“Port Robertson: Behind the Scenes of Sooner Sports” by Edgar L. Frost (Oklahoma Heritage Association, 208 pages, in stores)
The lore that surrounds the University of Oklahoma Athletic Department features many legendary names: football coaches Bud Wilkinson and Barry Switzer, university President George Lynn Cross and a host of star athletes. But the lesser-known Port Robertson, who coached the Sooner wrestling team to three NCAA titles and coached the freshman football team during the Wilkinson era, also had a strong hand in molding the department.
In the nonfiction book “Port Robertson: Behind the Scenes of Sooner Sports,” Hobart native Edgar L. Frost sheds light on Robertson and the mark he left on the university.
Robertson had a distinguished wrestling career as a competitor and coach, but it’s his influence on athletes’ academic and personal lives — both as coach and as an academic counselor — that seems to have left lasting memories.
Much of the book focuses on those memories. It’s not exactly a biography, and not exactly a collection of stories, but rests somewhere in between. His former athletes clearly revere Robertson, and their love for their mentor shines through.
The athletes consistently praise Robertson’s tough-love approach, which was so tough (although likely not atypical for that era) that some felt the need to defend it. There’s a whole chapter devoted to Robertson’s favorite punishment — making his athletes run stadium steps — which is entertaining if a bit repetitive.
One of the book’s most striking revelations is the vast amount of work that Robertson did. Not only did he coach, teach a physical education class and supervise athletes’ study halls, dormitories and the dining hall, he actually was in charge of obtaining and transporting beef for the dining hall. In a day in which most athletic departments have multiple staffers to deal with most of those support roles, it’s hard to imagine a time when they were all done by just one man.
For those interested in the history of the OU athletic department and its wrestling and football programs, Frost’s book certainly adds some valuable information to what’s out there.
— Hayley Riggs McGhee, Assistant Sports Editor