There aren’t many people who have been associated with Oklahoma football longer than Merv Johnson.
Johnson has been actively involved with Oklahoma football for the past 41 years, as an assistant coach, director of football operations and for the past 20 years as a member of the Sooner broadcast team.
Last week, the 84-year-old Johnson announced his retirement from the role in which Sooner fans knew him the best: as the color analyst for radio broadcasts of Oklahoma football games.
Johnson joined the Sooners’ radio team in 1999 as the color analyst working alongside iconic Oklahoma play-by-play announcer Bob Barry Sr. For the last nine years, he has partnered with Toby Rowland in the radio booth.
From 1979 to 2020, Johnson has worked a total of 513 Oklahoma football games, a record that may never be equaled.
His thorough understanding of football, along with his deep familiarity with the Sooners — having endured the good times and a few not so good ones over nearly four decades as part of the OU football family — provided him a unique perspective. That perspective, along with his down-home delivery style, is what made his analysis, insight and stories so informative and meaningful.
Rowland called Johnson “an Oklahoma icon. Working alongside him for the past nine years has been one of the greatest thrills of my career,” he said. “We’re going to miss him in our booth immensely.
“He’s the steady Eddie,” Rowland told Ryan Aber, the Oklahoma beat writer for The Oklahoman. “He just never gets too high or too low, and that’s hard to do in this profession.”
Barry Switzer hired Johnson as an assistant in 1979. Before that he had been offensive coordinator at Notre Dame for four seasons. When Switzer stepped down, Johnson stayed on with Gary Gibbs and remained an Oklahoma assistant during the short-lived head-coaching stints of Howard Schnellenberger and John Blake.
In 1998, Johnson moved into a new role as director of football operations, a job he continued in until 2017. And in 1999, athletic director Joe Castiglione hired him as part of the OU radio broadcast team.
“Year in and year out, I’ve been so proud to be associated with such a great university and football program,” Johnson said in a press release posted on the OU athletic website. “I’m looking forward to spending time with my family…I’m going to love watching the games with them.”
Working alongside Rowland in the Sooner radio booth in 2020 are former OU All-Americans Gabe Ikard and Teddy Lehman, with Chris Plank working the sidelines.
Merv Johnson will be sorely missed, but never forgotten and forever a member of the Oklahoma football family.