Friday, May 8, 2009

OU Men's Gymnastics

While the Sooner football team might have to squint against the glare of the ever-present media spotlight, it’s the University of Oklahoma men’s gymnastic team that has to squint against the glare from its numerous trophies.

Even though it’s the gridiron heroes who are the media darlings, judging by the number of national championships won, it’s the men’s gymnastic team that is more deserving of the spotlight. Since 1965, men’s gymnastics has racked up eight national championships—more than any other OU team.

Additionally, the Sooners have featured 99 individual champions, six Nissen-Emery winners and 185 All-Americans.

“Obviously our sport is not as popular in the public eye and I think we’ve all come to accept that,” sophomore gymnast Steven Legendre said. “It’s unfortunate because I think our sport is just as interesting and just as fun to watch. I don’t really know why it’s not as popular, but we’ve come to be okay with that.”

Assistant professor Dr. Ralph Beliveau, however, said there are a couple reasons men’s gymnastics is less popular in the public eye. Among Beliveau’s research areas are media criticism, critical theory and rhetorical theory.

“Part of it is the lack of confrontation that I think is part of what makes people interested in sports,” Beliveau said. “The other part of it is that it just doesn’t have the same kind of way of expressing masculinity that other sports do, which is part of why I think people consume sports is because it kind of reinforces their notions of power connected with gender.”

According to OU Athletics’ official website,, the men’s gymnastics program began in 1902, yet folded 15 years later. Then, in 1965, OU men’s gymnastics was established as a competitive sport for the first time in school history.

In spite of the numerous awards the team has won, the general public lacks extensive awareness of the program’s dominance in the sport. In fact, head coach Mark Williams said some people are unaware of the program's national championships.

According to, the average attendance at OU football games in 2008 was 85,075. On November 22, the football team brought in a record crowd of 85, 646 while playing Texas Tech University. The largest crowd the OU men’s gymnastics team brought in was 958 at the home meet against the University of Texas, according to The Collegiate Gymnastics Information Center.

Furthermore, 384 people were in attendance at the home meet against Pennsylvania State when the Sooners broke an NCAA record by scoring a 366.850.

“We get anywhere from 500 to 1500 at a home meet, and depending on promotions and advertising, it fluctuates,” Williams said. “But it’s hard to crack those limitations without a bigger exposure in the media, so a lot of what we rely on is word of mouth and people looking at our website, but if people don’t look at that, it’s hard for them to know even when we have our competitions.”

Part of the reason the men’s gymnastics team has less public support than other sports is a lack of media coverage and exposure.

“The Daily Oklahoman and the Norman Transcript only have so many reporters that can go out so many times, and a lot of the time there were basketball games and gym meets going on at the same time,” Matt Wilson, student assistant and men’s gymnastics contact said. “But on any given week, I would have one maybe two media requests a week. Any given week, you have eight to 10 reporters a week at a football event, so it’s definitely based on popularity and what sports doing well right now.”

Twice this year, the Sooners had national coverage, according to the 2009 Oklahoma Men's Gymnastics Posteason Guide. ESNP2 and ESPNU broadcasted tape-delayed coverage the NCAA Men’s Gymnastics Championships, and the magazine Inside Gymnatics published interviews with Legendre and Williams.

“I think that sports coverage tends to reflect what ends up being very important to people so there's a lot of investment in hometown and a lot of investment in highlight reels and spectacular performances rather than something that takes a little bit longer and you have to be a little bit more sensitive to absorb,” Beliveau said. “I think they could probably approach it a little bit differently than they do but their renovations happen in other ways, they have to do the technology presentations and then manufacture bizarre statistics on sports people are already familiar with.”

Legendre is the two-time individual national champion from the years 2008 and 2009, and senior gymnast Chris Brooks was a finalist for the Nissen-Emery Award, the gymnastics equivalent of the Heisman Trophy. Both gymnasts are members of the senior U.S. National Team.

Because gymnastics is a sport that heavily focuses on individual accomplishments, Beliveau explained, it lacks significant public appeal. Additionally, because it’s based off performance, it’s difficult for the general public to know what’s considered good and not.

“It’s really more of a finesse as opposed to someone who's an outstanding performer who can slam dunk or who can just totally nail people or throw a pass accurately,” Beliveau said. “The closest comparison to mainstream sports is probably like some of the subtleties of pitching where you have to know a lot about pitching to be able to tell why somebody is successful or not.

But in a lot of finesse sports, like gymnastics or skating where it's a performance, it requires a great deal of more knowledge about what’s going on and being able to tell what's good and what’s not. If you just do the most outlandish physical moves, that’s not necessarily going to guarantee success, you have to be able to do it in a certain way that’s recognized by the sport. I think that’s just a harder thing to get to learn.”

Legendre expressed a similar linking to the public’s lack of support and awareness.

“Its’ kind of a confusing sport to pick up on and understand right away,” Legendre said. “It’s not as simple as some other sports, so I think that kind of also makes it harder for people to become interested in it because they don’t exactly know what they’re watching.”

Sophomore gymnast Steven Legendre shares his opinion of gymnastics and the sport's popularity.
Members of the OU men's gymnastics team during post-season practice.

Head Coach Mark Williams talks about the public support and media coverage of men's gymnastics.


Dr. Ralph Beliveau on men's gymnastics

Friday, April 17, 2009

Defense dominates OU spring football game

Although Heisman Trophy winner Sam Bradford will return this fall as OU’s prominent star, the defense stole the show at OU's spring football game on Saturday, April 10 at Oklahoma Memorial Stadium.

Defense forced two turnovers and scored two touchdowns on head coach Bob Stoops' unique scoring system that allowed defense to score points. Defense beat offense 63-36.

I think [the defense] did pretty good,” sophomore linebacker Travis Lewis said. “There were a lot of players flying around and [offense] only scored twice. Pretty good day.”

The Sooners will make their first appearance of the regular season Labor Day weekend against Brigham Young University at the Dallas Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Texas. It will be the first college football game at the new stadium.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

33rd Annual Medieval Fair

The 33rd annual Medieval Fair of Norman began Friday at Reaves Park and ends Sunday at 7pm.

Featuring over 200 art and food vendors, the fair is the state's largest weekend event. s free to the public and ends Sunday evening at 7pm.

"[The Renaissance Magazine] keeps doing articles about vendors that they run into saying, 'Have you heard about Norman? You've got to go," Leslie Gillies, event staff volunteer said.

For more information, call the Norman Convention and Visitors Bureau at 366-8095 or 1-800-767-7260.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

CAC presents Sooner Scandals

Campus Activity Council's Sooner Scandals production, a student-produced talent showcase, was this weekendthe Donald W. Reynolds Performing Arts Center. Members of Kappa Alpha Theta and Beta Theta Pi were announced as the winners Satuday evening.

The university-wide musical competition featured 12 campus groups. Participants performed Thursday, Friday and Saturday.

The second place trophy was awarded to Delta Gamma and Phi Delta Theta. Chi Omega and Delta Tau Delta came in at third.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Freshman's first career home run

Freshman third baseman Garrett Buechele had his first career home run Tuesday night at L. Dale Mitchell Park.

With three hits and three RBIs, Buechele helped lead the Sooners in a 12-6 win over Central Arkansas.

“I honestly didn’t think it was going to get out,” Buechele said. “I saw it go over and I was pretty excited because a bunch of guys on the team have been giving me trouble about not getting [a home run] yet so it felt pretty good to get that one out of the way.”

The Sooners are 21-5 overall and 2-1 in the Big 12.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Weather-related cancellations, postponements, closings

Predictions of inclement weather prompted multiple schedule changes on campus Saturday, March 28.

Classes scheduled for Saturday were canceled, and the Sam Noble Oklahoma Museum of Natural History closed for the day.

The Big Event has been postponed to Saturday, April 18, and Sooner baseball's series opener was pushed back to Sunday.

"Big Event is meant to be an enjoyable experience for volunteers and the organizations for which they are working," said Big Event chair Amanda Holloway. "We are trying our best to serve the students and the job sites in our efforts to help the community."

Approximately 5,000 students were registered to volunteer for the event. For more information visit

Friday, March 27, 2009

Economy not interfering with cupid's arrow: Weddings seem to be recession-proof for OU students

Jenny Dillon, owner of The Bridal Boutique in Norman, and Bailey Jacobson, bridal sales consultant, in front of featured bridal gowns. The economic recession isn't hurting the emerging boutique's business.

Despite the fact the hard-hit economy means cash register bells aren't ringing, University of Oklahoma students still are hearing wedding bells.

And while the stock market's deep dive means a nightmare to their parents, a lot of older students and recent graduates are still taking the plunge for the wedding of their dreams.

"I don't necessarily have a dream wedding, but it's important to my whole family that I get what I want," said Meredith Willinger, bride-to-be and OU junior."I'm the only daughter."

According to the American College Personnel Association, the number of married students at universities is increasing.

Since these students aren't immune to the economic slump, many young couples are planning their weddings more wisely.

“Luckily my parents have been saving money for my wedding for a while so monetarily we are not too affected,” said Willinger. “But the economy has made me think more about how I'm spending the money.”

For Willinger's June 2010 wedding, the cake will feed about half of her 250 guests.

“The other half will eat sheet cake in the same flavor-icing combo,” said Willinger. “The sheet cake will be pre-sliced in the kitchen so no one will know.”

From do-it-yourself projects to sensible thinking, many couples have a similar approach to planning their recession-weddings.

One strategy is tying the knot when rates are lower, like November through April, the off-season for weddings. Usually Saturday night is the most expensive.

At Cobblestone Creek country club in Norman, the rental charge ranges from $800 to $1000 for a ceremony after 7pm.

In planning his daughter’s March wedding, Edward Tilley saved money by hiring someone he knew as the photographer.

“You have to be careful and you can’t get carried away, Tilley said. “You still have a nice wedding but you don’t have to break the bank.”

According to The Wedding Report, a market research company, more couples are projected to marry for a lower budget this year.

In 2008, 2.19 million couples got married at an average cost of $21,814. It is predicted that in 2009, 2.22 million couples will marry for about $20,398.

At The Bridal Boutique in Norman, the largest bridal store in Norman, business is booming despite the economic decline.

The boutique has days full of scheduled appointments and frequent walk-ins, and about half of its customers are OU students.

“We actually just keep getting busier and busier,” said Bailey Jacobson, bridal sales consultant for The Bridal Boutique.

Jenny Dillon, owner of The Bridal Boutique, said one reason she entered $60 billion industry is because people are always going to get married.

Willinger's attitude reflects this idea.

“I will for sure get married regardless of any outside circumstances,” Willinger said. “Even if it has to be in a courthouse channeling [Sarah Jessica Parker] in Sex and the City, I'm going to marry my fiance. We have been dating for six-and-a-half years and are so ready and excited to be married and start our lives together.”

The Bridal Boutique, which offers a credit program and discount services, is one of many businesses with services to alleviate costly wedding expenses.

Couples can enter in the “Bahamas Bridal Bailout” contest to win a free Bahamas wedding. JC Penny partners with to provide online benefits for wedding needs.

In addition, many scholarships are available exclusively for married college students.

“There are ways to have a beautiful and chic wedding without spending a lot of money,” Jacobson said. “It might take more time on the bride's part, like making their own centerpieces or favors.”

Jacobson said she advises simplicity to help cut back on the entire price tag.

“This means brides can opt for less extravagant weddings and still be throwing a stylish affair," Jacobson said.