Back to the field for Sooners

Spring break in the books, it's time for the Sooners to return to the field with first practice since the SAE racial video.

The message was sent by the Oklahoma football team nine days ago. It will no longer tolerate racism or any sort of discrimination.

The Sooners had two practices scheduled two weeks ago but canceled both of them in the wake of a racial chant video that went viral a couple of weeks ago.

OU players decided to push football to the side and focus on something the program viewed was a lot more important than X’s and O’s.

In a way, the team has found its identity and its leaders through the incident that saw a former OU fraternity, Sigma Alpha Epsilon, chant “there will never be a n----r SAE” and mentioned lynching.

Players Trevor Knight, Sterling Shepard, Ty Darlington, Nila Kasitati, Eric Striker, Charles Tapper and Zack Sanchez have become the unofficial spokesmen for the Sooners.

“It has been really, really tough for us to deal with as a team,” Darlington said. “It has been an issue that has almost divided our team, but instead, I think it has undeniably brought our team closer together. We are more unified now to all races and creeds than ever before as a football team.”

The leadership worked on their message and delivered it nine days ago. This won’t be something that just goes away after a day or two discussing it. This will be a message that continues for the Sooners into the 2015 season.

But it’s time now for OU to start focusing on that season. The Sooners are expected to return to practice Monday for the first time since the video was released. The plans are for the players to still address the issue and to dress in black.

The university has made its statement regarding the incident, having disbanded the fraternity and having the two student prominently featured in the video expelled.

The football team’s statement continues Monday, and it’s about getting back to work.

“We’ll work on that when we get back and with what these guys are ready to do,” OU coach Bob Stoops said. “I know they’re anxious. They’re serious about their work on the field as well but they wanted to… they will continue to have a stance and have statements when they return as well.”

OU was scheduled to have three practices before spring break but so far has only had that sole two-hour session. Things returned to normal a bit this last weekend as OU hosted its first big-time recruit since the video in Beaumont (Texas) Central four-star running back Devwah Whaley.

Recruits have been pleased and impressed with OU’s actions since the video with a number of them saying the true character of the university has been revealed by what has happened after and not the actual video itself.

Schools are allowed 15 practices, but it could be tricky for the Sooners to be able to reach that mark. OU’s spring game is scheduled for April 11, and the Sooners had already planned to have a couple of practices after the game.

It’s a new era at OU. Coaches Kerry Cooks, Dennis Simmons, Diron Reynolds and Lincoln Riley have entered the fold. The dynamic and identity of this program has changed dramatically in the last three months and certainly in the last two weeks.

OU won’t forget the video and nobody is asking them to do so. But now it’s back to the grind. One of the biggest statements the OU football team can make from this point on is to represent themselves and the university.

The next chapter begins Monday.

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