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OU to honor its first black player, pioneer Gautt

NORMAN, Okla. -- Oklahoma will not issue jersey No. 38 this
football season as part of the university's plans to honor the 50th
anniversary of the arrival of the Sooners' first black player,
Prentice Gautt, university officials said Saturday.

Members of Oklahoma's team will wear decals with the number 38
on the back of their helmets this season to commemorate Gautt, who
died in March 2005 at age 67.

"Because of his moral courage and the strength of his personal
character, Prentice Gautt helped advance racial justice not only in
Oklahoma, but across the country."

Oklahoma president David Boren

Fullback J.D. Runnels wore No. 38 last season for the Sooners,
when he was a senior. On a roster on Oklahoma's Web site earlier
this month, no player was listed as wearing No. 38.

University president David Boren said that the decision to honor
Gautt was made to remind people of Gautt's influence.

"Because of his moral courage and the strength of his personal
character, Prentice Gautt helped advance racial justice not only in
Oklahoma, but across the country," Boren said. "He helped open
new doors of opportunity for countless young athletes who have
followed in his footsteps. We will be forever proud to have his
name linked to the University of Oklahoma."

Gautt, who attended Douglass High School in Oklahoma City,
played in the first integrated high school football game in
Oklahoma and was the first black player in the annual All-State
game.

He first played for the Sooners in 1956, the season in which
Oklahoma won the third of its seven national championships in
football. The 1956 Oklahoma team will hold a reunion and join
members of Gautt's family for a ceremony during the Sooners' game
on Oct. 21 against Colorado.

Gautt was a two-time All-Big 8 Conference player and the MVP of
the 1959 Orange Bowl. He played for seven seasons in the NFL with
the Cleveland Browns and St. Louis Cardinals and later coached at
Missouri.

After moving into administration, Gautt became an assistant
commissioner for the Big Eight and later a special assistant to the
commissioner of the Big 12 Conference.

The National Football Foundation and College Hall of Fame
posthumously honored Gautt as a recipient of its Outstanding
Contribution to Amateur Football Award.

The academic center for student athletes at Oklahoma is named in
Gautt's honor.

"Prentice took a very important step in the history of this
university and football program, but he didn't stop there,"
Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops said. "He achieved many things in his
life and won the respect of everyone he met. It is important for
our players and our university to remember people like Prentice and
it is right for us to honor him in this way."