NORMAN — Oklahoma athletic director Joe Castiglione announced on Monday a comprehensive youth initiative called Sooner Jr.
The announcement, held at the Sooner Club inside Oklahoma Memorial Stadium, will teach kids about fitness, academics, nutrition and sportsmanship by utilizing the latest technology and animation.
“It is part of our goal to link our university's brand with areas of education and life skills,” Castiglione said. “We believe it may be the first of its kind in college athletics, and it is always exciting for us to be on the cutting edge of something special.”
As part of the initiative, an iPhone application will be released in the coming weeks, allowing children to play educational games and awarding them points for different fitness exercises.
Charlie Taylor, the director of marketing, emphasized the importance of expanding into the digital world.
“In research that we got in last week, 67 percent of our fan base has a Smartphone now,” Taylor said. “So, we are right on track with where we need to be.”
But the face of the entire project will not be a particular person. Through the use of animation, that symbol will be the mascots Boomer and Sooner.
To bring them to life on the screen, Castiglione sought out the expertise of Dominic Carola, president and entertainment director at Prentice Entertainment.
Carola spent more than a decade working for Disney, working on the animation of such movies as The Lion King and Lilo & Stitch.
“We really are thrilled to be a part of this,” Carola said. “When you are part of something that has such a positive message, it is extra special.”
As part of the unveiling, a children's clinic was held with some surprise appearances by Sooner coaches.
OU men's basketball coach Lon Kruger spoke to a group of children about sportsmanship, and women's basketball coach Sherri Coale, a former teacher, read them a story about fitness.
“I love the concept, and I love the fact that it meets kids where they are, which is with technology,” Coale said. “It sends the message we want to send and teaches the lessons we want to teach in a way that is very familiar and very appealing to kids.”