The OU Club of New Orleans was thriving back in 2003, when the Sooners last made the Sugar Bowl. I did a story on the revelry around the club before that OU-LSU showdown, which you can read here.
The club had 50-60 active members, with OU estimating around 500 graduates in the Greater New Orleans area.
Then came Katrina. The hurricane changed many things about New Orleans. Including its OU club. With company relocations, many Sooner alums left the city. The club lost its charter from the university.
But in October, the club was restored. Sid Ellington, a 1980s graduate from Okeene who now is retired from the Navy and working in New Orleans, agreed to be the president, and two months later, here are the Sooners, back in New Orleans.
The club is staging a membership rally from 3-6 p.m. Wednesday at the Hard Rock Cafe. Dusty Dvoracek and Teddy Lehman will broadcast their radio show on KREF Sportstalk 1400 during that time.
“The alumni association had come down once and tried to help the club get kick-started again, but nobody was really interested in shouldering the burden of getting the thing started,” Ellington said.
Ellington moved to New Orleans in 2010, eventually learned about the void and agreed to take it on. He was a student manager for Barry Switzer’s teams in the early ’80s.
When he emailed me last week, he wrote, “As an aside, I was an OU student football manager in Jack Baer’s equipment room in the early 1980s. I think I remember you as one of the reporters who covered practices — I definitely remember Al Eschbach from those days. I have a memory of a young reporter with longish brown hair who was real quiet and would lean against the wall waiting for the players and coaches to come in from practice. Could that have been you?”
Well, I told him, I once was young with longish brown hair who pretty much kept my mouth shut and did a lot of leaning. So it might very well have been me.
Anyway, all these alumni chapters in various cities do a great work for their alma mater. Most sponsor a student with scholarships. The New Orleans club once gave an annual scholarship of $2,000 to $3,000 per year for a New Orleans-area student headed to OU. They would hold an annual spring dinner, with a representative from OU in attendance, plus stage watch parties several times a year.
Ellington’s membership drive is up to 17 members, a far cry from the pre-Katrina days but a decent starting point.
A bunch of oil and gas companies relocated to Houston and Dallas after the hurricane, taking OU engineers with them.
Ellington came to New Orleans as part of the Teach for America program, teaching in the public schools. Now he’s gone to work for the Recovery School District, a program that takes over failing schools and tries to restore them and turn them into charter schools. After the hurricane, 57 New Orleans schools were taken over by the program. All but five are now charter schools, and Ellington said those five are expected to soon be chartered, as well.
It’s a success story. Maybe the OU Club of New Orleans can be, too.