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OU-Notre Dame: Ire for the Irish — Why Oklahoma fans hate Notre Dame

Notre Dame ended OU's 47-game winning streak. And generations of Sooner fans, some of whom were born after Nov. 16, 1957, haven't forgiven the Fighting Irish.
by Berry Tramel Published: October 21, 2012

Bill Saxon and his family drove home in the rain on Nov. 17, 1957, on the lonely roads from Norman to Abilene, Texas, in those pre-turnpike days.

The 1951 OU graduate later would become a successful oil man. But in 1957, Saxon sold drilling bits in the Texas oil fields. He lived in one of those tract housing neighborhoods built for returning GIs.

That evening, an exhausted Saxon pulled up to his house, and there on the door of his one-car garage, in dripping red paint, proclaimed the news from the day before.

Irish 7, OU 0.

Fifty-five years later, Saxon still doesn't know who painted the score on his garage. But he knows the team that inspired such vandalism.

Notre Dame ended OU's 47-game winning streak. And generations of Sooner fans, some of whom were born after Nov. 16, 1957, haven't forgiven the Fighting Irish.

Said Saxon, “We never liked 'em after that.”

* *

Jack Laffoon says he never voted for Ronald Reagan, not because of politics, but because Reagan portrayed Notre Dame star George Gipp in “Knute Rockne, All American.”

“I still remember my mother crying on that dark fall afternoon in 1957,” said Laffoon, then a Tulsa grade schooler and now a retired Air Force man living in Corinth, Texas. “A bunch of papist hooligans had stolen the game from the mighty Sooners.”

Most college football powers invoke negative passion from other fan bases. Notre Dame invokes more than most.

Long before The Longhorn Network was anything but a gleam in DeLoss Dodds' eye, the Fighting Irish had their own NBC contract, first signed when the Irish broke ranks with the College Football Association.

The much-maligned Bowl Championship Series makes special provisions for only one school, Notre Dame.

Notre Dame's storied history has fostered decades of hype around a program that once deserved it but no longer does.

So fans from Alabama and Ohio State and Texas muster plenty of resentment concerning the Irish.

But OU fans have a particular bone to pick with Notre Dame.

The Irish rained on Camelot. They beat the Sooners 7-0 in 1957 at Owen Field to end an epic winning streak. And in the five OU-Notre Dame games since, the Sooners have not exacted revenge, having lost in 1961, 1962, 1966, 1968 and 1999.

Now the Sooners get another shot. They host Notre Dame on Saturday night, the Irish's first visit to Norman in 46 years.

OU student Trevor Rogers, who was born 35 years after Notre Dame's historic upset, credits his hatred of the Irish to his grandfather, who was a Marine stationed in Okinawa, Japan, when the streak ended.

“He has recounted the story hundreds of times to me,” Rogers said. “I can recite his account of what happened, where he watched, who he watched with, what he ate and, I can do so with the same expressions and mannerisms he displays when telling the story.

“That story has been ingrained into my DNA. I was raised to hate them, and now I'm old enough to see the truth. Truth is, Notre Dame doesn't deserve the recognition this day in football.”

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by Berry Tramel
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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