By Katherine Parker
The Norman Transcript
DALLAS — Sitting in a lively New York City bar might seem intimidating to a recent University of Oklahoma graduate who has never traveled beyond the plains and open, blue Oklahoma sky.
But when a few hundred individuals clad in crimson and cream join that graduate to cheer on OU football, he or she won’t feel so far away from home, said Grant Haines, OU journalism and advertising 2009 graduate.
Now a New Yorker, Haines said he is happy to be a part of the OU Alumni Club of NY, and coming together for OU football is a nostalgic experience that allows him to spend time with friends and network.
“Oklahomans stick together,” Haines said. “Every weekend is like a family reunion.”
Support of OU football will be at an all-time high this Saturday for the OU/Texas game. Hordes of fans will travel to Texas for the game, and OU alumni clubs will host receptions, tailgates and watch parties.
OU/Texas weekend, while primarily about the football face-off, is a chance for alumni to reconnect, help raise funds and recruit new students by fostering OU pride.
JP Audas, associate vice president for alumni and development and executive director of the OU Alumni Association, said the University of Oklahoma relies heavily on private support and couldn’t operate without the state of Texas, and in particular OU/Texas weekend.
One thousand ninety-four students in this year’s freshman class are from the state of Texas. That’s about 27 percent of the freshman population, said Andy Roop, OU executive director of recruitment services.
“Texas is second only to Oklahoma in the number of our alumni living in the state,” OU President David L. Boren said.
With such a large number of OU alumni coming to and living in Texas, Audas said alumni can’t help but take advantage of the weekend’s momentum.
The Alumni Association will join with 750 alumni in Dallas for the OU/Texas game. Tonight, they will host a reception with special guests Joe Washington, 1975 OU running back, and Patty Gasso, OU softball head coach. Saturday, alumni will be taken to the football game by police escort.
Sandy Kinney, a 1969 OU graduate who will be attending the OU/Texas weekend for the 13th time, said she continues to take part in the weekend because it’s a chance to spend time with friends — new and old.
“We travel with our friends from OU, and we run into people unexpectedly, people that we haven’t seen in years,” Kinney said. “It’s great.”
Additionally, the President’s Associates also will host a Beat Texas Celebration brunch before the game Saturday morning.
The Gaylord College of Journalism and Mass Communication will host an alumni and student reception tonight at Moroch Advertising Agency.
The OU College of Business and other entites also will sponsor receptions.
“Something about this time of year just begs to bring alumni together,” said Joe Foote, dean of the Gaylord College of Journalism. “The Moroch Advertising Agency exemplifies what we do and exudes creativity ... combined with OU/Texas excitement, and our alumni are motivated to attend and discuss the college.”
OU alumni clubs will not only join together and reconnect with the state on OU/Texas weekend, but some will use the weekend as an opportunity to raise funds for scholarships. Last academic year, OU alumni clubs raised $700,000 for scholarships, Audas said.
The OU Alumni Club of Denver, for example, hosts football watch parties every weekend that bring about 650 people to each party and raise scholarship money.
The OU Alumni Club of Fort Worth hosts a luncheon before the Red River Rivalry to raise money, too.
“We are so grateful for our alumni who keep the OU spirit alive all over the world,” Audas said.
Beyond fundraising, OU/Texas weekend serves as a recruitment tool, as Sooner students and alumni represent the university and show what the university has to offer.
“The OU/Texas weekend showcases the University of Oklahoma throughout one of the largest and most populated states in the union. It not only helps us with athletic recruitment, but it helps the university attract outstanding students, as well. The weekend also increases the attachment of our Texas alumni to the university,” Boren said.
Jim Gasaway, who worked with OU student recruitment, fundraising and alumni association for 27 years, said the tradition and pageantry of the weekend makes it like no other.
“OU/Texas shows prospective students that there are a lot of fun things to do at OU,” Gasaway said.