J.T. Kauffman, a 12-year-old from Glenpool, will be at Saturday night’s College Football Playoff semifinal game between Oklahoma and Alabama in the Orange Bowl.
For the first time since he started going to Oklahoma football games seven years ago, J.T. will be in the stadium cheering the Sooners without his dad.
“The first day he left home for the ride down to Miami we talked on the phone about 30 times,” said Bill Kauffman, who works at a refinery and does lawn care. “This is a new thing for us. Obviously, we’re usually together for the rides to the games.”
The Kauffman father-son duo started going to OU football games in 2012. J.T.’s parents had divorced and Bill was looking for way to spend more time with his son. They’ve only missed eight games in the last seven years.
“It was a natural for me to start taking him to the games,” said Kauffman. “I started being an OU fan when I was about his age. So, I’ve been going to OU games for a long time. I would usually take a friend.
“So, instead of friends, I started taking my son. It was a great way to spend time with him. It was a great way for us to create some memories, just like the memories my dad created with me.”
Still, the past few years have posed a dilemma for Kauffman. The College Football Playoff has expanded what was already a 13-game season into a possible 15-game one.
So, decisions about time off and finances to attend expensive road games had to be made.
Kauffman, who has a regular work schedule, had to decide if it was best to go to Miami and be at home for a possible national championship game the following week. Or, did he stay at home and buy the national championship game tickets.
He made a similar decision two years ago and ended up selling his national championship tickets “to some Alabama fan.”
Kauffman, like Sooner fans everywhere, hopes he doesn’t have to sell more national championship game tickets to an Alabama fan next week.
Yet, Kauffman’s son desperately wanted to go to Miami.
So, how was he going to make this happen for his son, a fifth-grader at Jenks Public Schools?
“We have a friend (Vicky Poole Farley) from Idabel that has gone with us on a few of our trips over the years,” said Kauffman. “So, she is great with J.T. We always see her at the games in Norman and at many of the road games.
“She called and offered to take J.T. with them. I’m sad not to be with him but he really wanted to go. So, off he went without me on Thursday.”
J.T. and the Farley family made it to Tallahassee on the first day of their journey to Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens, Florida. On Friday they were on a long trip from Tallahassee to Miami, estimated by Google Maps as about seven hours and 483 miles.
“We drive to all the games on the road,” said Kauffman. “We have made some very long trips. We drove to the Rose Bowl last year and did break it up into two days. But, for most games, we ‘Ironman it’ by driving to the game and then getting back home the next day.”
Sometimes they add on additional games. After Oklahoma’s game at West Virginia in November, the Kauffmans drove to Columbus, Ohio, to cheer on Ohio State during its victory over Michigan. The win by the Buckeyes helped open the door for OU to reach the CFP.
They then went to Cincinnati to watch former Sooner Baker Mayfield quarterback the Browns to a victory over the Bengals.
Kauffman, a Broken Arrow High School grad, said he became an OU fan “because my dad and I had a running bet. He would bet me whoever played OU and the Dallas Cowboys would win. So, because of our bet, which was my weekly allowance, I got to be a pretty big fan of the Sooners. It would mean double my weekly allowance.”
Now, it means more time with his son.
“This is something he’ll always remember doing with his dad,” said Kauffman. “He’ll be able to look at pages and pages of pictures of our adventures. Hopefully, next week we’ll add another.”