Ask any Oklahoma football fan about Bud Wilkinson, Barry Switzer or Bob Stoops, and they will almost certainly recite a brief biography on each man. The Big Three are held in such high regard by Sooner faithful, their accomplishments legendary.
But long before Wilkinson began building what has become a football empire over the last 50 years, Bennie Owen laid the initial foundation. Beginning in 1905, Owen transformed a fledgling program into an offensive juggernaut that eventually won 122 games during his 22 seasons at the helm.
Owen's innovative schemes helped modernize the game and he was partially responsible for sparking a love affair between fans and the University of Oklahoma. He led the Sooners to four undefeated seasons and his teams scored over 100 points eight times and 50 or more points 31 times.
More importantly, he helped raise over $300,000 to fund a new stadium.
It's been almost 80 years since Owen coached his last game at OU, but his contributions — while somewhat obscured by time — live on. The playing field at Memorial Stadium bears his name and there are little reminders of his achievements scattered throughout the campus.
At some point during OU's game with Oregon on Saturday, the public address announcer will dedicate a few moments to the memory of Bennie Owen. And what will make the brief celebration special will be the fact that over a dozen members of Owen's family will be in attendance, including his three daughters — Dorothy Ann Bryan, Jane Haynes and Ruth Page.
The sisters and other family members will be seated in one of OU's sky boxes for the game, according to OU's director of athletic development Andy Paden.
"It's a neat opportunity for our fans to recognize and celebrate the life of a man who meant so much to the University," said Paden. "President Boren and (athletics director) Joe Castiglione are very conscious of the tradition and history that are a part of OU and its athletics program, and they are excited about the Owen family joining us."
Owen, who passed away over 30 years ago, was inducted into the National Football Hall of Fame in 1950.
"Bennie Owen was really the guy who started it all. Football had been around at OU for a time, but he took it to another level and really kind of put us on the map," said Switzer. "Every Sooner fan should learn about and get to know who Bennie Owen is."
On Saturday, a crowd of over 85,000 will get a refresher course on the legendary coach. For that few minutes, Owen's spirit will burn brighter than it has in a long, long time.
Owen family reunites at Owen Field
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