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OU/TX from the Inside

Gaylord Extra: November Edition

OU/TX from the Inside

By Emma Rowland, Gaylord College Class of 2026

It is an understatement to describe this year’s OU/Texas game as a memorable one. Between the nail-biting score in the last minutes of the game, and the exhilaration of the crowd, it is fair to say that if you were able to attend this year’s Red River Rivalry, you witnessed OU history.

While cheering on the team from the stands was itself unforgettable, several Gaylord students were able to experience this famed victory from the field. Students from various organizations and sports properties were able to experience the game while working in their field of interest. 

Acacia McDonald, a senior public relations major minoring in history, was one of the students to enjoy this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. McDonald is involved in Sooner Sports Properties, a nationwide program for college sports and other events and a joint venture of Learfield IMG College. As a national organization, Learfield naturally had branch for the “Red River Rivalry”. After reaching out to the director of this branch, Acacia was interviewed and chosen to help during the game. She reported to the stadium at 6 a.m. to hand out flyers, assist at the hospitality tent and give a couple of tours before the game began.

“It was the calm before the storm,” McDonald said. 

Being on the field during the coin toss and golden hat presentation after the game were among the most memorable moments of the event, she said.

“It was crazy to be at the 50-yard line of the Cotton Bowl during OU/Texas …it was wild,” McDonald said. “It was really fun to be in the thick of it while all of the chaos was happening.”

For Noah Bryan, a creative media production major minoring in digital marketing, it was his second time to be on the field during the OU/Texas game through the Sooner’s Sports Properties partnership with Learfield IMG College. His role included taking pictures of any Learfield advertisements as well as action photos of the game. Noah enjoyed the opportunity to share the field  with local celebrities, as well as celebrities on a larger scale, including actor Matthew McConaughey and singer-songwriter Lana Del Rey. 

Noah hopes to work in creative media production after college, and he emphasizes that opportunities that allow students to be in the mix at events like this give them an upper hand after graduation. “That’s what you’re going to do after college, so by getting these opportunities we are able to make mistakes and learn from them,” Bryan said. “As Gaylord grads, we do have a leg up because we can cover games and do different internships that prepare us for our professional work.”

Brigg Bates, a senior sports broadcast journalism major and contributor to Sooner Sports Pad, was also on the field doing on-site reporting. Sooner Sports Pad is a collaborative show with OU Athletics and produced by Gaylord students, and aired on ESPN+. Bates has worked with Sooner Sports Pad for two semesters, working behind the scenes his first semester and being the main sports analyst this semester. Through his involvement with Sooner Sports Pad, Bates was selected to do a story on the OU/Texas game. 

Bates got to the field around 8:30 a.m. and reported the entire game, from the players warming up to interviewing the players post-win.

“Walking down the tunnel onto the field was one of my most favorite memories at OU,” Bates said. “I loved being in arms’ reach of OU players warming up before the game; you could feel the energy.”

Bates graduates in the spring of 2024 and plans to continue in the field of sports broadcast journalism. “Gaylord College has offered me experience that will lead me to landing my first job in sports; experiences like this are super-important in not only gaining experience but also meeting people in the industry and growing connections with the people you meet.”

Another senior majoring in sports broadcast journalism and contributor to Sooner Sports Pad who reported from the field is Stone Webber. Webber has been involved with Sooner Sports Pad since his freshman year, so this was his seventh semester with the program. He reported on the game, was present and reported on a post-game conference and produced a story for Sooner Sports Pad covering the OU offense throughout the game. One of the most memorable moments Webber mentioned was being just 10 feet from Nic Anderson’s game-winning touchdown. 

 “Covering games brings all of the aspects of being a reporter you learn in school together,” he said. “During the game, you are shooting and getting video; post-game, you start to think about what your story will be.” Stone believes these are some of the most valuable learning moments to be a part of.  “This kind of experience can’t be taught in the classroom; it is learned through real-world experiences.”

Nathaniel Feken, a Gaylord alumnus who advises OU Nightly Sports, Sooner Sports Pad and Gameday U, offers his insights about how opportunities like these are so valuable for students during and after their college career.

“I still remember covering the game as a student whenever I was here for OU Nightly and Sports Pad,” Feken said. “Now these guys and women are getting to do that same thing. They are able to rub shoulders with the people they want to work with.”

Feken was also on the field during the game with students conducting freelance work for The Tulsa World. “I told the students walking off the field, ‘You just witnessed an instant classic, and you were right in the middle of it while the players were on the field planting the flag.’ Dillon Gabriel was wearing the golden hat and Brent Venables was hugging Drake Stoops,” he said. “My goal is to walk them out of here and into the door of their next job and be ready to go.” 

A central aim of Gaylord College is to expose its students to real-life experience in their fields of discipline, and few institutions do a better job of this. The 2023 Red River Rivalry will most certainly go down as one of the high points in the career of veteran journalists, and even more so for these and other students whose work with Gaylord led them to the manicured grass of the Cotton Bowl.

Acacia McDonald at 2023 OU/TX game in Dallas, TX.
Acacia McDonald, 2023 OU/TX game.

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