Book excerpt: Sisco makes Sooners sick

ESPN.com's SoonerNation is running excerpts from Jake Trotter's “I Love Oklahoma/I Hate Texas,” the first book to detail the Red River Rivalry from the Oklahoma viewpoint, examining the games, moments and heroes Sooners fans love to remember. And those they hate to remember, too.

“I Love Oklahoma/I Hate Texas” is on sale now at Amazon.com and BarnesandNoble.com, and will be hitting Oklahoma bookstores later this month. View the book's Facebook page for more information.

From the chapter, "Moments We Hate To Remember," read the excerpt after the jump:

Sisco makes Sooners sick

Through all the wars, elections, and heated sporting competitions, the record shows that only one man has been hung in effigy on the University of Oklahoma campus. His name was Sisco.

Under a first-year coach named Bud Wilkinson, OU’s 1947 season opened with promise. The Sooners beat the University of Detroit on the road, then knocked off Texas A&M. But up next was third-ranked Texas, which had defeated the Sooners in seven consecutive seasons. Wilkinson’s assistant, Dutch Fehring, called Texas “the greatest collegiate team ever assembled” and said that if the Sooners and Horns both played well, “they will outscore us six touchdowns to two.” Fehring and his superior were prone to exaggeration. But the Longhorns—led by hard-nosed fullback Tom Landry and the country’s best quarterback, Sooners killer Bobby Layne—were indeed loaded.

Early, OU hung tough. After a Layne touchdown pass, the Sooners countered with Jack Mitchell’s three-yard scoring scamper to tie the game 7–7. But late in the first half, the Sooners were “Siscoed,” a term in the Oklahoma lexicon that has become synonymous with “screwed.” With the game still tied, Texas had the ball at the OU 3-yard line with 20 seconds left. The Horns got to the 1, then quickly lined up for another play. “Before the game, everyone had agreed that the scoreboard clock would be the official time,” said Jay Wilkinson, Bud’s youngest son. On the next play, UT running back Randall Clay was stuffed for no gain as the final seconds ticked off the clock. Half over, right? Not so.

Official Jack Sisco, who had signaled “touchdown,” then “timeout” after realizing Clay had not scored, declared that one of the UT players had called timeout from under the pile. Sisco said that because he had signaled “touchdown,” he was unable to notify the scoreboard operator of the timeout before the clock ran out. Wilkinson was furious. He tore off his cap and rushed the field. “Dad always told us, if he hadn’t been a first-year head coach, he would have just taken the team off the field,” Jay Wilkinson said. “But he didn’t have the confidence then to take what would have been very bold action.” Instead, UT was granted another play with the scoreboard showing no time left. And a play more controversial than the one before it followed.

After Layne and halfback Jimmy Canady fumbled a handoff exchange, the ball ended up back in Layne’s hands. Squatting, he wheeled around and pitched the ball to Clay, who then dashed around a pair of Sooners bemused about what had just happened. The OU players protested Layne’s knee had been down before he pitched the ball. “I was right there, close by down low and right at that end,” said former OU quarterback Claude Arnold, who hadn’t joined the team yet, but was sitting in the stands that day. “Bobby Layne’s knee was definitely down.”

Two officials thought he was down, too. But Sisco didn’t see it that way and overruled them, handing the Horns a 14–7 halftime lead. As the teams ran off the field, Wilkinson charged through the UT band to confront Sisco and accidentally knocked over a piccolo player on the way.

In the second half, the controversial calls continued to flow against the Sooners. OU end Jim Tyree threw a powerful block to spring halfback Darrell Royal loose on a punt return, but officials flagged Tyree for clipping, placing the ball at the OU 1. With great field position, Texas scored on its next possession.

The Sooners valiantly tried to overcome the Sisco calls, and in the fourth quarter Mitchell’s 72-yard touchdown run off a lateral from George Thomas trimmed the deficit to 21–14. But from there, all hell broke loose. On the ensuing possession, Royal intercepted Layne to seemingly set the Sooners up with a chance to tie. But Sisco flagged OU guard Stanley West with roughing the passer, handing the ball back to the Horns. “West and I rushed him but I was in front and hit [Layne] just as he threw the ball,” guard Buddy Burris later said. “But I hit him clean.” Later on the drive, Clay appeared to have been stopped at the line of scrimmage. But officials allowed the play to continue. Clay popped out of the scrum and circled around for a touchdown. By then, OU fans had had enough. Scores of pop bottles and seat cushions began raining down from the stands. Players on both sides dashed to midfield to avoid getting plunked. “The field was plum full of stuff OU people had thrown down there,” recalled OU end Merle Dinkins. “Wasn’t any doubt who they were aiming for.”

After the field was cleared minutes later, Texas—boosted by the series of calls in its favor—went on to win 34–14. After the final whistle, OU fans lobbed more bottles from the stands. “They were coming right over my head,” Arnold said. “I had never seen anything like that. It was scary.” Royal grabbed his future wife, Edith, placed his helmet on her head, and ran with her to the tunnel to take cover. Fights broke out in the stands, and several OU fans made a run to the field to try and grab Sisco, who actually had to punch out one charging fan in self-defense. “They would have killed him, if they could have gotten to him,” Dinkins said. A police car was driven to midfield to take Sisco and the other officials through the tunnel. “They were beating on the windows of that car while it left the field,” said OU halfback Tommy Gray. One ill-advised fan smashed one of the cops with a bottle, knocking him off the fender of the police car. “The police rolled him so fast, you couldn’t believe,” Gray said. Bottled drinks would never be served at the Cotton Bowl again.

Back in Norman, close to 1,000 students gathered Sunday night to hang Sisco in effigy, singing “Don’t Send My Boy to Texas” and “Boomer Sooner” as they strung the dummy to an elm in front of the administration building. “The students were in an uproar,” recalled OU end Ed Lisak. The students intended to burn the effigy, too, but someone ran off with the body. The next night, a crowd of 3,000 gathered and burned a new dummy of Sisco in a campus parking lot to the chant, “Jack Sisco’s body lies a-moldering in the grave.”

Years later, Sisco dared to travel to Shawnee, Oklahoma, for a business luncheon, and Dinkins was at the same event. “Everyone there wanted to see if I would knock the hell out of him,” Dinkins said. “I just looked at him and said, ‘It’s a wonder you didn’t get killed coming up this way.’”

This excerpt from "I Love Oklahoma/I Hate Texas" is printed with the permission of Triumph Books / www.triumphbooks.com.