Cal’s Corner: Inside OU’s Ongoing Soap Opera

For the better part of a year, a relentless drama has played out at The University of Oklahoma. Salacious allegations of sexual misconduct against former OU President David Boren. An investigatory expose that makes the Trump-Russia dossier look rudimentary, by comparison. Boren’s resignation and replacement by business tycoon, wealthy OU alum and donor James Gallogly. Gallogly’s unbreakable streak of headline-creating guffaws, as he endeavored to erase Boren’s legacy. And, now, Gallogly has resigned.

We’ve all seen the headlines, but what’s really going on behind the scenes and beneath the surface?

How in the world did this S.N.A.F.U. (Situation Normal, All Fucked Up) ever get to this point — with so much damage imposed on so many; supported by so little evidence; offered by such questionable characters; and paid for by you and me, the also-victimized tax payers?

What follows is my answer to those questions. And when all this peters out, my version will be closer to the truth than most.It has taken the concerted effort of powerful, influential citizens to put former University of Oklahoma President David Boren in the crosshairs of several investigative groups, including the world’s largest and probably most expensive law firm, Jones Day, the Oklahoma Bureau of Investigations and — briefly — the Norman Police Department.

What apparently started as an inquiry into college academic rankings by a national magazine morphed into a 50-page document about alleged sexual harassment involving Boren and male employees of the university. Two individuals have publicly claimed to be victims, one supposedly targeted by Boren and the other by former University of Oklahoma Vice President Tripp Hall. However, Boren’s accuser* retracted his claim, in writing, and then asked Boren for money shortly thereafter. *Note to defense attorney Brewster: Better put this guy on the witness stand.

Regardless of such machinations, multiple sleuths from the powerful and expensive law firm — including a former Republican United States Attorney based in Georgia — have managed to rack up over $550,000 in billable hours for their work interviewing dozens or more folks who claim to know Boren well… or at least heard of him. Who knows. The regents have been hush-hush about the taxpayer-funded dossier (oops, sorry to use that fancy word). Maybe People Magazine gossip grinder fits better.

This sad saga is about money, titles, power and prestige.

Money, Titles & Power
The central player is former OU regent and chairman, Clay Bennett – husband of a Gaylord daughter, principal owner and day-to-day decider at the OKC Thunder. He was an adamant opponent of Boren’s one-cent sales tax increase earmarked for schools, which turned out to be a big time loser on the ballot in November 2016. And why Bennett’s virulent opposition to that, you ask, especially in light of the fact that OU would receive a slice of the new revenue? Because cities rely on the sales tax for almost all of their revenue and, even more importantly, MAPS FOR EVERYTHING YOU CAN THINK OF is funded by sales tax — including, most importantly, the Chesapeake Arena, home of Bennett’s double-dribblers.

Co-conspirators with Bennett in taking out Boren were powerful, anti-tax Republican legislators, who punished OU and other colleges during the 2017 legislative session by reducing higher education funding by the exact amount the tax increase would have added to their appropriation — 16.4 percent. Coincidence? Hardly.

So that covers the money part, mixed with titles and power: a regent chairman and lawmaking nitwits vs. a former governor, senator and sitting president of our flagship research university. As for prestige?

Prestige
A little dicier but still a factor was the permanent banishment by Boren of a certain racist fraternity, Sigma Alpha Epsilon, after an especially embarrassing racist video in 2015 became public. That video captured some of the young, white men in a full-throated tune about who would — and wouldn’t — ever become a brother in SAE. As expected, many of those young, well-to-do lads have well-to-do dads and granddads, who were frat boys back in the 50s, 60s and 70s, when the racial landscape was a bit different. Old habits and bigotries die-hard in Oklahoma, and not all of the Golden Greek Alums (actually all white) agreed with the 21st century punishment meted out by the Washington D.C.-born and Oxford-educated Boren. 

This soap opera continues locally and nationally and has only been interrupted only by what most Sooners really care about… OU football.

Translated, that also means, SITUATION NORMAL, ALL FOOTBALLED UP. And, as President Gallogly recently signed off in his lengthy resignation letter, let me also say…

Boomer Sooner!