Oklahoma Sooners football coach Lincoln Riley asked for 80,000 Sooners fans to pack Owen Field for the spring game on April 14. And he claims it’s going to be one hell of a good time.
“We’ve got a lot of really cool things planned for that spring game that we’ll announce as we get closer,” Riley told Tulsa World.
Former Sooner offensive lineman Gabe Ikard revealed the invitation many season ticket holders and boosters have seen showing that country music star and enormous Sooner fan Toby Keith will perform at Bob Stoops’ statue celebration on Friday the 13th. That may be a sign of things to come.
“It’s going to be a great event, one we want to be the best spring game in the history of Oklahoma football. We’re going to do a lot of things on our part to make sure that it’s a great event for our fans. Something that I think is going to be a little bit new for them. I think they’ll enjoy it. We’re looking forward to getting to that date. It’ll certainly be a big recruiting weekend for us, as well.”
With the early signing period and earlier official visits, the spring game has become more important than it has ever been in showing recruits what kind of atmosphere awaits them at Oklahoma. That’s why I’ve come up with five ways to boost attendance to 80,000.
You’re welcome, Lincoln.
MAKE IT A WEEKEND, NOT A GAME
Too many times the spring game is sold as just that—a game. But what goes unsaid is how many Sooners fans come from far and wide just to experience the stadium, campus and history related to OU football. Turning the game into a weekend of events that feature tours or accessible gatherings with prominent alumni like Joe Washington, Barry Switzer and Baker Mayfield—not to mention it gets Billy Sims off the barbecue circuit for a bit—could be sold to more folks than just the those who can afford the watered-down wine in the club seats.
Oklahoma is about the people, and that should be stressed throughout the course of that particular weekend. Make that experience a weekend to remember surrounding a game that traditionally doesn’t matter.
HAVE MORE THAN ONE MUSICAL ACT
While many Sooners fans (not named Jack) are over the moon about the possibility of Toby Keith performing at the spring game, that’s not necessarily enough for the other 40,000 the Sooners are recruiting to get into the stadium. There’s nothing wrong with recruiting a hip-hop act and a rock act to perform at the game. Turn the halftime act into something that rivals the Super Bowl in terms of star power and marketability. I mean... maybe not that big, but you get the picture.
To reach 80,000 during the spring game, you’re probably going to need to get folks into the stadium who aren’t necessarily diehard Sooners fans, and recruiting the kind of headliners that could be just at home playing Chesapeake Arena would go a long way toward that.
There are still plenty of folks who want regular season games to remain a dry affair — at least inside the stadium. But what’s wrong with making the spring game the only wet game on the schedule? If folks knew this was their only opportunity to openly drink a beverage in general admission, the spring game becomes an instant must-attend if only for the novelty.
LET THE PLAYERS PICK TEAMS
I think the Sooners could learn from the NBA and the NFL from how they’ve restructured their respective all-star games. Let the captains pick their teams and play a straight sandlot game. Yes, let coaches pick what defenses and plays are run. Let coaches make decisions about substitutions. But let the boys play the game of football against each other. Let them hit (to an extent). Let them run. And let them have a traditional Us vs. Them.
Guarantee every attendee a plate of ribs from Rudy’s, Van’s Pig Stand or Ray’s Smokehouse BBQ. Nobody’s saying you guys wouldn’t lose money on this deal, Lincoln, but you’d get 80,000 folks into that stadium before you can clip on that visor.