OSU Gameday Traditions

Many factors contribute to the "college experience" - not the least of which is gaining a feeling of belonging and a sense of loyalty to the school, its faculty and staff, the community that embraces the university, and the athletic teams that compete to garner conference and national honors.

Wearing school colors and displaying emblems of the university are life-long symbols of allegiance. Here, we explore the stories behind Oklahoma State's mascots, symbols, celebrations, traditions and spirit organizations.

Tigers, Aggies and Cowboys

From the 1890s on, Oklahoma A&M sports teams had been referred to as the Agriculturists or Aggies, the Farmers, and officially - but unpopularly - the Tigers. But by 1924, Charles Saulsberry, sports editor of the Oklahoma City Times, and other writers who regularly covered college events had begun to refer to Stillwater's teams as the A&M Cowboys. Reporters in search of colorful synonyms started sprinkling Cowpokes, Pokes, Waddies, Cowpunchers and Punchers in conversation.

"Cowboys" had a Southwestern flavor and flair that fit like a favorite pair of boots. The Athletic Council authorized Athletic Director Edward C. Gallagher to have 2,000 balloons printed, "Oklahoma Aggies - Ride 'em, Cowboy" for sale at football games in 1926.

The nickname quickly germinated, yielding a genuine identity that had long been lacking on both campus and off. Around 1923, an early U.S. deputy marshal, gun-totin' Frank B. "Pistol Pete" Eaton of Perkins, headed Stillwater's Armistice Day parade. For some time students and alumni had considered Indians, various animals, and deputy marshals as a replacement for the Tigers. At the parade's end, the search was over.

The spirited image of a tough, proud, self-reliant cowboy triggered by Eaton became a cartoon drawing. The new mascot was easily woven into the fabric of campus life. Not until 1984 would official sanction be given the emblem and its "Pistol Pete" moniker, but by then the Cowboys already had been settled comfortably into sixty years of sports vocabularies and print, spilling over into all general references to the student body and alumni, faculty and fans.

On May 15, 1957, Governor Raymond Gary's signature made official the changing of the name of Oklahoma A&M College to Oklahoma State University of Agriculture and Applied Science. For some time alumni and administrators had felt the increasing size and score of the 67-year-old school merited a name descriptive of its operations, activities and services. The days of classwork done in partitioned nooks of local churches had long faded. The progressive land-grant giant deserved a title to match its maturing image as a strong, educational power anchored on a beautiful, sprawling campus.

With a new name for the university in Stillwater, the old nicknames began to fade.

Goodbye, Tigers and Aggies. Howdy, Cowboys and Cowgirls!
 

OSU Traditions
Tigers, Aggies and Cowboys
The Waving Song
America's Greatest Homecoming
Bullet and the Spirit Rider
The Walk
OSU Alma Mater Hymn
OSU Spirit Run
Pistol Pete
Frank Eaton
 

Oklahoma A&M fashioned itself as the "Princeton of the Plains," adopting the orange and black colors and Tiger mascot.

The Waving Song

Victor Herbert was inadvertently responsible for a deeply entrenched facet of A&M athletic tradition, the waving song. His lyricist was speech instructor H.G. Seldy Seldombridge. In 1908, Seldombridge had gone to Columbia University to scout for a senior class play. While there, he heard In Old New York, the hit song from the operetta The Red Mill. Even New Yorkers were humming the song on city streets, and Seldombridge returned to Oklahoma humming it, too.

Singer Billy Murray performs "In Old New York," the inspiration for OSU's Waving Song.

Shortly thereafter, he incorporated In Old New York into the closing number of a college follies show being rehearsed in Stillwater's Grand Opera House. But as he studied the stage decorated in orange and black for a campus scene, he realized that New York's praises were out of place for a southwestern college setting.

"Suddenly OAMC flashed to my mind," he explained in 1941. He asked the 30-voice choir to take a break, grabbed a piece of wrapping paper, hummed, and scribbled. In less than ten minutes he had the alternate lyrics that would enliven sports events long after opening night.

For that finale, a letterman representing each sport joined the chorus onstage. The students added their own memorable touch. They swayed and sang "OAMC! OAMC! We'll sing your praise tonight," as they waved to the audience in unison.

It almost raised the roof off the old building, noted Seldombridge, who left the campus in 1910. Exhilarated, the crowd surged to its feet and returned the rhythmic wave. It took two encores before the campus and community gathering was willing to relinquish the emotion of the moment.

"From that night on, you could frequently hear someone whistling the tune," he recalled, touched that OAMC's waving song was remembered as late as 1941.

The Cowboy Marching Band performs "The Trilogy," consisting of the Waving Song, Ride 'Em Cowboys and OSU Chant. Video recorded by the OSU Alumni Association.

The Waving Song tradition continues to this day with OSU fans rising to their feet and waving one arm in rhythm with the song after scores in football and following victories in other sports. Contrary to popular misconception, this tradition should not be referred to as "Waving the Wheat," which is the name of the two-armed wave adopted by University of Kansas fans.

The Waving Song Lyrics

Oklahoma State! Oklahoma State!
We'll sing your praise tonight;
To let you know where e're we go,
For the Orange and Black we'll fight
We'll sing your worth o'er all the Earth
And shout: Ki Yi! Ki Ye!
In books of fame we'll write your name,
Oklahoma State!

"Ride 'Em Cowboys" Lyrics

Ride, ride, ride, ride,
Ride'em Cowboys,
Right down the field!
Fight! Fight! Fight! Fight!
Fight'em Cowboys, and never yield.!
Ride, ride, ride, ride,
Ride on, Cowboys, to victory;
Cross (opponent)s goal;
Then we'll sing 'O-kla-homa State!'

 


The Waving Song tradition at OSU dates back over a century to its first performance in 1908.
 

The Waving Song continues today as one of the most recognizable OSU gameday traditions.

America's Greatest Homecoming

Homecoming Week is celebrated throughout the country. At Oklahoma State University, Homecoming has special meaning and the celebration reaches a level unmatched anywhere else. In fact, "America's Greatest Homecoming Celebration" at OSU is known coast-to-coast as one of the country's great college football weeks and weekends.

Throughout OSU's Homecoming activities, more than 50,000 alumni visit Stillwater. That total does not include fans and alumni who make the trek just for the football game.

The traditions of Oklahoma State University Homecoming Week. Video recorded by the OSU Alumni Association.

From street painting to Orange Ambiance, and from the well-known "Walkaround" in which the city streets are closed for a gigantic block party centered around Homecoming decorations, to "Homecoming & Hoops" nothing says college football like Homecoming Week at Oklahoma State. It is the epitome of life in a college town.

A variety of activities are held throughout Homecoming Week and they touch nearly every aspect of campus life.
 


The library fountain is dyed orange every Homecoming Week.
 

Friday Walkaround, featuring elaborate house decorations, is one of the most popular Homecoming attractions.

Bullet and the OSU Spirit Rider

The OSU Spirit Rider first appeared in 1984. The late Eddy Finley, who was asked to come up with a mascot for the band, started the Spirit Rider program. Finley, an agricultural education professor, wanted a mascot who could carry the OSU flag down the field after each touchdown.

John Beall Jr. was the first OSU Spirit Rider. Beall was a member of the OSU Rodeo Team and rode his own horse, a black mare named Della.

Ellis and Mary Grace Hostmeyer donated a 5-year-old gelding named Stars Parr Money four years after the program's initiation. This horse would be used as the official spirit horse for the OSU Athletic Department in return for season tickets and decoration credit. The horse's common name, Bullet, was chosen after a campus-wide contest was held in the Daily O'Collegian.

Football games are the most important appearance the Spirit Rider makes. The Spirit Rider leads the Spirit Walk, marches to the field with the OSU Marching Band and runs to the 30-yard line after a touchdown.

Game days for the Spirit Rider start at least three hours before kickoff. The rider and the ground crew meet at the horse barn to brush and dress the horse. They then travel to the Seretean Center for the Spirit Walk.

After the walk, the rider and horse return to the Edmon Low Library to lead the band to the field. Forty-five minutes before game time, the Spirit Rider and the band march to Boone Pickens Stadium to make their grand entrance.

The band marches on the field and splits into two groups. As the crowd goes wild, the announcer yells, "Here comes Bullet!"
 


Here comes Bullet!
 

Bullet has his own stall in the West End Zone of Boone Pickens Stadium.

The Walk

A tradition that began with head coach Les Miles continues with head coach Mike Gundy.

The night before football games, the team stays in the Atherton Hotel at the Student Union. On game day, two hours and fifteen minutes prior to the start of the game, the team walks down Hester Street to Boone Pickens Stadium. Coach Gundy leads the spirited parade, followed by the OSU Marching band, the spirit squad and, of course, the players.

Fans already at the stadium gather on the side of the road and cheer their Cowboys on to victory. This tradition quickly became a favorite of Cowboy fans, creating a new and exciting way for the team to enter the stadium.
 


Tens of thousands of Cowboy fans line Hester Street before every home game to greet the Cowboys as they make their way to Boone Pickens Stadium.
 

OSU Alma Mater Hymn

Another tradition started by OSU Football Coach Les Miles and continued today by Mike Gundy is the post-game singing of the OSU Alma Mater.

After every win at Boone Pickens Stadium, OSU players and coaches gather in front of the student section in the northwest corner of the stadium and sing the alma mater. All fans, students and non-students are encouraged to remain in the stands after OSU victories and join the Cowboys for the Alma Mater hymn.

The Cowboys even sang the alma mater in Norman in 2001, following their upset win over the Oklahoma Sooners. Cowboy fans were seated in a corner of Owen Field, and when the final buzzer rang, with the score OSU 16 - OU 13, the team stood on the field in front of them and celebrated the victory with their loyal fans.

The tradition has expanded over the years into other sports. The Cowboy Football team also now sings the Alma Mater at road games with the loyal OSU fans that have traveled to cheer the Pokes on to victory.

Alma Mater Hymn Lyrics

Proud and immortal
Bright Shines Your Name
Oklahoma State
We Herald Your Fame
Ever You'll Find Us
Loyal and True
To Our Alma Mater
O - S - U

 


Cowboy players sing the alma mater during the 2011 football season.
 

This post-game OSU tradition has been expanded into other sports.

OSU Spirit Run

With the unveiling of the renovated and expanded Gallagher-Iba Arena came another tradition - the Spirit Run.

At the under-8:00 timeout during the second half of OSU home basketball games, a member of the OSU Spirit Squad runs around the upper level of the arena carrying a huge OSU flag while the Spirit Band plays the "William Tell Overture."

The flag is then passed to other members of the Spirit Squad, until it finally arrives to the center of Eddie Sutton Court to be waved until the end of the song.
 


The upper concourse of Gallagher-Iba Arena is cleared for the OSU Spirit Run.

Pistol Pete

Around 1923, when Oklahoma A & M College was searching for a new mascot to replace their tiger (copied along with orange and black colors, from Princeton), a group of students saw Frank Eaton leading the Armistice Day Parade. He was approached to see if he would be interested in being the model for the new mascot, and he agreed. A likeness was drawn and began to be used on sweatshirts, stickers, etc. and a tradition was born.

That caricature was the basis for what is used today as the official Oklahoma State University Mascot. For thirty-five years, the crusty old cowboy was a living symbol of OSU, representing the colorful past of the area. As such, he would attend OSU athletic events, building dedications, etc., and sign autographs, pose for photographs and reminisce about the Old West with anyone who would listen. In more recent years, the University of Wyoming and New Mexico State University began using variations of OSU's artwork as logos for their schools.

To this day, his likeness is a visible reminder of the Old West to literally millions of people yearly as a symbol of colleges whose mascots pay homage to the cowboy. Each year, 10 to 15 OSU students tryout for Pistol Pete. A panel of former "Petes" judge the tryouts and select the two best candidates based on an interview, a mime, and posing as mascot in different "game situations". The two who are selected split the approximately 500 appearances annually. These appearances include all athletic events, pep rallies, business openings, weddings, birthday parties, and public school events.

Though Pistol Pete has been OSU's mascot since 1923, only since 1958 has someone worn the current garb and "head". The former Pistol Petes and the years they served are as follows:

Year Names Year Names
1958 Alan Leech 1985-86 Rick Wilson and Scott Petty
1958-59 Charles Lester 1986-87 Scott Petty and Scott Noble
1959-60 Bill Smith 1987-88 Lance Millis and Jack Franks
1960-61 Curtis Manley 1988-89 Matt Ketchum and John Price
1961-62 Unknown 1989-90 John Price and Kent Walstad
1962-63 Pete Fay 1990-91 Billy Sigmon and Chris Moody
1963 Mark J. Sullivan 1991-92 Billy Sigmon and Trey Stewart
1964 Joe Sullivan 1992-93 Trey Stewart and Brad Chelf
1964-65 Phil Glasgow 1993-94 Vince Kirkes and Chris Carroll
1965-66 Mitch Dobson 1994-95 Vince Kirkes and Jeff Walls
1966-67 Steve Costello 1995-96 Ryan Stafford and Cody Eden
1967-70 Bill Johnson and Dale Clark 1996-97 Ryan Stafford and Matt Ralls
1970-71 Bill Ransdell and Ned Kessler 1997-98 Matt Ralls and Brock Allen
1971-72 Bill Ransdell and Richard Forshee 1998-99 Preston Williams and Rhett Minson
1972-73 Gary Bridwell and Mike Martin 1999-00 Rhett Minson and Rob Neville
1973-74 Joe Elsener and William E. Beckman 2000-01 Wes Magill and Joe Winchester
1974-75 Tom Bennett 2001-02 Tyler Mullman and Stormy Phillips
1975-76 Mark Whitlaw 2002-03 Jason Hynson and Steven Sturgeon
1976-77 John Michael Entz 2003-04 Josh Pulver and Jared Wiley
1977-78 Rick Dillard and Wendall Hicks 2004-05 Josh Pulver and Jared Wiley
1978-79 Dwain Gibson 2005-06 Brett Adkins and Eric Stroud
1979-80 Scott Kirley and Kelley Green 2006-07 Ryan Nickell and Cale Walker
1980-81 Kurt Carter and Don Giles 2007-08 Michael Harris and Ryan Nickell
1981-82 Don Giles and Shane LaDuke 2008-09 Matt Barnes and Rhys Gay
1982-83 Shane LaDuke and Rob Reynolds 2009-10 Derick Dillard and Josh Bailey
1983-84 Rob Reynolds and Jesse Lancaster 2010-11 Derick Dillard and Wyatt Swinford
1984-85 David Treece and Rick Wilson 2011-12 Jordan Northcutt and Taylor Venus

Learn more about Pistol Pete by visiting library.okstate.edu/oralhistory/pistolpete/
 


Pistol Pete makes his big entrance at Boone Pickens Stadium on gameday.
 

Pete is a favorite of fans old and young alike.
 

Charles Lester poses with the original Pistol Pete head. The original head was crafted out of paper mach and is displayed in Heritage Hall.
 

David Treece and Rick Wilson pose with the modern fiberglass Pete heads created by Walt Disney artists. Each Pete head weighs 45 pounds.
 

Frank Eaton, the Man Behind the Mascot

"My boy, may an old man's curse rest upon you, if you do not try to avenge your father...You must never stop until they are all accounted for!"

These words, according to one of Eaton's many stories were spoken by a family friend following the brutal murder of his father, and guided the formative years of Frank's life. Born in 1860, in Hartford, Connecticut, Frank moved with his family to Kansas shortly after the close of the Civil War. When Frank was eight years old, his father, a former Union soldier, was shot and killed by a group of lawless former Confederates. Frank was a witness to the murder and each of the murderers' faces was imprinted in his memory.

The history of Pistol Pete and the man that inspired the mascot, Frank Eaton.

After being challenged to avenge his father's death by Mose Beaman, (the family friend) Frank set out to learn how to handle guns. Mose gave him a gun and holster, and taught him how to handle and shoot guns. Frank quickly learned to "shoot a snake's head off with either hand". During the next few years, Frank's days were spent helping his mother with chores and practicing shooting. With each passing year, he became faster and more accurate with his guns.

When Frank was fifteen, he learned of the location of one of his father's killers. After deciding it was almost time to set out on his mission, Frank wanted to make sure his shooting skills were good enough. He decided to visit Fort Gibson, a cavalry fort, to try to learn more about handling a gun. There he competed with the cavalry's best marksmen, beating them each time. After many competitions, the fort's commanding officer, Colonel Copinger gave Frank a marksmanship badge and a new name. From that day forward, Frank would be known as Pistol Pete!

Frank then set out on the trail of his father's killers. First was Shannon Campsey, Frank killed him on his own front porch. Doc Ferber was next, he was shot off of his horse with "two forty-five slugs through his breast". John Ferber would have been next, but the day before Frank caught up with him, he was shot for cheating at cards. Frank went to his funeral just to make sure he was dead. At John Ferber's funeral, Frank met a Deputy United States Marshal who was on the trail of the same men. After talking about the men, Frank was offered, and accepted a commission.

At seventeen, Frank became a Deputy U.S. Marshal under Judge Isaac C. Parker, "the hanging judge." Frank then caught up with Jim and Jonce Campsey together. They were both shot as they drew on Frank. Finally Frank tracked down the last murderer in New Mexico. Wyley Campsey was shot in a barroom gunfight along with two of his hired gunmen. Finally, after six long years, Frank Eaton was able to avenge his father's death. Each man drew his gun first, but came out "second best" in the end.

Stories such as the above contributed to the fame and notoriety of Frank Eaton. He lived the life of a true cowboy, said to "pack the fastest guns in the Indian Territory", he usually carried a loaded forty-five and often said "I'd rather have a pocket full of rocks than an empty gun". His quick-draw was the source of much interest throughout his later years, and Glenn Shirley of Stillwater, OK remembers taking him to an Indian Territory Gun Collectors Association meeting to show off his skills. He was also known to throw a coin in the air, draw, and shoot it before it hit the ground according to H.F. Donnelley of Stillwater who saw it himself. Donnelley also remembers Eaton picking up burning coals that had fallen out of the fire in his Blacksmith shop, with his toes (his feet were so worn and calloused that he couldn't feel it)!

When he died, his obituary appeared throughout the country, in the New York Times, Newsweek Magazine, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, the San Francisco Chronicle, The Cattleman, The 1959 American People's Encyclopedia Yearbook among others, each listing him as a former Deputy U.S. Marshal. In addition, according to his daughter, Elizabeth Wise of Perkins, OK his family received sympathy letters from as far away as Germany, Canada and Japan and was besieged with visitors at his home for many months following the funeral.

More information on Frank "Pistol Pete" Eaton, including personal correspondence and remembrances, audio interviews, photos, articles, etc. is available from the Oklahoma State University Office of University Archives and Special Collections.


Frank Eaton, from nearby Perkins, was the inspiration for OSU's Pistol Pete mascot. Eaton became an expert marksman and served as a U.S. deputy marshal after his father's murder.
 

Frank Eaton shows off his pistols to Oklahoma A&M students. Behind them is one of the caricatures of Eaton that would serve as the basis of the current Pistol Pete logo.

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