There is nothing quite like a cool, breezy game day in Norman, Oklahoma. The bi-polar Oklahoma weather is normally on its best behavior in the fall, making football season the best time to travel to Norman. The Sooners have been the state's main sports attraction for decades and get the full attention of all Oklahomans.
Fans descend on Norman from all corners of the state to take in the sights and sounds before filing into the monument that is the 82,000 capacity Gaylord Family Oklahoma Memorial Stadium. All of this and the history surrounding the program make it a can't-miss destination for the traveling football fan.
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There is nothing much to report here, unfortunately. Inside the stadium you will find your usual array of stadium food like hot dogs, nachos, pretzels, peanuts, candy, etc. The prices are fair, at least. You can come away with nachos, a hot dog and a couple Cokes for under $20. There is no beer served inside the stadium, so adjust your expectations accordingly. I would strongly suggest eating outside the stadium before the game at either a restaurant or street vendor, both offering much tastier options.
Norman is a fantastic place to come see a football game. The University of Oklahoma is consistently ranked as one of the most decorated and historic football programs of all time and during the Bob Stoops era (1999-present) the team has only lost three home games.
The pregame atmosphere is second to none, with tailgating tradition rivaling the heralded partiers of the Deep South. You can follow The Pride of Oklahoma marching band to the stadium as they make their way through throngs of crimson-clad fans clapping along to the fight song.
Stop by the new Heisman Park with huge bronze statues of OU's five Heisman Trophy winners on your way to the Switzer Center, a shrine to more than 100 years of football glory.
The stadium rests right in the middle of a beautiful campus, but just one block north is Campus Corner, the place to be before and after a Sooners game. Campus Corner is a square, one block on each side, full of bars, restaurants and shops that offer something for everyone.
There are only a handful of chain eateries (Subway, Chipotle) that you could eat anywhere, so make sure and try some of the local spots. Pepe Delgado's offers delicious, authentic Mexican food (not Tex-Mex) and has a frozen margarita that will knock your socks off. Coriander CafĂ© buys their ingredients daily, serving up fresh, unique Asian cuisine. Hideaway Pizza has been dishing out legendary pizza all over the state for years. I suggest "The Boz," a meaty pie named after the legendary OU linebacker. Finally, if you're just looking for a beer, burger and fries, head to O'Connell's, the "Home of the Sooners" since 1968.
The only reason Campus Corner doesn't get a 5 out of 5 is because I would rank it just behind Big 12 counterparts Texas and Kansas and their respective home towns, Austin and Lawrence. If you are looking for a good time, be sure to visit Darrell K Royal Texas Memorial Stadium and Kansas University's Memorial Stadium on your list of great college football neighborhoods along with Norman.
You would think, given the rich history and impressive home record, that the fans would be an imposing, intimidating force for visiting teams. 85,000 fans alternating yelling "Boomer" and "Sooner" to each side rattles the cages a bit I'm sure, but high expectations and a lack of interesting home games (Bob Stoops has averaged a 30-point margin of victory at home during his tenure) have created a rather spoiled fan base with a tendency to leave early. They have had their bright spots, like in 2008 when No.2 Texas Tech rolled into Norman and Bob Stoops gave the game ball to the fans after a 65-21 victory fueled by a raucous crowd. However, the crowd generally is fairly subdued. The student section does their part, never sitting down, but they usually only last until the third quarter when they begin to file out to Campus Corner.
Getting to and from the stadium is the most frustrating part of a game day in Norman. Campus is located deep inside town, which becomes completely locked down before and after the game. To avoid traffic, plan to get to Norman a full two hours before game time. There is plenty to do, so don't worry. Don't be in a hurry to leave, either. If you feel confident in your GPS, there are several back-roads you can take to avoid I-35 gridlock.
There are only a couple small parking garages on campus, so more than likely you are going to have to pay $10-$20 to park in someone's yard. Again, the earlier you get to Norman, the better.
Tickets are reasonably priced, considering the program, and odds are the home team is going to win so you never really leave feeling ripped off. All of the bars and restaurants on Campus Corner are highly competitive, meaning everything is cheap, cheap, cheap! Most bars serve $2 cocktails and I don't think there is one entree in any restaurant over $10, making Campus Corner a tremendous value. The scenery on campus is beautiful and a row of impressive fraternity and sorority houses line the West edge, so I would consider taking a (free) walk around campus to kill time while traffic dies down.
The University of Oklahoma gets one bonus point for the incredible tradition of the program. Some of the most dominant teams, coaches and players in college football history have graced the field in Norman. Being a part of it for a day is truly something special.
**Photo attributed to Nmajdan from Wikipedia Commons
The OU crowd was not very nice in my two previous visits. They are extremely engaged and do make for a great college game atmosphere, though. Parking is not ideal near the stadium and there is not much to do within walking distance.
If you want to watch a team win at home, go see Oklahoma. Most of the fans are good, but some get quiet. Nothing extra during the game, just football. Great area though.
577 Buchanan Ave
Norman, OK 73069
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