Berry Tramel

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Oklahoma softball: Best OU team ever, any sport?

by Berry Tramel Modified: June 7, 2013 at 7:00 pm •  Published: June 7, 2013

Someone asked a question this week that was worthy of discussion. Is this OU softball team that just ran roughshod over the Women’s College World Series, going 5-0 with only one game that was tense, the most dominant  Sooner championship team ever, any sport? For the Friday Oklahoman, Jenni Carlson wrote about the softball team’s dominance. You can read that column here.

Clearly, Patty Gasso’s 2013 squad is the best softball team in OU history. But is it the most dominant Sooner team of any sport?

Let’s examine all the other sports in which OU has won a national title.

Baseball: 1951 or 1994. Neither team was a national powerhouse, in terms of being ranked No. 1 and thrashing most every foe.

Football: 1956 or 1974. They were the most dominant of OU’s national title teams. I might argue that 2000 was the best OU football team ever. The 2000 Sooners and the 1955 Sooners are OU’s only national title team that went unbeaten AND won a bowl game. But as far as dominant, ’56 stands supreme. But the ’56 Sooners played a mediocre schedule. Bud Wilkinson scheduled two traditional powerhouses, Texas and Notre Dame, but both had subpar seasons. The 1975 team limped through November before catching fire late. The 1985 team was really good and got better. But I can’t see picking the ’85 team over the ’74 team, much less the ’56 team. The 2003 (or even 2004) would have been the pick, had either finished. But neither did. So I’ll go with 1974, because Big Eight football in the first half of the ’70s was strong, and so was Texas.

Men’s golf: 1989. Excellent team but not dominant at all.

Wrestling: 1957. The Sooners have won seven NCAA titles, but 1957 was their best team. Danny Hodge (177 pounds) and Dick Delgado (115) were national champs. Five other Sooners placed in the top four — Rex Edgar (third at 167), Leonard Shelton (fourth at 123), Paul Aubrey (fourth at 137), Bernard Sullivan (third at 191) and Gordon Roesler (third at heavyweight). OU won the team race 73-66 over Pittsburgh, which was a wide margin in those days.

Men’s gymnastics: The Sooners have won eight NCAA titles, but the best team was 1978, for many reasons. First, it came before the sport was crippled by so many schools dropping their program. Second, it won by a huge margin — 2.275 points over runnerup Arizona State. Third, it had the nation’s best, Bart Conner, who won the all-around and was all-American in three of the six events (rings, parallel bars, high bar). You could argue that in recent years, with fewer programs, the talent is more concentrated and thus teams are more skilled. But still, that OU team was loaded and performed up to its standard. Mike Wilson also was an all-American in the all-around.

So has OU ever had a team, any sport, as dominant as the softball squad we’ve just seen? I say the 1957 wrestling squad is the major competition. Two national champs and five other top-four finishers in 10 weights. That’s awesome. As awesome as softball 56 years later? Probably not. I’d probably have to go with softball. The sport has gone national in terms of the SEC putting tons of money in the sport and competing at the highest level. The Pac-12 long has been the dominant conference. And yet the Sooners not only won the NCAA championship, they were spectacular and rarely threatened. So here’s my vote for the most dominant OU title teams ever:

1. Softball 2013

2. Wrestling 1957

3. Men’s gymnastics 1978

4. Football 1974


by Berry Tramel
Columnist
Berry Tramel, a lifelong Oklahoman, sports fan and newspaper reader, joined The Oklahoman in 1991 and has served as beat writer, assistant sports editor, sports editor and columnist. Tramel grew up reading four daily newspapers — The Oklahoman,...
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