When you mention the Oklahoma Sooners, all many people think of is football. And although that program is rich in history and pride, its legacy is only one of which fans should celebrate. In fact, this spring, football really ought to be the last sport on people’s minds when they think of the University of Oklahoma. Why? Because the ladies playing softball and basketball are giving the state plenty of reasons to cheer, and it’s far from the first time they’ve done so.
Oklahoma softball dominates
The women of the Oklahoma Sooners softball team play in a venue that seats only 1000, but they light things up game after game, topping the rankings in the NCAA. With a current record of 28-2, the Sooners are poised to make yet another run for the Women’s College World Series, where they’ve played seven times since 2000, the year they won their first national title.
Under the leadership of Patty Gasso, who has been the head coach of Oklahoma softball since 1995, the Sooners have been phenomenal. With 9 conference titles and 41 All-Americans, including 2012’s USA Softball Collegiate Player of the Year, Keilani Ricketts, Gasso’s teams have just gotten stronger over time.
Oklahoma’s basketball stars are girls
The Oklahoma Sooners women’s basketball team won against UCLA to advance to the Sweet 16 for the ninth time under head coach Sherri Coale. They’ll be hoping for a fourth turn in the Final Four as they go up against Tennessee on March 31.
Coale is an involved coach who mentors her players to success and encourages them to become involved in their community. She’s consistently taken her teams to the NCAA tournament every year since 2000, her fourth year as the head coach for the University of Oklahoma’s women’s basketball program. Perhaps most impressive, Oklahoma was her first job coaching at the collegiate level, and after a short period of building, her teams have continued to shine year after year producing 11 conference titles, 8 All-Americans and no sign of diminishing in the near future.
The dollars and cents
The young women who play softball and basketball for the University of Oklahoma do so with little hope of going on to great financial rewards. Unlike the guys who play football, basketball or baseball, there are few opportunities for women to play sports professionally after college, and those who do earn a fraction of the pay that the men get. But that doesn’t keep these players from bringing their best game to the field or the arena week after week.
As for the coaches, in 2012, the Board of Regents approved a $10,000 raise for both Coale and Gasso. This brought Coale’s salary up to $1.01 million: roughly half of what Lon Kruger, the men’s basketball coach earns, and just over 20 percent of the salary brought home by Bob Stoops. Gasso’s salary is now $205,000, approximately 20 percent less than the poorest of the assistant football coaches and a drop in the bucket compared to Stoops.
But I have to believe that Coale and Gasso coach more for the love of the university and the game than for the money. And I have a feeling they aren’t shopping for new jobs. They have legacies to be proud of at the University of Oklahoma, both of them among the best coaches ever in their sports. So let’s hear it for the girls. Go Sooners!
More by Tavia:
OU Sooners Holiday Gift Guide
Best Friends from the University of Oklahoma Earn Olympic Spots
All Five University of Oklahoma Gymnasts Headed to London
Tavia Fuller Armstrong attended the University of Oklahoma and has been a fan since childhood. She’s happy to see the Sooner women getting some well-deserved recognition for jobs well done.