NORMAN — During the 1972-73 school year, Sooner fans felt the impact of freshman eligibility inside both Oklahoma Memorial Stadium and the OU Field House, where men's basketball was then played.
Four years after freshmen were granted eligibility in most sports, the NCAA allowed football and men's basketball rookies varsity eligibility in January 1972.
On the hardwood, true freshman Alvan Adams eventually raised his own army, “Alvan's Army,” a rowdy group of high schoolers who sat in the south bleachers and fervently supported the big center from Putnam City High School. He averaged 22.1 points and 13.2 rebounds as a freshman, played two more OU seasons and went on to an outstanding NBA career.
The impact, though, of the 1972 football freshmen was longer lasting — for better or worse.
Reserve quarterback Kerry Jackson rushed for 314 yards and threw for 164, entering games frequently to spell senior starter Dave Robertson.
The next spring, Jackson was set to take over before a transcript error resulted in his ineligibility and sanctions against OU. The Sooners still won back-to-back national championships in 1974 and 1975, but the first was a split title because Oklahoma was on probation.
The fact that halfback Joe Washington played and eventually started in 1972 is especially remarkable, just because of OU's backfield depth in the days when scholarships were far more plentiful than today.
“I expected to play,” Washington said. “If I didn't get to play, I would've been really upset.”
Tinker Owens, on the other hand, was thrilled just to be part of the program at all. The Miami, Okla., native, whose brother Steve was an OU Heisman winner three years earlier, began 1972 as part of the withering frosh team, which survived that year despite varsity eligibility for freshmen.
Owens practiced with the freshmen squad through the first 1972 varsity game, a 49-0 rout of Utah State.
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