FORT LAUDERDALE, Florida — Miami is nice in December. Not too hot, not too cold. It’s perfect for football, which is part of what’s made the Orange Bowl such a storied game.
Oklahoma, preparing to take on No. 1 Alabama on Saturday in the College Football Playoff, has enjoyed the weather, spending some of its time on the beach. The game will mark the Sooners’ 20th appearance in the bowl, but for most of this year’s players this week is all business.
“I’ll be in my hotel room all week, not by the pool or the beach,” senior offensive lineman Ben Powers said shortly after landing in Florida. “I won’t be out doing any of that mess. You have to have a good time while you are down here but you have to know how to control it. That’s the most important part.”
That hasn’t always been the case.
Sooner Nation often tries to forget about the 1985 Orange Bowl. A 28-17 loss to then-No. 3 Washington will always be remembered as the “Sooner Schooner” game as the pony-drawn wagon was assessed a 15-yard penalty after an OU field goal attempt late in the final quarter. Tim Lashar made the 22-yard field goal, but after the Schooner came on the field — as is tradition after each score — a 15-yard penalty was assessed after the Schooner got stuck on the field. Lashar’s second attempt from 37 yards was then blocked.
But while most will remember that season ending in a depressing loss, it was an elevator ride days before that some players on the 1984 team will never forget. Exactly 34 years ago, on Dec. 28, 1984, Brian Bosworth, Tony Casillas and 21 other Sooner players got stuck on an elevator at the Fountainebleau Hotel in Miami — a story few know but those 23 recall.
What entailed was a near great escape by The Boz, a save by “Otis” and the “hottest elevator ride” ever.
Players had just returned from a night out in Miami following an Orange Bowl activity when they arrived at the hotel around midnight. At first, only a few players stepped onto the elevator, but it soon became a mad dash.
“We came back to the hotel and too many people tried to get on the elevator,” recalled Dante Jones, then a freshman linebacker. “Being from Oklahoma, we didn’t ride too many elevators. We didn’t know there was probably a weight limit or a number of people you could put on the elevator, so we all just got on.”
This went as poorly as it sounds.
“When those doors closed, you knew this wasn’t going to be good,” said Jeff Tupper, then a junior defensive tackle. “I knew I should have gotten off, but I didn’t.”
The elevator didn’t even make it to the second floor before it got stuck. Some players began shaking the elevator, while others began to freak out. Casillas, a junior defensive lineman, was among the latter.
The claustrophobic Casillas, who was known as one of the most aggressive and physical defensive players in the country, was not a fan of being stuck in the elevator with 22 teammates.
“Tony Casillas started freaking out,” Jones said. “He was like ‘Y’all stop, y’all stop. The elevator gonna crash. You need to stop right now.’ Tony was freaking out because he was scared the elevator was going to crash down to the bottom of the hotel.”
Remember, they were between the first and second floors. Perhaps contributing to Casillas losing his mind was the fact that the elevator had no air conditioning.
“It was hot as hell,” Tupper said. “Probably the hottest elevator ride ever.”
So of course…
“We took our shirts off because we were sweating bullets in there,” Jones said. “The electricity didn’t work. The fan was off. We waited on there for what felt like hours.”
Then Bosworth, a tenacious and outlandish then-sophomore linebacker, nearly did the unimaginable, as he so often did.
The Boz climbed the elevator wall and opened the hatch to let in some air. And he almost climbed out.
“We were thinking about going through the roof,” Tupper said. “Brian actually opened the hatch, looked at it for a second, and decided that wasn’t a place he needed to be.”
Then-head coach Barry Switzer said he vaguely remembers the incident. He noted that Bosworth’s shenanigans were no shock to him.
“Well, that wouldn’t surprise me with The Boz,” Switzer said. “He did shit like that all the time.”
The trapped players, after about half an hour, got the hotel staff’s help. According to Jones and Tupper, some players thought the man who eventually let them out was named Otis. In fact, the contraption from which they escaped was just made by one… Otis Elevator Company.
Brent Burks, a then-senior offensive tackle, was not on the elevator, but recalls the night.
“I remember hearing them in the elevator yelling and swearing,” Burks said. “And I remember when they got off, not wearing any shirts and drenched in sweat. It was hilarious, to be honest. Tony didn’t look too happy, though.”
An hour or so later, the team was freed. Three days later, they blew a national title. The whole week was a mess — a trip few want to remember.
“I don’t think too many people know about that,” Jones said. “We didn’t tell anybody.”
One year later, there was no wild elevator ride or unexpected loss. Instead, Oklahoma was all business in defeating Penn State 25-10 to take home its sixth national title.
For Oklahoma’s sake, they probably hope the elevators at the Diplomat Beach Resort in Hollywood, Florida, work.