NORMAN — Meet the Sooners Day will undergo three major changes.
The University of Oklahoma's annual event this year will be scheduled on a Saturday (Aug. 6) instead of a weekday.
The autograph session will be held on the football practice fields near Gaylord Family-Oklahoma Memorial Stadium. In recent years it's been held on the rugby fields.
The most significant change is only children ages 14 and younger will be allowed to get autographs. Each child can be accompanied by one adult with one item to be autographed.
“We've discussed this event at length and examined it from every angle,” said Kenny Mossman, OU director of communications. “The bottom line is our fan support is so great, we realistically cannot accommodate everyone when this event is held on a Saturday.”
Meet the Sooners Day is scheduled on a Saturday for two reasons:
*Due to a rare calendar quirk, several players will still be in summer classes. If it were held on a weekday, some players would be unable to attend.
*Aug. 6 best fits the coaches' two-a-day practice schedule.
An estimated 8,500 fans attended last year on a Friday. The previous year, an estimated 14,000 attended on a weekday.
OU officials estimate an additional 2,500 to 5,000 fans would attend on a Saturday.
“If we allowed everyone, a lot of fans would still be disappointed because of the length of the lines,” Mossman said. “Certainly, we would like to include fans not in that age bracket, but this event is aimed at children.”
Most emails and comments on NewsOK.com agree with the decision to restrict it to kids.
“After witnessing the carnage of kids getting run over to get (Sam) Bradford's autograph two years ago, I completely agree with the new policy,” said Mark Doescher. “However, maybe they could have a Season Ticket Holder Meet Day to pacify those who have attended for years and have no children.”
Kevin Daniel of Maumelle, Ark., is disappointed. Daniel would like to see the annual autograph session extended to three hours. Daniel suggests the first hour could be dedicated to kids, the final two hours to adults.
“They pay the money, support the (teams) and generally do all they can for OU, but they don't even get the chance to get an autograph?” Daniel said.
“I understand some try to profit/monopolize on the athlete. But for me, I don't sell them. I keep the footballs, jerseys, hats, mini helmets, magazines and so on. It's my only addiction. There are some of us that do it for its purity.”
Ann said in an email that if forced to choose, limiting the annual event to children is the best option. But Ann would like to see it moved indoors to avoid the heat.
“The kid idea is OK, but they aren't the ones buying the very expensive tickets,” Ann said. “But if you limit it to the donors, that would be a nightmare. It's just gotten too big ... Maybe they could use some type of lottery system where everyone had an equal chance.”
A chaotic scene ensued two years ago, the year after Bradford won the Heisman Trophy. Attendance decreased last year to ease some concerns. OU officials thought moving the event to a Saturday and restricting it to kids was the best option.
“We knew we'd have to make some modifications,” Mossman said. “We still expect a large turnout, but it should be more manageable.”
Two lines will begin forming at 7 a.m. at Gate 7, one line for Sooners Kids Clubs members, the other for general patrons.
At 9:45 a.m. Kids Club members will proceed to the football practice fields adjacent to the Switzer Center. The Kids Club session will begin at 10 a.m. General patrons will be admitted at 10:30. The session will conclude at noon.
Free parking will be available in campus lots, including the Asp Parking Facility west of the stadium. Concessions and restrooms will be available.
Kids Club memberships are available until July 29 on SoonerSports.com or by calling the OU marketing office at (405) 325-6353.