Clardy's Corner: "We're not Nebraska!"

When you grow up within the geographic sphere of influence of a major traditional football power, one is seldom shocked by the passion of fans for their beloved football team. Troy Clardy grew up in Oklahoma and knows this from first-hand experience. Read on for Troy's thoughts on the Silicon Valley vs. Great Plains matchup in the 2009 Sun Bowl...

Former Stanford athletic director Ted Leland once famously said, "We're not Nebraska." That's true. We're not Nebraska.


And Nebraska is not Oklahoma.


Truth be told, the football programs in Lincoln and Norman haven't been consistently on equal footing since the mid-1980s. Sure, the Huskers have a great program full of tradition and support. But when it comes to the on-field product and overall muscle, Oklahoma certainly has the upper hand on Nebraska right now.


I've seen that muscle get flexed quite often. Ten miles east of downtown Oklahoma City is a military suburb called Midwest City. It is where former Stanford catcher and current Arizona Diamondbacks manager A.J. Hinch grew up and went to high school. So did I.


A trip to my old stomping grounds can reveal quite a bit about what matters to the people back there. When you land at Oklahoma City's Will Rogers World Airport, you immediately notice two things. One, those actually are real oil derricks operating on airport property. And two, you can't go more than twenty feet without seeing someone either wearing or selling Sooners gear.


Both visual motifs continue when you leave the airport. Yes, there are oil derricks in some places you wouldn't expect, even the State Capitol grounds. But cruise down the Northwest Expressway and you'll see just about every other car with an OU sticker, license plate frame, or both. Head into Wal-Mart, Target, or even a CVS and the first thing you'll see is a bin full of Sooner shirts for sale.


Walk into Braum's for a milkshake. Hang out in Bricktown for the evening. Bike around Lake Hefner. Check out the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum. It doesn't matter. No matter where you go, you will see multiple people representing the Sooners.


Oh sure, there actually is another, real live major college football program in the state. But the Sooners so overwhelm everything else in Oklahoma City that many times the Oklahoma State Cowboys seem like just a niche. No matter what Mike Gundy tries. (Gundy's old high school? Midwest City. Just thought I'd point that out.)


Things might be a bit more balanced up in Tulsa, but Sooner football has a near-complete stranglehold on the Oklahoma City metro. The Thunder are a nice story, and as the city's first major pro sports franchise they'll have a soft spot in the fans' hearts there for quite a while. Even better, they could be developing into a very nice NBA team very soon.


But no one has the Thunder logo painted into their curbs alongside their house numbers. Meanwhile, many an Oklahoma City curbway is decorated with the OU logo. In that state, it probably increases the home value!


One of my best high school friends scheduled her wedding on a Sooner gameday. Fortunately, Oklahoma was on the road that afternoon, otherwise attendance at the church might have been spotty at best. Even so, the bride and groom made sure that the ceremony and most of the reception rituals were done well before kickoff. Someone broke out a portable TV at the reception, and everyone was happy.


My brother-in-law lives in San Antonio. That's serious Mack Brown country down there. Doesn't stop him from breaking out his Sooner gear every chance he gets.

Those folks are Sooner-born and Sooner-bred. And when they die, they'll be Sooner-dead. Well, at least that's how the song goes.


Granted, this wasn't exactly the type of season Sooner fans had in mind when September rolled around. A lot of big plans for Pasadena got canceled when 2008 Heisman Trophy winner Sam Bradford spent the season opener writhing on the Cowboys Stadium turf with a separated shoulder. Other injuries racked up at key positions. Bradford got hurt again vs. Texas. They only scored three points at Nebraska, and completely fell apart at Lubbock.


7-5 doesn't cut it in SoonerLand, no matter how banged up the team is, and no matter who the coach is. Especially when that coach has begun racking up a Notre Dame-like bowl record. Won't stop folks from wearing the Sooner gear, though.


A long time ago, former University of Oklahoma president George Lynn Cross once half-joked to the state legislature that he wanted "a university our football team could be proud of." That tells you everything you need to know about how important football is to that state and that school.


Make no mistake, the University of Oklahoma is football. Stanford Football is hotter than it has been in ages, but it doesn't enjoy anywhere near the kind of unquestioned and widespread support that OU Football does. Sooner fans revolve their Saturdays around the kickoff time. Many Stanford fans seem to wish the kickoff time would revolve around their Saturdays. It is what it is.


I did not grow up a Sooner fan, but because my Dad still lives there (he's not a huge Stoops fan, by the way), because I still have many friends there, and because I'm proud that Oklahoma City is a city on the way up, I do root for them to do well. Still, even though I don't think this result is likely, I wouldn't mind if the Californians mistreated the Oklahomans so badly that the Sun Bowl looks less like a football game and more like a Steinbeck novel.


Ever since this pairing was announced, I have been looking forward to this game maybe more than any since the Rose Bowl (was that really ten years ago now? Wow). Not just because it's Stanford's first bowl game in eight years. Not just because this game is a reward for a great season and a great bunch of kids. Not just because I was there for our last trip to El Paso and it sounded like this.


For the team, the 76th Sun Bowl is all about business. For me, this game is a little bit personal. Because when it comes to football preferences, I'm not Oklahoma.


********** ********** **********




My two best friends on the planet and I sat at the Pizza Orgasmica inside the Embarcadero Center in San Francisco and watched the Heisman Trophy go to Mark Ingram. Disappointing? Sure. Surprising? Honestly, no. Still, it was almost surreal to see Toby Gerhart - one of us! - in the room in New York. Congratulations and thanks to Toby, the Union, and everyone who made that possible…


That said, if I had a Heisman ballot, my second-place vote would have gone to Ndamukong Suh. My God. How in the hell does a defensive tackle lead his team in solo tackles? In this day and age? That's insane. If you tried to make the case that Suh was the most dominant player in college football this year, not only would I not argue with you, I'd actually agree with you…


If I'm NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, I am standing in front of the mirror every morning and practicing the following phrase: "With the first pick in the 2010 NFL Draft, the St. Louis Rams select Ndamukong Suh…defensive tackle…Nebraska…"


Had a courtside seat at the XL Center in downtown Hartford when Stanford met UConn in last week's Women's Basketball Game of the Century. This just in: that UConn team is pretty good…


A very large part of me doesn't want to admit this publicly, but I'll be honest with you: the more I think about it, the more I don't know how much longer Jim Harbaugh is going to be in that corner office at Arrillaga. That said, I would be shocked if Harbaugh wasn't our fearless leader in 2010. Shocked. Not as shocked as I was when Tyrone Willingham left, but still. Now, 2011? Honestly? I don't know. In eight years of doing these Corners, I have never wanted to be proven wrong as badly as I do on this gut feeling. But, no matter how long EUTM is in full effect on The Farm, it's going to be an incredible ride. Let's enjoy it as long as we can…


I'll give Cal a pass against Oregon State because they lost Jahvid Best in frightening fashion during that game. But facts are facts, Weenies. Your team quit against Oregon. Your team quit against U$C. Your team quit against Washington (I still can't believe that happened). And your team quit against Utah. It's one thing to have better players (which Cal often does). But, once again, the Bears have proven that there is a critical, critical difference between having better players and having a better team. "Better players" don't play in the Rose Bowl. "Better teams" do…


Despite his showing in the Las Vegas Bowl, I like Sean Canfield. Did I like him enough not to question his selection as the first team All Pac-10 QB? No. No, I didn't…


Not a Pac-10 thought, but…why do I suspect that Bob Stoops spent last Saturday night talking to Gainesville real estate brokers? And then spent Sunday afternoon begrudgingly cancelling those meetings?


Not a Pac-10 thought, but…back in 2005, I taught Mike Leach how to use Google. True story. Hopefully that's not where he learned concussion treatment techniques. What a disturbing story that whole situation could turn out to be…


Not a Pac-10 thought, but…pop quiz for everyone who is still fuming over what the Colts did on Sunday. How many Super Bowl champions have there been? (answer: 43) How many of those Super Bowl champions actually lost a game during the regular season? (answer: 42) That should tell you that it's still actually possible to win the Super Bowl despite losing a game during the regular season. Now, I don't necessarily agree with how and when Jim Caldwell pulled his starters. But the goal isn't to go 16-0. The goal is to win the Super Bowl. Ask the 2007 Patriots for their thoughts on this…


Not a Pac-10 thought, but…the next time you're having lunch at the Lake Chalet in downtown Oakland, try the braised short rib sandwich. Fantastic…


Not a Pac-10 thought, but…there might be a post-Sun Bowl Corner. There might not be. But whether we talk to each other again or not, please have a safe and happy new year. Go Stanford!


********** ********** **********




Not my best year…but definitely not my worst! Actually, this seems to be a nice little three-year run...


This year: 25-11 (straight-up), 19-16-1 (ATS).

Last year: 30-6 (straight-up), 24-12 (ATS).

Last three years: 81-27 (straight-up), 63-43-2 (ATS).


********** ********** **********


Troy Clardy hosts the Stanford Daily Update, airing every weekday at 7:00pm on Cardinal Sports Network flagship radio station XTRA Sports 860 in San Francisco, and available in podcast form at


Clardy's Corner appears Wednesdays during the college football regular season on You can also check him out online at, or e-mail him at 

The Bootleg Top Stories