2016 was a year that no one will soon forget, a year that was exceptional in almost every conceivable way. Its marvels extended from the ballot box to the baseball field.
In that context, it sounds almost hollow to say that the Oklahoma Sooners had an incredible year. But they did! With so many twists and turns, it can be hard to remember all the individual moments that defined 2016 in Sooner Nation. So we’ve selected just a handful of the best—or just most memorable—scenes from an incredible year of OU athletics.
2016 began just hours after the football team was bounced from the College Football Playoff by a strong Clemson squad. OU fans were disappointed, but didn’t get to stay that way for long. It was obvious that the Oklahoma basketball squad was turning into something special.
January 4th: Buddy Shines in Lawrence
Buddy Hield was already the defending Big 12 Player of the Year and a national star when he went absolutely haywire on the Kansas Jayhawks in a losing effort. But anyone who didn’t know his name learned it that night, as the sports world could talk of little else for the next day or two.
Buddy had a 46-8-7 night in a triple-overtime, 109-107 loss. He vaulted to the pole position in the National Player of the Year race.
Gosh, remember when the basketball team could do that? Now I get what Kansas fans are so hype about every frickin’ year.
March 26th: Sooners Return to Final Four
Oklahoma finally had to face a 1-seed, the Oregon Ducks, as a final hurdle in its quest for a Final Four. Turns out the talented Ducks were no match for the motivated Sooners squad, and Buddy had his final great college performance, dropping 37 points and eight treys.
This game is more fun in hindsight. The Sooners felt like a team of destiny as they barrelled towards Houston, and it was impossible to know that they were in for the biggest loss in Final Four history at the hands of Villanova. On that March night, it felt like Buddy Hield was unstoppable and that the University of Oklahoma was the best at everything it set its mind to. It was pretty cool.
April 17th: Gym U
After both captured championships in recent years, the Oklahoma men’s and women’s gymnastics squads put it all together and became the first school to win both competitions in the same year.
I know gymnastics doesn’t move the Oklahoma sporting needle—like, at all—but as a former beat reporter for both these teams, let me just say: OU’s gymnasts are incredible athletes who have become the very best at what they do in the entire country. Sooners fans can gripe about Joe Castiglione investing in a “well-rounded” athletics department, but these hardworking students are the face of that investment. Oklahoma has amazing facilities and coaches for its gymnasts, and it’s fitting it was the first school to pull this off.
It was, by the way, the 10th title for the men’s team. And there’s no sign of slowing down.
June 8th: Softball Sooners
If college taught me one thing, it’s this: softball is like college baseball except faster, more exciting and the players aren’t afraid of entertaining you. Oklahoma fans turn up en masse every time the team plays up the highway in the Women’s College World Series, and the atmosphere was electric as OU battled through the deciding Game 3.
Oklahoma had seemed pretty much invincible during the 30-game winning streak that led to its championship series appearance, but (legendary) head coach Patty Gasso decided to sit stud starter Paige Parker in Game 2 to preserve her weary arm. The result was a 11-7 loss that put OU’s title hopes very much in doubt.
But Parker’s gem saved the series for Oklahoma, bringing Gasso her third title.
October 22: The Night Defense Died
Hey, I didn’t promise everything would be sunshine and roses.
Look, I thought long and hard about what football moment to include here. Maybe the late-season shellackings of West Virginia or OSU? Some Dede touchdown?
The Mixon tape?
Heck, I probably could have posted a video of Texas losing to Kansas, and that would have worked.
But it seems like Oklahoma was defined this year as much by the bad times as by the good. The Houston kick-six, for instance, might have been the most obviously consequential on-field moment they had all season, unfortunately.
So I went with the Tech game. It was the perfect bit of surreal absurdity that 2016 has become famous for, and it embodied everything great and maddening about this year’s team: an elite offense squandered by a sub-par defensive unit.
Somehow, it seems like Mike Stoops is going to keep his job after this. But I hope he never forgets that it happened. I hope he sees Patrick Mahomes throwing touchdowns in his dreams.
Here’s to an even better 2017. Boomer!