Oklahoma softball has earned its rightful spot right behind King Football at OU

Oklahoma's Haley Lee celebrates a home run in the third inning during the college softball game between Oklahoma Sooners and the Texas Tech Red Raiders at the Marita Hynes Field in Norman, Okla., Saturday, April, 8, 2023.Ou Tech Tech Softball
Oklahoma's Haley Lee celebrates a home run in the third inning during the college softball game between Oklahoma Sooners and the Texas Tech Red Raiders at the Marita Hynes Field in Norman, Okla., Saturday, April, 8, 2023.Ou Tech Tech Softball /

One thing is destined never to change at the University of Oklahoma. Oklahoma football will always be king of the roost.

The famous words of former OU president Dr. George L. Cross tell it all. In 1951, Cross half-jokingly announced to a state legislative committee during a budget discussion:

"“We’re working to develop a university the football team can be proud of.”"

And believe me, the support and passion for the Sooner football team is alive and well and deeply rooted.

That’s what naturally comes with having the third most national championships in the Associated Press poll era, tied for the most Heisman Trophy winners and the most conference championships in college football history.

If we can all agree that OU football is first and foremost in the hearts, minds and lives of Sooner fans, another OU athletic program has ascended into and taken firm hold of the No. 2 spot in the love fest that is Oklahoma sports.

What Sooner softball has accomplished clearly over the past decade and in the 29 years that Patty Gasso has headed the program is unmatched by all but one other program nationally in the history of the sport. Consider this: The Sooner football program has had five head coaches in the time Gasso has been at the softball helm.

OU softball has risen to become arguably the second most popular athletic program at the University of Oklahoma, but also not sits at the pinnacle of the sport on a national basis.

The Sooners have won back-to-back national championships in softball and are in good position to make it three in a row this season, something that has only happened once before in NCAA Division I softball. In addition to Women’s College World Series titles in each of the past two seasons, Oklahoma also won back-to-back national championships in 2016 and 2017 along with two others in 2000 and 2013, respectively.

The Sooners just missed out winning two more national titles in 2012 and 2019, when they were national runners-up.

Three more Big 12 wins, which could come this weekend at home against Kansas, OU softball will clinch its 11th consecutive Big 12 regular-season championship and 15th in all.

Oklahoma is off to one of its best starts in history with a 42-1 record through games this past weekend. The Sooners have won 34 games in a row since suffering their only loss of the season, 4-3 to Baylor, on Feb. 19.

For the past three seasons (including the current one), the Sooners have led all of NCAA softball in most of the major statistical categories, which seems to parallel their No. 1 ranking in each of those campaigns.

Since the 1995 season, Gasso’s first at OU, the Sooners have appeared in every NCAA postseason. If you’re counting, that’s 28 consecutive NCAA Tournament appearances. With 1,437 wins, Gasso is the winningest head coach In OU athletic history.

The tremendous, sustained success of Oklahoma softball at both the local and national level has made it so that the Sooners have outgrown, Marita Hynes Field, their home for the past 26 seasons. A new $42 million, 3,000-seat facility, Love’s Field, is under construction and is scheduled to be ready for the opening of the 2024 college softball season.

There’s no question that Oklahoma softball has become widely popular. That popularity and national recognition has made it possible for the Sooners to attract top talent on a national level, which keeps the pipeline full and allows for sustained success.

We would be remiss, though, if we did not acknowledge two other OU athletic programs that have ruled at the top of their sport nationally for a long period of time.

In the past 14 years, for example, OU women’s gymnastics has won six national championships, including each of the past two years and six of the last 10, been to 11 NCAA Championship finals and won 13 Big 12 championships. And the OU men have been equally prolific in the sport. Since 2000, the Sooner men have won nine NCAA team titles, 17 conference championships and produced 233 All-Americans.

The overwhelming team and individual achievements of the Oklahoma softball program, certainly over the past decade, are unmatched by any Sooner athletic program, even football. But Sooner football isn’t going anywhere on the popularity scale — even with its first losing season in 24 years last fall. But Sooner softball has comfortably and convincingly settled into the No. 2 spot.