In their crimson button-ups, sleeves casually rolled up like ’50s Greasers, this paddle-wielding University of Oklahoma male spirit squad screams “rough-and-tumble renegades.”
But, anomaly alert: These guys’ undying dedication to the university and its athletic programs actually make them one of the most loyal — and longest running — student groups on campus. In fact, the group prides itself on being America's oldest male spirit organization.
We’re talking about OU’s biggest football fanatics and shotgun-shooting staple of Sooner sidelines: the OU RUF/NEKs. The group has churned out hundreds of crimson-bleeding brethren since its formation a century ago.
To celebrate their 100th anniversary this year, we reunited a few RUF/NEKs from the 1960s-90s — an OU fitness instructor, a dentist, a dean and a retired high school principal and athletic director — to give Sooners a look into the lives of the RUF/NEKs throughout the years.
Becoming a RUF/NEK
“I would say a lot of what the public perception is, a lot of that is probably accurate,” said ‘93 OU grad Geoff Potts, an ornery smile spreading across his face. “At least when I was a freshman, we were a pretty wild and woolly group. … Clearly, when you carry a paddle around, you’re not really hiding anything.”
“So we’ll just leave that to people’s imaginations: What you’re thinking there is probably true. There are things people would say to us that we would neither confirm nor deny to, you know, just let the legend grow.”
Potts graduated from the OU College of Dentistry in 1998 and now practices dentistry in Norman. He and friend and fellow RUF/NEK Kenneth Forehand — a ‘93 grad now working as an instructor for OU Fitness & Rec — sparred together on camera, proving you can take the boys out of the RUF/NEKs, but you can’t take the RUF/NEKs out of the boys.