NORMAN — Choosing the Big 12’s male athlete of the year would have been more difficult in a calendar year that didn’t include former Oklahoma quarterback Kyler Murray.
The league did that well for itself in 2018-19.
It put a team in the College World Series (Texas Tech) and produced the NCAA men’s basketball national runner-up (Texas Tech); the NCAA women’s basketball national champion (Baylor); a College Football Playoff participant (OU); a men’s golf national runner-up (Oklahoma State); the women’s gymnastics national champion (OU); the softball national runner-up (OU); the men’s tennis national champion (Texas) and the men’s track & field national champion (Texas Tech).
“I think there are a lot of programs that are really positioned to be successful,” OU athletic director Joe Castiglione said last month following a regents meeting.
As it happened, expectedly, Murray’s athletic year in 2018-19 was more than enough to win the Big 12 male athlete of the year award when it was announced Thursday. Texas heptathlon national champion Ashtin Zamzow won the female athlete of the year honor.
OU now has seven winners, male and female, in the past seven years. Murray and former Sooner quarterback Baker Mayfield won the award consecutively. No OU Heisman Trophy winner since the award’s inception has missed out on the honor.
Here is a look at all 11 OU winners:
2018-19 (male) Kyler Murray: His time in Norman was surreally brief. Murray’s status should become more iconic as time passes and fans absorb he and Mayfield’s two-year run.
Murray was the first FBS player to average at least 300 passing yards (311.5) and 60 rushing yards (71.5) per game for an entire season. The Allen, Texas native was just the second FBS player to accumulate at least 4,000 passing yards and 1,000 rushing in a season.
2017-18 (female) Maggie Nichols: A force in NCAA women’s gymnastics, Nichols became the first gymnast to ever record two “Gym Slams” — scoring a perfect 10.0 on every event. She won the first of back-to-back All-Around national titles.
But her inspiration went beyond those accolades in January 2018. She revealed herself as “Athlete A” — the first of many to report sexual abuse by former USA Gymnastics and Michigan State team doctor Larry Nassar.
2017-18 (male) Baker Mayfield: He’s arguably as popular in Cleveland as a Brown, if not more, than he was in Norman as a Sooner.
Mayfield was successful on the field (33-6 record as an OU starter) and never lost a true road game. He didn’t produce a national title but his brash style, confidence and standout quotes turned him into the most popular OU football player of all time.
His Heisman Trophy was followed a season later by Murray’s.
2015-16 (female) Paige Parker: Her part in a 2-1 victory over Auburn for the title — five scattered hits and one run in a complete game — capped a tense national championship series with the Tigers in 2016.
The 5-foot-11 native of Missouri allowed just two runs during the NCAA Tournament, sporting a 0.36 earned-run average. That June, OU coach Patty Gasso called her the best pitcher in Oklahoma history.
2015-16 (male) Buddy Hield: An infectious smile and positive aura made Hield’s jump shot no less deadly. He went down as one of the Big 12’s best basketball players of all-time, finishing as the league’s all-time leading scorer.
He scored 2,291 points for the Sooners, second all-time at the school. His part in an epic triple-overtime loss at Kansas — 46 points on 13-of-23 shooting — tied the sixth-highest point total ever by an opponent in Allen Fieldhouse. Months later, he led the Sooners to their first Final Four since 2002.
2014-15 (female) Lauren Chamberlain: If not OU softball’s best player of all-time, Chamberlain is likely its most recognizable.
She finished her career with an NCAA record 95 home runs and .960 slugging percentage. Her walk-off home run in the 12th inning against in the WCWS championship series against Tennessee helped ultimately push the Sooners to the national title.
Chamberlain became wildly popular in the process. She played with the USSSA Pride in the National Pro Fastpitch league until retiring recently. Before that, she posed semi-nude in ESPN The Magazine’s “Body Issue.”
2012-13 (female) Keilani Ricketts: She made All-America four times and hit .369 and maintained a 1.10 ERA as a senior.
An intimidator at 6 feet, 2 inches tall, she’s still in top shape as a member of the USA Softball Women’s National Team. She’s also a volunteer assistant coach with the Sooners.
2008-09 (male) Sam Bradford: OU’s fifth Heisman Trophy was its fourth who grew up in the state of Oklahoma.
The Oklahoma City native was dogged by injuries in his college and pro career, but still finished his time at OU with 15 school records including passing yards (8,403) and touchdown passes (88). He was believed to be the first member of the Cherokee Tribe to start as a Division I quarterback since the early 1970s.
2003-04 (male) Jason White: Another quarterback who dealt with numerous injuries — namely two ACL tears — White won the Heisman Trophy in 2013 and finished third in the voting the following year.
Though OU lost both, White played in back-to-back national championship games in 2003 and 2004.
2001-02 (female) Stacey Dales: Dales became the most recognizable player under OU women’s basketball coach Sherri Coale, playing the star role on the 2001-02 national runner-up team.
She finished her career as the Big 12’s all-time assists leader (764) and is now sixth on the list. She was the first OU player to reach 1,700 points, 600 rebounds and 700 assists.
The Ontario, Canada native is a successful broadcaster entering her 11th season working for NFL Network.
2000-01 (male) Josh Heupel: He played a big role in returning “Sooner Magic” to Norman, turning one of the nation’s stalest offenses into one of the best when OU won the 2000 national title.
Heupel was a captain, AP Player of the Year and 3606-yard passer that season. An unassuming personality, he quietly led the Sooners to an unbeaten year and eventually returned as offensive coordinator.