Ed Murray, News 9
NORMAN, Oklahoma – The OU football team is off to a smoking hot start this season with a solid number one ranking, and Sooner fans will have the tailgate grills smoking Saturday before the Big 12 opener against Missouri.
But this may be the last year Sooner fans will be allowed to light up a smoke at the game or anywhere else on campus.
Fall is a beautiful time of year at OU. It's football season. The weather couldn't be better. The south lawn has never been greener. But there's also an eyesore here and elsewhere on campus that President David Boren wants to get rid of.
"Last year, for instance, it cost the university nearly $50,000 just to pick up cigarette butts and empty ashtrays, and that's not even taking into account the cost effectiveness of insurance and other health related costs," said Michael Nash, OU president David Boren's spokesperson.
Nash said those additional costs in medical insurance total $4 million a year.
OU student government first brought up the ban two years ago with a referendum followed by a resolution. The faculty senate has since followed suit. A 14-member committee has been formed and will decide the exact language for the policy, including enforcement, phase-in, stop smoking resources, and any exceptions like the designated smoking areas in the football stadium.
"There's definitely possibilities," Nash said. "I know President Boren wanted to make sure everyone understood that this is totally up to the committee."
Of course, a 100 percent ban could mean no more smoking while tailgating on football Saturdays. Keith Laney has been staking his tent in Norman for the last 15 years.
"I'm not a smoker, but I can understand enforcing it during the week. But you have all these people out here that they actually live for OU football, and they happen to be smokers. So I just believe it would be really tough to enforce," he said.
"And basically you're going to have a lot of barbecue smoke going on anyway so I don't see how a few cigarettes are going to cause a problem," said Kim Mack, another OU tailgater.
Oklahoma State has had a total campus-wide smoking ban since 2008 and that includes for tailgaters on game day. But a spokesman admits that the lack of manpower makes it tough to totally enforce that ban. And he does see folks light up on game day. However, he said most OSU fans are aware of the policy and do their best to follow it