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Dirt field might await OU at Land Shark Stadium

BY DAVID UBBEN, Staff Writer, Modified: September 25, 2009 at 9:05 am •  Published: September 25, 2009
NORMAN — After the Oklahoma players watch Miami take on Virginia Tech in an ACC showdown on Saturday, the Sooners might want to slip on New York Mets hats.

Miami plays in Land Shark Stadium, one of only two outdoor ballparks in America shared by pro baseball and football teams, as well as the Hurricanes.

Until the Florida Marlins are mathematically eliminated from the playoffs and have no remaining home games, Land Shark Stadium will feature a dirt baseball infield, taking up a substantial portion of one end of the football field.

The Marlins could be eliminated at home during a weekend series with the Mets, or next week when they travel to Atlanta and Philadelphia to play the Braves and Phillies. Their elimination would pave the way for Land Shark Stadium to be sodded and remove at least one variable of the Sooners Oct. 3 game against Miami.

The field can be sodded overnight as soon as the Marlins are eliminated, but might not be ready for play immediately. As of Thursday, the Marlins were 4 1/2 games behind the Colorado Rockies for the National League wild card with nine games left in the season. The Marlins’ final home game is scheduled for this Sunday, barring a playoff run.

The Land Shark Stadium grounds crew could not be reached for comment.

Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops said on Tuesday he wasn’t worried about the prospect of playing on dirt.

"I’m sure those are things that we’ll look at. But in the end, I don’t think it’s a big deal,” he said. "That’s something that, at the stadium, that’s why you go early.”

Not early enough, apparently. On Wednesday, Stoops had his kickers practicing on the dirt of OU’s baseball field.

Junior cornerback Dominique Franks said he was 11 years old the last time he played tackle football on dirt. Several others couldn’t remember the last time.

"A field’s a field. Football is still the same,” Franks said. "We still gotta go out there and play our game.”

But those who spend early-season Saturdays and Sundays on the field disagree.

Defensive end Jason Taylor spent the first 11 seasons of his career playing in Miami, before signing a contract with the Redskins before last season. But he returned to Miami this season, and was less than complimentary about the conditions for his first home game.

"It’s a challenge," Taylor told the South Florida Sun-Sentinel. "It’s not the funnest thing in the world. We put a man on the moon, we need to figure out a way to get the dirt off the football field.