‘Play Like A Champion Today’ Origin Sparks Debate Between Notre Dame And Oklahoma

“Play Like A Champion Today.” The iconic wooden sign stands above Notre Dame’s tunnel, waiting to be slapped by every player in navy and gold before they take the field.

It’s a tradition unlike any other, beginning in 1986 at the request of then Notre Dame head coach Lou Holtz. The sign became a historic symbol after Notre Dame’s 1988 National Championship and still lives on today. But what if I told you that the sign was born way before 1986. At a place called Oklahoma.

ESPN writer Dave Wilson wrote on the origin of “Play Like A Champion Today” and noted that Oklahoma originally penned the statement in either 1947 or 1948, according to the school. Former Oklahoma head coach Barry Switzer backed this up, saying the sign was there when he arrived in 1966.

“I came here in the ’60s and it was already up,” Switzer said. “The ’50s players said Bud put that up. Every time the players went to the practice field, the game field, whatever, they had to go underneath that sign.”

Switzer’s remarks came after Holtz dubbed the sign as “synonymous with Notre Dame,” which has naturally caused an outcry amongst the Boomer Sooner faithful. Holtz, meanwhile, pushed back on the claim that the sign was Oklahoma’s, with a zinger of his own directed at the current state of Oklahoma.

“Right now, the way they played the last couple of weeks?” Holtz said. “Oklahoma needs to hit that sign twice.”

Uh, did somebody forget to tell Holtz that the Fighting Irish just suffered a 24-13 loss at the hands of No. 5 Cincinnati on Saturday? And that, despite a few close calls, Oklahoma is 5-0 and No. 6 in the AP Poll? Holtz seems to have left that part out before claiming that the Sooners need to “hit that sign twice” before heading onto the field.

Now would be a good time to point out that Notre Dame’s last National Championship was the one in 1988 under Holtz, while Oklahoma has a more recent title, winning in 2000. So, how many times does Notre Dame need to hit that sign, then?

Switzer tied a bow on the debate, declaring how he feels about Notre Dame taking credit for the sign.

“I don’t really give a s—, you know?” Switzer said. “We know the truth.”

Written by Nick Geddes

Nick Geddes is a 2021 graduate of the University of Central Florida with a bachelor’s degree in Journalism. A life-long sports enthusiast, Nick shares a passion for sports writing and is proud to represent OutKick.

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