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Sooners had to cancel football games a century ago

August 18, 2018 ▪ By Ray Dozier

In 2001, the 9/11 terrorist attacks on the United States forced a weekend of cancellations and postponements in the sports world. The Oklahoma Sooners were scheduled to meet Tulsa on September 15, but the game was postponed for seven weeks when both teams had a bye week. One hundred years ago, the Spanish flu swept across the world infecting 500 million people and killing 20 to 50 million, including 675,000 in the U.S. Many teams in the sports industry were forced to cancel games including the University of Oklahoma, which canceled football games against Missouri, Texas and Northwest Normal of Alva, thus reducing the 1918 slate to just six games.

The season began with no problems as the Sooners hosted Post Field, a military football team based out of Fort Sill during World War I. Oklahoma won, 58-0. The flu began infecting many Oklahomans in early October, and the disease began subsiding by the middle of the month. “At Norman, the epidemic paralyzed football. With the university rigidly quarantined, no games could be played,” wrote Harold Keith in his book “Oklahoma Kickoff.” Missouri and Texas postponed their games with the Sooners, and both games were eventually canceled. Mizzou had canceled its entire season, but the Longhorns managed to compete in nine contests. Alva Normal also was canceled. The contest with Phillips University of postponed until late November.

“The quarantine has been interfering with the football schedule and was the cause of the game with Phillips last Saturday,” the Oklahoman reported on October 13. By mid-October, the Sooners hosted Central Normal (now the University of Central Oklahoma) and hammered the Bronchos, 44-0.

“…only the Student Army Training Corps and the Vocational school students were allowed to attend, individual companies of the campus military unit being compelled to sit in isolated groups in the stands so they wouldn’t infect each other,” Keith scribed. The flu was losing its grip by early November, but Oklahoma still didn’t play a game for another three weeks. They traveled to Lawrence, Kansas on November 9—the first game of the year for the Jayhawks. The Sooners showed no ill effects from the three-week layoff as they won, 33-0. Two days later, World War I concluded when Germany agreed to an armistice ending the war in victory for the allied powers.

OU finished the season with three victories: 103-0 over Arkansas, 13-7 over Phillips, and 27-0 over Oklahoma A&M (now Oklahoma State).

The Sooners outscored five of their foes by a combined 265-0. Phillips scored the only points on Oklahoma’s defense, made it a close contest on a soggy Allison Field in Enid.

Articles by Ray Dozier