What Is the History of the Oklahoma Sooners?


Quick Answer

The Sooners became the nickname for the University of Oklahoma's athletic team in 1908, having developed from the Sooner Rooters, a pep club. In U.S. history, a Sooner is a person who entered the Oklahoma Territory before the legal start time to claim free land under the Homestead Act of 1862.

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Full Answer

To settle the Oklahoma Territory, Abraham Lincoln signed the Homestead Act of 1862. The act decreed that any person could claim 160 acres of government-owned land in the territory and receive a title to that land after five years of development.

The U.S. Civil War halted settlement of the territory for several years, and President Benjamin Harrison opened the land to settlement in 1889. Settlers came on April 22, 1889, to begin settling the land at noon on a first-come, first-served basis. However, some individuals entered the territory early in an attempt to claim the best land. Locals called the early arrivals "Sooners."

Shortly after adopting the Sooner nickname in 1908, the University of Oklahoma Sooners played an undefeated season in 1915. The university originally adopted the Sooner mascot because of name's historical reference, but the Sooner name later developed additional meanings of ambition, success and Progressivism. The University of Oklahoma used the nicknames Boomers and Rough Riders before settling on the Sooners. "Boomer! Sooner!" remains a popular chant for school athletic competitions.

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