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Life After Wayman OU's Goals Won't Change Without Tisdale

Jim Lassiter Published: May 8, 1985

If you've watched TV, read a paper, or had coffee in a public establishment in the last 72 hours, you already know Wayman Tisdale has decided he will pass up his final year of college and play pro ball next year.

One is reminded of how one particular broadcaster, speaking in hushed, reverent tones befitting such an announcement, described the big moment: "The attention of most of the nation's sports fans will be on Churchill Downs this afternoon for the Kentucky Derby. But not here in Oklahoma . . ." He was right, you know. Every sports fan in the Sooner State, even non-Oklahoma basketball fans, tuned in for the press conference.

Speculation on whether Tisdale, a three-time All-America and perhaps the nation's best offensive player, would go "hardship" has been a popular topic for discussion for weeks now. Would he go? Would he stay?

Fans seemed pretty much divided. A certain portion, thinking with their hearts, said there was no way he would leave his fans. Another segment, reasoning with their wallets, said there was no way he'd stay.

And in the end, economics won out.

But now that the popular star has made his choice, OU fans have another subject to chew over.

The University of Oklahoma would not be the first program to take a big dip after the "franchise" player left school. Had you heard of Indiana State before, or since, Larry Bird played there? Have you noticed Michigan State back in the Final Four since Magic Johnson was the Spartans' star? What happened to BYU after Danny Ainge and to Marquette after Butch Lee and Bo Ellis?

Every OU basketball fan has to look at those schools and their post-star depression and become anxious about next season. Tisdale's departure could harken a return to the days when there were only two sports at OU football and spring football.

Billy Tubbs attended Tisdale's press conference Saturday and in typical fashion had some funny things to say. But the OU head coach also had his serious moments. He said the Sooners had begun making plans to play without Tisdale as far back as last May, when Tisdale went down to the last moment before deciding to return for his junior season. "We've known we were not always going to have him," said Tubbs.

But now that the time has come, just how ready are the Sooners to play without their star? Can they maintain a program that two years before his arrival won only nine games but with him in the lineup improved from 24-9 to 29-5 to 31-6? Will they continue to have a place in the nation's Top 20 and extend their string of four post-season appearances? Will they ever fulfill their dream of someday playing in the Final Four?

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