DALLAS- Brent Venables was going to “pack the palace” for Oklahoma’s annual spring game last month.
It was a major topic of conversation for the Sooners’ new head coach throughout spring camp ahead of the April 23 game – and the fans delivered.
A program record 75,360 people packed Gaylord Family – Oklahoma Memorial Stadium on that fateful Saturday afternoon, the most of any Spring Games nationwide in 2022.
It was an opportunity for OU fans to hear their voices in the college football world after an offseason filled with convulsions that they absolutely responded to.
But for Venables, this was far more than just a grand display of Oklahoma pride — instead, it served as a loud “message” to the rest of college football.
“We sent a message that the best is the standard,” Venables told OU fans Thursday night at a Coaches Caravan stop in Dallas. “It looks like this. This is what excellence looks like. This is what “all in” looks like. This is what commitment looks like. This is what Sooners look like.”
With the national narrative over the winter, it seems like one that’s throwing dirt at Oklahoma Lincoln Riley and Caleb Williams‘ Departures to USC, Venables saw the impressive turnout as a reminder of where OU sits in the college football hierarchy.
“It sent a message to college football about the importance of Oklahoma football,” Venables said. “This is the most successful team in college football since 1940. It has been the most consistent program in college football since 1999. The only program in all of college football (since 1999) that has not had a losing season. 50 conference championships, Alabama runner-up with 29. So make sure we know who we are.
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But while Venables is certainly more than willing to acknowledge Oklahoma’s past, his eyes are firmly fixed on the future.
He regularly reminds the team that while it’s important to know the history of the program, the 2022 edition of the Sooners hasn’t accomplished anything yet.
“This is Team 128,” Venables said. “The 128th team in the history of Oklahoma football. And this team, I know everyone’s excited, but this team deserves nothing. I know we are all excited for the spring game and what a great performance that was from the fans. I know our players appreciated that. (It) gave our players a real opportunity to play what a game day atmosphere will be like in Norman, Oklahoma.
“But this team hasn’t earned anything yet. So I’m really excited about the work that this team is willing to do. They don’t put championship rings on slick hands. You have to put in the work.”
While the Sooners are undoubtedly one of college football’s blue bloods, with a success that rivals nearly every other program in the country, the eighth national title in the program’s history has proven elusive.
Though Oklahoma has seemingly always been a contender, the last Oklahoma championship came over two decades ago when OU defeated Florida State for the 2000 crown.
With the spring game in April serving only as a starting point, Venable’s vows will change during his tenure with Norman.
“It’s been 22 years since we won the national championship,” Venables said. “I’ll tell you one thing, it won’t be 22 before we win the next one. I promise you.”