As Oklahoma President David Boren addressed the crowd in attendance for the dedication of Bob Stoops' statue in the courtyard of the Switzer Center, there was a feeling something was wrong. Boren, typically well-spoken and insightful, was repeating himself and slurring his words near the end of his speech. Maybe it was the cold weather and high winds, but when Boren struggled to get back to his seat, nearly everyone in attendance knew something wasn't right with the 76-year-old president.
Paramedics eventually showed up, after former Oklahoma standout safety Roy Williams notified the police, making it an awkward scene as athletics director Joe Castiglione attempted to keep the crowd's attention.
"That was a moment when everybody was going to come up around the statue," Castiglione told Eric Bailey of the Tulsa World. "I saw they were going to put him on the stretcher and maybe perhaps take him to further observe and evaluate his condition. I saw a little bit more concern in people’s eyes and the body language … he was looking at me like ‘keep going.’"
Boren would later have to be carried off on a stretcher and taken to OU Medical, where he was examined, and it was determined he had suffered a minor stroke. In a day that was about the celebration of a legendary coach and Lincoln Riley's creation of a new atmosphere for a spring game that normally draws little attention, Boren's health scare left a weary cloud over the festivities.
Just over three hours later, sophomore running back Trey Sermon — a key contributor in the Sooner offense — suffered what appeared to be a bad knee injury at the time. Just plays later, a cheerleader was knocked out cold by an errant pass out of bounds. On top of that, the spring game itself didn't see a touchdown until overtime.
Things did not go as planned Saturday, and at the center of it all was Boren.
"It's tough to describe," Riley said after the game. "Tough for it to be such a great event and great thing, and then to see him not feeling well — it hurts me."
Boren has been the face of the university for 24 years. He's been an ambassador for not only the university as a whole, but also Oklahoma Athletics and the future of the Big 12. Boren is responsible for a large part of Oklahoma's success, and he, Castiglione and Stoops were a rarity in college football, staying together for 18 years.
The medical episode Boren experienced Saturday was shocking. Despite having heart surgery in 2017 and back surgery in 2005, Boren has seemingly been immortal, making Saturday's atmosphere go from exciting to somber.
After Boren was taken away, Castiglione stood before the crowd at a loss for words, saying, "They don't write a script for things like this." Castiglione's comments are mutual to the feelings of Sooner Nation, with a cloud of worry still hanging over Norman.
"I ruined the day," Boren was overheard saying as he was carted off the Switzer Center south lawn.