Oklahoma football: Sooners filling Spring Game void with classic game replay

NORMAN, OK - OCTOBER 15: Quarterback Baker Mayfield
NORMAN, OK - OCTOBER 15: Quarterback Baker Mayfield /

Spring Oklahoma football, as it is at most major college programs, is a huge deal.

And there were big plans in place for this year’s annual Red-White Spring Game, but the breaks were applied to those plans one day into OU spring practice , when the COVID-19 outbreak caused the cancellation of all winter and spring collegiate sports activities were cancelled indefinitely.

That included the popular Red-White game, which was originally schedule for this coming Saturday night (April 18) at Gaylord Family Oklahoma Memorial Stadium. Generally in the neighborhood of 45,000 to 50,000 fans attend the game every year. It is typically one of the more well-attended spring games anywhere in the country, but the stadium will be empty on that date this year.

Because of the new normal that we are experiencing to stay safe and healthy from the coronavirus, most of us are practicing social isolation and becoming more familiar than we would’ve ever imagined with social media platforms. The OU athletic department has come up with a plan, incorporating social media, to help fill the void that, in more normal times, would have been a festive spring Saturday wrapped around the Red-White Spring Game.

For the entire month of April, the athletic department is offering a free trial of Sooner Sports TV, and this Saturday OU is offering fans an opportunity to view one of four classic Sooners games from the recent past. The selection will be based on a fan vote. The choices are: the 2000, 2001 and 2007 Red River Showdown games with Texas or the 2017 game against Ohio State.

Virtually forever, Oklahoma has held its Spring Game on a Saturday afternoon, capping off spring football activities. In fact, back in the day, as us older fellows like to say, the game used to feature a group of Sooner football alumni going against the current group of OU players (that format was discontinued after 1982).

A year ago, Lincoln Riley and the OU athletic department tried something new with the Spring Game. Because heavy rain was forecast for Saturday afternoon, the orginal date for the 2019 Spring Game, the organizers decided to hold the game the night before, on Friday night. Long story short, it was a grand success.

Because holding the Spring Game at night was so successful last year, it was decided to do it again this year, but move it to Saturday night, when it would be more convenient for the fans. Among the special events that were planned in association with the 2020 Spring Game was the unveiling of Baker Mayfield’s bronze Heisman sculpture that will find its permanent place in Heisman Park, on the east side of the stadium, among the other Oklahoma Heisman winners.

Oklahoma isn’t the only school providing its fans with something in place of college football’s annual rite of spring — the Spring Game — this year.

Several other major programs are also jumping in on the opportunity to be creative and offer their fans something in place of spring football this year. Nebraska fans, for example, will get the chance to view a virtual spring game.

Nebraska typically draws as many as 85,000 fans to its Spring game, but this year they will be treated to a virtual game experience on the school’s social media platforms.

ESPN is reporting that the Nebraska virtual-game experience will feature Cornhusker greats of the past with audio provided by Learfield IMG College and the Husker Sports radio network.

Georgia is offering its fans a rebroadcast of the 2019 game with Notre Dame, to be broadcast on the SEC Network, and Notre Dame is holding a Saturday night “watch party,” showing the 2006 game with UCLA on the athletic department’s YouTube channel.

ESPN reports that 39 college spring games scheduled for this weekend, including the one at Oklahoma, were cancelled because of the coronavirus pandemic. It’s good to see that the schools are finding creative ways to utilize the incredible technology that we have at our disposal in these difficult times to stay in touch with their fans.