Erik Gransberg hadn't donned the Sooner suit two months before it became apparently clear Oklahoma fans weren't at all fans of the new OU mascot. That's when a link to his Facebook page appeared on an OU message board.
And Gransberg began receiving death threats. "Who was I? Just a kid trying to get his college paid for,” Gransberg said. "There was just a lot of hostility from a small group of fans. It was scary.” A student-led initiative in early 2004 sought to replace 20-year-old basketball/wrestling mascot Top Daug with a creature more rooted in Sooner tradition. After considering a pioneer and the Seed Sower from the campus' South Oval, a selection committee settled on the Sooner Schooner. More specifically, the horses that pull it. "That was the most obvious choice to everybody,” said OU spirit coordinator Lori Kemmet. "They wanted to use them in tandem just like Boomer and Sooner and named them (that way).” The committee of donors, administrators, students and athletics staff was pleased with the debut of its new, all-sport mascot in August of 2004. Fans weren't pleased with the change. Even taking into account the cartoonish nature of mascots, the first incarnations of Boomer and Sooner hardly resembled horses. The heads featured spiky red hair, enormous eyes, snarling mouths and pudgy snouts. Before long, the horses had earned the nickname "horse-pigs.” "That first season, I thought they looked a little bit like a cross between Porky Pig and a donkey or something,” Kemmet said. "They did have an image issue that first season.” Gransberg even found problems inside the suit. The head was built around a baseball helmet, limiting movement. And the costume was unbearably hot. "I made immediate changes to mine,” he said. "I pulled off the eyelashes and loosened the helmet. The mascots are a work in progress.” Dave Raymond remembers the first Boomer/Sooner. Analyzing mascots is his job. "Let's discuss the limitations of creating an animated horse,” said Raymond, creator of the Phillie Phanatic and CEO of character-branding company Raymond Entertainment Group.
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OU mascots Boomer and Sooner, right, joke with OSU mascot Pistol Pete. The two Sooner mascots have earned the nickname "horse-pigs." BY NATE BILLINGS, THE OKLAHOMAN