However, if it weren’t for their efficiency in various departments, these turnarounds would not be possible. No matter the title, whether it be bat boy or Vice President of Operations, every employee plays a crucial part in creating a safe and enjoyable experience for fans and players.
“We just want to make sure that we’re providing a safe environment for both teams is the first and foremost,” said Mitch Stubenhofer, the team’s Vice President of Operations.
“After that, obviously we’re still a business, so we want to make sure that we still are protecting our opportunities to generate revenue. So, days like yesterday and things like that, it’s very unfortunate that we have to sit here and can’t play a game, but we have to weigh the odds of what’s best for the team, and what’s best for our business,” Stubenhofer added.
“From our perspective, we have to consider [player] input and what makes best sense for the team but also, depending on the night, we have thousands of tickets out and thousands of fans who are expecting to come to the game,” said Ben Beecken, the team’s Vice President of Marketing and Communications.
When games are postponed, Beecken and the marketing team are in charge of facilitating opportunities for fans to exchange their tickets for a game later in the season.
Jesse Jones, a parent and coach of three youth baseball teams, attended Thursday’s doubleheader but felt the stress of rescheduling his team’s trip.
“It was hectic to try to continue with the changes, the postponement, and everything,” Jones said. “Some of us got little kids, so 14 innings will be a lot for them,” he added.
For fans to even have the opportunity to see two games, managers have to work to ensure the availability of their employees for these last-minute changes.
“The majority of our part-time staff have another job, whether it be teachers or other folks that work in our community, so getting here at 3:30 in the afternoon is a challenge,” Stubenhofer said.
The field crew, led by head groundskeeper Jeff Jackson, are some of the first to clock-in on game days to assess the damage the weather has done to the field and what steps they need to take to ensure the game is playable before the first pitch.
“Even though we pulled the tarp off, there was a decent amount of mist and drizzle throughout the morning hours, so that’s our biggest concern. We don’t want to let that get too wet with the mist,” Jackson said. “There’s a really fine line because you don’t want it to be unplayable for the game,” he added.
“All in all, it’s all about player safety and spectator safety, the safety of everyone here that comes out to the ballpark. That’s our biggest issue and challenge that we’ll face,” Jackson concluded.
Located in Headington Hall residential college on the corner of Lindsey Street and Jenkins Avenue, the salon is a convenient stop for OU students and staff to get their hair done without having to commute.
Although they are pleased with their current situation, things were not always so easy for the two business partners. Coleman and Holman have both come a long way to establish what they have today.
Coleman has been braiding hair since she was 16 years old but decided to step away from styling hair in high school after the birth of her daughter.
“I kind of got burnt out, so I really wanted to go do something different,” Coleman said. However, she added, “After my daughter turned six, I was like, ‘I think I want to go back into the salon setting.’”
After stints with a couple of barbershops and salons, including four and a half years at her co-owned full-service salon His and Hers, Coleman left to work at New Black Wall Street Cuts, a barbershop in Oklahoma City, where she met her current business partner, Tracy Holman.
“The first day he came into work, he was dressed in a dress shirt and a bowtie and he had on dress shoes,” Coleman said. “Once he started coming in dressed like that, it made us up our game.”
Holman’s “dress for success” mindset originated from No Grease, a barber school in North Carolina where the dress code required formal attire.
“After going to barber school for a year, I learned that I like dressing up like us, so I just adopted the style,” Holman said.
So when Coleman was contacted by a current friend and longtime client, Francie Ekwerekwu, about a new business opportunity while working alongside Holman at New Black Wall Street, a partnership was formed.
“Francie was actually an OU alumna, and she asked me if I wanted to open up another salon. OU came and asked her because they wanted to support Black-owned businesses,” Coleman said. “That’s where we started, and a year [and a half] later, this is where we’re at.”
When university officials came to her for business suggestions, Ekwerekwu, a former student-athlete at OU from 2006-2010, stressed the need for a salon for those with ethnic hair on campus.
“When I was an athlete here a long time ago, there was nobody here that could do Black hair, so I knew they needed her here,” Ekwerekwu said.
With her help, Coleman and Holman have established a comfortable, inviting space for all ages and ethnicities to enjoy.
“I didn’t know if there was going to be a shop like this when I came to college, so this was a big part of me choosing to come to OU, knowing that I would be able to get my hair done without driving so far into the city,” said Lauren Simpkins, a freshman public relations major.
“The majority of NIL deals that are going to happen with the majority of the children in our state are going to be social media driven. How many likes and followers do you have, and that compensation will never be at the level those guys are experiencing,” Mike Whaley, the association’s associate director, said.
“We’ve seen the one young lady from Piedmont get a bat deal, I understand that, but she’s not raking in a whole bunch of stuff from that. She’s getting a couple of bats,” Whaley added.
High school officials were forced to provide guidance following the emergence of the industry at the collegiate level. Although NIL provides an avenue for student-athletes to be compensated for their athletic abilities, students, parents and administrators across the state are still learning how to facilitate these opportunities.
“We don’t know all there is to know about NIL, so we’re trying to educate as much as anything else,” Whaley said. “That was our board’s approach to the guidelines. Let’s educate our group first before we start worrying about violations or sanctions.”
To ease the transition for parents and educators statewide, the association has a consulting agreement with the Bedford Agency. Led by CEO Bryan Bedford, the agency offers education and guidance concerning NIL and recruiting endeavors.
“Most student-athletes don’t even know where to start,” Bedford said. “The school districts are just now putting investments in place to educate coaches and parents on what they can and can’t do, so I think people have been a little gun shy,” he added.
“With it being new, there is still a lot to dig into,” Norman North athletic director Dusty Porch said. “Regulation is tough. Everybody is just kind of testing the waters with it, but I think you will see it continually grow here.”
Other athletic directors, such as Deer Creek’s Bill Bays, are afraid the changing athletic landscape may affect the focus of their student-athletes.
“My concern is not about who gets an NIL deal or how much money or exposure they get for it, it’s really about maintaining the mindset of high school athletics,” Bays said. “I just hope we’re not burdening our young people by giving them more real life stuff to address than generations that preceded them.”
“Everything is kind of evolving into a situation where kids are having to become more mature and responsible,” Porch claimed. “Hopefully we can guide them into a situation where we don’t pull them away from enjoying the game and focusing on those friendships in high school.”
When Susanne Corr’s parents bought their home on Jenkins Avenue nearly 75 years ago, the area looked drastically different.
“This particular house has been in my family since 1950,” Corr said. “When my parents first bought this house, I was in junior high, and we had a field in front and a dirt road.”
“Things have changed little by little, and I’m not opposed to change,” she said. “I just think that this particular project doesn’t make a lot of sense.”
After Norman citizens voted in favor of a series of projects in the 2019 Bond Transportation package, city officials prioritized a plan to widen Jenkins Avenue from two lanes to four from Imhoff Road to Lindsey Street.
“City staff identified the Jenkins project as their number one priority, especially due to game days, regular university traffic and what we think will be an increased use of Jenkins as the university continues to develop the softball stadium and Reeves park,” Norman city councilmember Stephen Holman said.
“All of those items make this a corridor that looked like it needed to be widened and expanded into a larger footprint to be able to carry more traffic,” city engineer Scott Sturtz said.
Although this road will benefit many citizens and students, the city of Norman plans to cut into residential yards to make room for two additional lanes and a median. Residents living along Jenkins, such as Corr, are dealing with the consequences.
“ [The project] is just squeezing us in a bit and taking away our trees and things that we just hate to lose,” Corr said.
“I don’t want the trees to go,” Holman said. “The treeline enhances the aesthetic of the university the way it is, so I definitely understand where they’re coming from and I feel the same way.”
Corr’s neighbors Erika and Stephen Miller are also losing two large trees at the end of their driveway, which will shrink considerably.
“Our landscaping, our drainage, our sprinkler system, all of that may be impacted in ways that we may have to negotiate with the city,” Erika Miller said.
“The sidewalk is going right up to our fence because they need that land,” Stephen Miller explained.
Another neighbor, Pam McIntosh, expressed her frustration with the lack of communication during the whole process after the project stalled to secure federal funding.
“It’s been kind of secretive,” McIntosh said. “We had one meeting and didn’t hear anything for a year, and then stakes went up.”
Despite the concerns from residents, Sturtz maintains the city is being responsive to the residents’ needs as it begins negotiations to purchase the needed private property. He predicted construction would not begin until early 2024 at best.
Super-fan discusses importance of relationships and support no matter the result.
After the Sooners’ football season failed to reach some fans’ expectations, a certain super-fan is shining a light on some of the university’s other student-athletes.
Antonio Record, more widely known around campus as “Mr. OU,” knew the football team was going to have its struggles this season.
“We’re in the middle of a transition of a whole new process of how things are going in the football program. Whatever [Brent Venables] is building it takes time, just like a house, ” Record said.
In his first season as head coach, Brent Venables led the Sooners to an even 6-6 regular season finish. Considering the team’s recent regular season finishes, many fans considered this season a disappointment, but Record has a more optimistic outlook.
“Every team has its ups and downs,” he said. “But I tell fans, don’t show up when we’re winning. Ride the wheels. You have to be patient.”
Record pleaded that you wouldn’t judge a house in construction, so fans should withhold their judgment for a few seasons until coach Venables can construct a finished product.
While the football team has struggled with results translating on the field, other teams and clubs deal with challenges of their own.
Ethan McKinley, a forward for OU’s club hockey team, shared that the team has had its fair share of problems off the ice in recent years.
Since the hockey team is not NCAA-sanctioned, the players are responsible for the program’s expenses.
“One of the biggest struggles we face as a program is just this year-to-year ongoing state of financial instability,” McKinley said.
“Financially, it’s paycheck to paycheck,” he added. “We have to make money through ticket sales and merchandise. Players themselves pay a player fee to be on the team and be able to afford travel.”
Travel and game location are also a big contributing issues to the club’s reach. Since the team doesn’t have a home rink to play in, home games are played at the Arctic Edge Ice Arena located in Edmond, Oklahoma.
“We want to bring this game to Norman,” McKinley said. “We want hockey to be more accessible to students as well as OU fans because we think that this sport can really make an impact.”
“That’s pretty much what we’ve missed the mark on the last couple of years is being more accessible to fans and the student body being so far away from Norman,” he stated.
With overlying financial and logistical issues consistently plaguing growth, McKinley believes that being more accessible to the OU community is one of the key factors in extending the team’s reach.
Record, who attempts to cheer on as many student organizations as he can, has recently started going to hockey games more often.
“I didn’t know we had a hockey team until I first went, and it was pretty fun,” Record said.
“Last season was pretty much his first season coming to our games,” McKinley said. “He’s come to them before but never really felt appreciated. Last season he became more active coming to games and practices.”
McKinley called Record at the beginning of the season to see what the team could do to best support him and his efforts in cheering them on. When Record revealed he had a passion for hockey but had never skated on ice, McKinley knew what he had to do.
“One thing led to another and we dressed him up there at one of our practices, and the rest is history,” McKinley said.
“Hockey, they got my heart man. They’re one of my favorite [teams] here. Getting out there on the skates and skating with them, that was awesome,” Record said.
Experiences like this are what McKinley and the team are striving to provide to the OU community in hopes of connecting with fans who may have never heard of the team.
“We’ve been more accessible with Mr. OU, and we want to be like that with other fans too,” McKinley said. “It feels like family. That’s what we want with our fans.”
Porter Moser, head coach of the men’s basketball team, discussed how important it is to connect with the community, as well as how much of an impact the fanbase has on his team’s play.
Since college basketball is usually played in small indoor venues, Coach Moser stated that having a loud, energetic fanbase is crucial to the team’s success.
“It makes all the difference in the world in college basketball,” Moser said.
To further encourage an energetic and loud atmosphere, Moser has visited sororities, fraternities, student groups and even classrooms in hopes that they will pack the stands of the Lloyd Noble Center.
Before the team’s game against the UMKC Kangaroos on Dec. 6, Moser was handing out pizza to those in the student section that arrived at the stadium early.
“I’m out around town going to different clubs just to create this want to get inside the gym. We have to fill the LNC, and that’s the bottom line.”
Record echoed this statement, claiming, “The men’s basketball team is doing great. I wish more fans would come on in there and pack the place; They’re winning,” he said.
Although Moser is always recruiting fans to the LNC, he also recognizes the loyal fans who show up to support his student-athletes consistently, such as Record.
“Mr. OU is special,” Moser said. “He really means a lot to everybody because he’s 100% behind all the sports. To know he’s about bringing attention to the student-athletes, he’s got all the right reasons behind him,” Moser added.
No matter what the scoreboard reads, and no matter the sport, Record’s support for the OU community is second to none.
“You just look at him and you’re like, ‘man, he is so passionate about OU,’” Moser said. “He is so great for OU and so great for the student-athletes he supports.”
Norman, Okla. – Years after University of Oklahoma officials restricted public tailgating, a familiar face in Norman is rallying Sooners fans in hopes of restoring the campus’ tailgating atmosphere to previous heights.
“It was awesome. There used to be tailgating all up and down Lindsey Street and it was kind of a university thing where fraternities, sororities, even people who came with their parents would come set up tents and stuff on game days to stake their claim,” Radosevich said about the previous tailgating environment. “They’d come out on Saturdays and it ended up being just a massive party.”
After a 2017 ruling by OU officials restricted public tailgating on Lindsey Street, many fans were upset with the new boundaries and restrictions.
“It was one of those things that just happened overnight. People came back in 2017 and couldn’t tailgate anymore. I think people were kind of confused by it,” Radosevich said.
Officials made this decision to attract fans to their new private tailgating options on the southeast side of the stadium near Lindsey Street and Jenkins Avenue.
In light of OU’s updated tailgating policy, public tailgating is now restricted to patches of grass near Jenkins Avenue, Asp Avenue and Brooks Street.
“Obviously there’s people that want the set-up tailgating and all that kind of stuff, and I think there can still be a place for that, but it feels like they moved everybody away from the stadium,” Radosevich said.
Fans echoes Radosevich’s evaluation. Antonio Record, better known in the community as “Mr. OU”, said his tailgating routine usually incorporates a lot of walking due to how spread out fans are across campus on gameday.
“I do attend tailgates, but it’s just walking,” Record said. “It’s a big campus… by the time I got there, it had taken an hour,” he added.
Due to complaints from fans and overall negative impact on the gameday environment, Radosevich believes OU officials should reconsider their restrictions.
“I think it’s one of those things that could certainly be reviewed or at least looked at to figure out a way everyone could work together,” Radosevich said.
However, Radosevich believes Sooners fans may be a little naive about the amount of work and progress still needed to rival current SEC schools and their gameday experiences.
“Once you get there, you kind of want to be prepared, and I don’t know if there are a lot of people that are prepared right now,” Radosevich said. “But, they can start progressing towards that and I think that’s kind of what this year is about.
“Foundationally from a program standpoint, it’s kind of the same as the football team right now. Brent Venables is preparing for what is to come because [the SEC] is obviously a brighter pasture,” Radosevich said.
Although there is an abundance of anticipation and excitement surrounding the University of Oklahoma as they transition to the SEC, it is unclear whether tailgating on Lindsey Street will return to usher in the new era of football in Norman.
“I think that the Lindsey Street movement was one of those things that we kind of had fun with, obviously we sold t-shirts, but at the same time it is also for a better cause,”Radosevich said. “It’s all about improving the landscape of everything that you want by the time you get to the SEC.”
Norman, Okla. – Nearly three months removed from a championship appearance, the Oklahoma Sooners baseball team is looking to build off last season’s momentum as fall practices begin.
Led by head coach Skip Johnson, the Sooners boasted a 45-17 record on their way to securing a Big 12 tournament championship and their first appearance in the College World Series finals since 1994. For a team picked to be the sixth-best in the conference preseason rankings , the Sooners surprised many teams with their deep run in the playoffs.
However, Johnson expected this type of performance from his squad.
“I don’t think it was a run. We were good the COVID year too,” he said. “The expectation is to go to the National Championship.”
Although the Sooners did not take home the title, young players such as sophomore infielder Wallace Clark left Omaha with an invaluable experience.
“Omaha was a great experience that helped me grow as a player,” Clark said. “I know that all of the returners would agree that the experience we gained last year will help us this year because we know exactly what it takes to win it all.”
Returning experience may prove to be a vital part of a trip back to the World Series for the Sooners. However, after losing eleven players to the 2022 MLB Draft, the team may have to look to some of its younger players to step up and contribute early this upcoming season.
Johnson claimed the best way for the influx of new arrivals to contribute on the field right away is to “be really good at what they do.”
“They have to understand the framework of what we are trying to teach,” he said. “Whether it’s playing good catch, understanding the signs, being good with two strikes, understanding the approach, [or] understanding who they are as people.”
Johnson said the quicker younger players on his team can establish their identity as baseball players, the better chance they have of seeing the field early in their careers, especially offensively.
However, the pitching staff is also a spot of emphasis for the Sooners. After losing their weekend rotation to the draft, the team has their work cut out for them this offseason.
“We’re just trying to get enough innings in for the pitchers to get some work and figure out who’s going to step up and be that guy,” Johnson said.
Some may wonder who “that guy” is going to be for the Sooners this season. Although this answer isn’t clear, Johnson emphasized that fall practices had only begun and there was much more work to be done.
“Every day we’re trying to build a different guy to be a leader and understand their roles on the team,” Johnson said. “To be a leader you have to understand your role on the team first and have clarity in that role. I think that’s the biggest thing we’re doing is continuing every day to evolve into something different.”
The Sooners will scrimmage against each other in a fall intrasquad World Series later this month. Johnson claims this event is a great opportunity for the fans to “get to see the kids, put names to faces and just be supportive of what they try to do.” With scrimmages scheduled for Oct. 30, Nov. 1 and Nov. 4, Johnson encouraged fans to come out and show their support for the team.