Love's Field won't be complete without one particular Sooner's statue out front
Many football heroes have been bronzed on the OU campus, while no woman from any sport has been so honored. The first who should be is a no-brainer and it's not Patty Gasso nor Jocelyn Alo
When Jason White won his Heisman Trophy in 2003, it made perfect sense to give him a statue.
No Sooner had won it since Billy Sims 25 years earlier, a certifiably long draught.
Billy Vessels won the first one in 1952, Steve Owens claimed his in '69, Billy Sims reigned in '78 and the wait for the next one proved long.
The stadium the vast majority of Sooner fans simply call Owen Field had received a wondrous post-2000 national championship update and here was a chance to make the grounds outside of it every bit as hallowed as the ground within.
That meant, though the history White made became the catalyst, the hardware it spurred would not be limited to him.
Indeed, when White’s bronzing was revealed on Sept. 8, 2007, Sims’ rendering, amid great fanfare, had been dedicated only a week earlier, about a year after Owens’ statue arrived and two years after the first bronze likeness of Vessels, later to be replaced with one more like-sized to the ones that came after.
What the Sooner athletic braintrust might not have counted on was three more statues being required so quickly, thanks to Sam Bradford, Baker Mayfield and Kyler Murray, the last of which should arrive this next year.
If the university was going to do that for the most celebrated of its players, it would need to erect statues of its most storied coaches, too, so up went Bennie Owen and Bud Wilkinson in 2010, Barry Switzer a year later and Bob Stoops five years after that.
Now, given all that, if I were to ask you what each of these statues have in common, what might you say?
Yes, they come from one sport, the biggest sport, the one that goes a long way toward making all the other sports possible, the one that has kept Sooner athletics operating in the black.
They’re also all men.
That needs to change.
It ought to change because Sooner athletic heroes are not limited to men and, near as I can tell, the count’s currently 11 to nothing.
It ought to change for only that reason, and still that reason’s not required to get it done, because they’re supposed to break ground on Love’s Field, Sooner softball's next home, later this year and when they do, based upon achievement, legacy and being an all-around terrific person, too, they should decide to erect a statue out front of the new sparkling edifice of … you’re so thinking it ought to be Patty Gasso, right?
Not that she doesn’t deserve it, but for Gasso to get one, more than one should be required, because the first one needs to go to Marita Hynes, the woman who hired her.
Officially, then OU athletic director Donnie Duncan made the two most important hires in the history of Sooner women’s sports, Gasso in 1994 and Sherri Coale in ’96, yet nobody gives Duncan much credit for it because those hires were all about Hynes.
What Duncan’s most remembered for where Sooner women’s sports are concerned is his infamous short-term shuttering of women’s basketball in 1990.
Not only did Hynes deliver a couple coaching legends, she went out on a limb for each one, handing Gasso her first Division I job after five years at Long Beach City College, a two-year school, and Coale a ticket into the big-time after a dominating run at Norman High School, each a hire that probably couldn’t happen now.
Hynes once had Gasso’s job herself, her teams playing in front of tens of fans at Reaves Park, just as Gasso’s first teams did, too, until the Oklahoma Softball Complex was erected, itself a project that would never have happened without Hynes, the field within which was later named for her.
But unless they’re going to amend the new stadium’s name to “Love’s Field at Marita Hynes Stadium” they’re going to need a statue. Come to think it, if they name it that, they’re really going to need a statue.
Perhaps the Women’s College World Series would still be in Oklahoma City if not for Hynes, but it’s hard to know because she ran it for years and years, many of them while maintaining her full-time gig as OU’s top women’s athletics administrator.
Many may call for a statue of Jocelyn Alo, but not only is Alo not the only Sooner to be named USA Softball Collegiate Player of the Year, nor is she the only Sooner to be named it twice, as Keilani Ricketts did in 2012 and 2013 as the nation’s best pitcher and a top-notch slugger, too.
Honestly, some softball numbers need retiring and the original class can be Jennifer Stewart (5), Ricketts (10), Lauren Chamberlain (44), Paige Parker (8) and Alo (78), an honor that can happen the first game the Sooners play in the new stadium, perhaps a week after Hynes’ statue is unveiled.
Others will call for Gasso’s bronzing and indeed it ought to happen, even as she continues to coach. I endorse it wholeheartedly. Just as long as the woman who hired her and others, who championed women’s sports at OU like no other, who knocked about everything she touched out of the park, gets the first one, be it a minute sooner or years.
Because she’s an absolute pioneer, but also because what she touched turned to gold and many who are the former do not produce the latter
All Marita Hynes ever did was make everything possible and then make it happen, too.
In the Sooners-that-need-to-be-immortalized-now line, everybody else is behind her.
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