I had never heard about the Oklahoma football team’s forty-seven-game winning streak until four years ago when I was at my fifteen year Notre Dame reunion.
This story requires a little background information from me. The way Notre Dame reunions work is as follows. They have a reunion weekend every year in June, and each year’s reunion weekend hosts graduates from classes graduating in five year intervals. For example, I graduated in 93, so my reunion weekend includes alumni who graduated in years ending in 3’s and 8’s. Confused yet?
Reunion weekend starts on a Thursday afternoon, and runs through Sunday. The weekend consists of a class dinner on Friday night, seminars during the day on Friday and Saturday, an all class Mass on Saturday afternoon, an all class dinner on Saturday night, and lots of opportunities for fun and camaraderie.
During my last reunion weekend, my friends and I were looking at the seminars that were being offered on Friday and Saturday, and, this one in particular caught my eye. Author Jim Dent was there with the 1958 Notre Dame football team, talking about how they ended the Oklahoma Sooner forty-seven-game win streak. Dude. Totally right up my alley.
My friends all looked at me as if I had three heads, and tell me that I’m nuts, so I end up going to the seminar by myself. I show up to this auditorium in the business school building and it is jam packed, and I am one of about three girls in the room. There are people literally spilling out of the room, people were so excited to hear Jim Dent tell the story and to hear the guys from the 1958 football team reminisce with the crowd.
That was truly the most amazing hour and a half that I’ve had in quite some time. Jim Dent gave the background on the Sooner football team and their win streak. And then detailed Notre Dame’s season up to their matchup with the undefeated Sooners. And then he played some of the game film on the screen in the classroom and let the ’58 guys talk. Aboslutely amazing. I still have goosebumps thinking about it.
After the seminar was over, Jim Dent played the game film in it’s entirety, and I would have loved to have stayed, but Mass was calling and my friends would have killed me if I would have skipped out on Mass. Jim Dent was selling his book about the Oklahoma Sooner’s win streak (and how Notre Dame broke it), along with his other book, The Junction Boys, and I bought them both. I had him sign one for me, and one for my Dad. He was SO excited to see a girl there, who was genuinely intersted in football, I really didn’t think he was going to let me leave! You just never know what life is going to drop right in your lap, now do you?
Here is an excerpt from the forward of Jim Dent’s book The Undefeated. If you have not read it, I highly recommend it. Also, Jim Dent has a book out on legendary Notre Dame head coach Ara Parseghian, Ressurection, and I most highly recommend that one as well.
Author’s Note (from Jim Dent)
“One day I mentioned to Darrell Royal that I was writing a book about Oklahoma’s fabled forty-seven-game winning streak. Royal, of course, won a slew of national championships as the coach of the Texas Longhorns and was an All-American quarterback for the Sooners in 1949. He reached for my notebook and entered this data on the back:
“It didn’t take a math major to interpret this formation. Simply, from the second game of the 1948 season to the eighth game of the ’57 season, the Oklahoma Sooners under Bud Wilkinson won ninety-four games, lost four, and tied two (94-4-2). The Sooners compiled winning streaks of thirty-one and forty-seven games. Are you listening Bob Stoops, Bobby Bowden, and Steve Spurrier? Is there anyone out there who can top that?”
“To eclipse the Divisioin I record today for consecutive wins, a team would need to compile four straight undefeated seasons, along with four straight wins in both the conference and the national championship games.”
“What Wilkinson and the Sooners accomplished in winning forty-seven straight is the football equivilent of Joe DiMaggio’s fifty-six game hitting streak. In fact, it might be more difficult to break. Once you read about the tedious preparation, along with the fourth-quarter comebacks you will understand the intense pressure that accompanied this feat.”
The ’58 guys who succeeded in halting this tremendous win streak most definitely have a lot to be proud of. Not only did they defeat the Sooners in Norman, in very hostile territory, it was a battle right down to the last minute of the game. I can’t wait to see my boys head down to Norman on Saturday to face their current day foe, the Oklahoma Sooners. I know it will be a hard fought game by both sides, and may the best team win!