban legend surrounding the dreaded SI cover jinx. What sparked this topic was Sports Illustrated’s 2017 College Football Preview issue, which is currently on newsstands.

It is within the season preview issue that SI editors publish the magazine’s annual preseason top 25. This year’s rankings carried a bit of a surprise for Sooner fans. it wasn’t so much of a surprise that Oklahoma was No. 6 in the SI top 25 heading into the 2017 season, but rather that in-state Bedlam rival Oklahoma State came in two spots higher than the Sooners.

As the No. 4 team in the SI preseason rankings, the Cowboys’ quarterback, Mason Rudolph was featured on one of four regional covers that were published as part of the college preview issue.

Oklahoma State fans can only hope that the cover headline “Orange Rush” on the regional SI cover touting the OSU football team doesn’t fall victim to the fabled and feared SI cover jinx and turn into “Orange Crushed” by season’s end.

STILLWATER, OK – OCTOBER 1 : Quarterback Mason Rudolph
STILLWATER, OK – OCTOBER 1 : Quarterback Mason Rudolph /

That will be a story for another day. On the subject of Sports Illustrated covers, however, it might interest Sooner fans to know that Oklahoma has appeared on close to 40 SI covers in the almost 63 years that the magazine has been in existence.

As a matter of fact, the Sooners — more specifically, Sooner fans — actually were the subject of the very first Sports Illustrated cover.

Late in 1953, Sid James, the magazine’s first managing editor was having difficulty deciding what images to use on the covers of the two dummy issues the publication staff was putting together as prototypes for prospective advertisers and to help determine what the public reception would be for the first-of-its-kind weekly sports magazine.

The photographic image that James ultimately decided on for the cover of the first test issue  of the yet-to-be-named sports publication was an overhead shot of the crowd at an Oklahoma football victory over archrival Nebraska on a rainy fall afternoon in Lincoln, Neb.

The title on the cover of that first dummy issue simply read: “The New Sport Magazine.” That was the only thing on the cover other than the image of the crimson-clad Oklahoma crowd.

Next: Warning to Oklahoma State fans caught up in Sports Illustrated top-4 ranking

That same image, or one very much like it, appeared on the cover of the 12th-ever issue of Sports Illustrated, datelined Nov. 1, 1954.