OU football: Sooners prepared for plane crash
For some reason, the tragic Polish plane crash a few days ago reminded me of old-time OU football.
An aging Russian airliner crashed, killing 96 people, including the Polish president and dozens of other dignitaries: military, political and church. Many have called it Poland’s worst disaster since World War II. Among those killed were the president and First Lady, the national bank president, deputy foreign minister, army chaplain, head of the National Security Office, deputy parliament speaker, Olympic Committee head, civil rights commissioner and at least two presidential aides and three lawmakers.
In the U.S., the president and vice president never fly together, just for this reason. It’s a contingency that Jim Tatum, OU’s 1946 football coach, thought about.
When OU made its first football flight, to West Point, N.Y., for the 1946 game against Army, Tatum had his first- and third-teams travel on one plane, with his second- and fourth-teams on another flight.
From former OU president George Lynn Cross’ great book, Presidents Can’t Punt: “Tatum was somewhat concerned about the safety factor, and he decided that he would place a complete team and half the coaching staff in each of the DC-3′s. If one of the planes crashed, there would be enough players and coaches left to fulfill the engagement with Army.”
Of course, Cross wrote, “apparently it never occurred to him that the game might well be canceled if half if half of the OU squad and staff was killed in a plane accident.”
Sports are not immune from what happened to the Poles. We know that well in Oklahoma. Marshall football, Evansville basketball, Wichita State football. With as many sports teams as there are flying around the country, tragedies are bound to happen.
Ballgames don’t continue unimpeded in the wake of a plane crash. Splitting teams so the show can go on is silly. But splitting dignitaries, so society isn’t completely hammered and hampered, makes a good deal of sense.
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