Sooner Nation is mourning the loss of another longtime member of the Oklahoma football family.
The university announced on Wednesday that Leon Crosswho played under Bud Wilkinson in the 1950s and was affiliated with the University of Oklahoma in numerous capacities for over 30 years, died recently.
Cross came to OU in 1957 during Oklahoma’s NCAA-record 47-game winning streak. He served as a practice helper his freshman year and battled injuries in what would have been his first two seasons of eligibility.
The Hobbs, New Mexico native battled back from his injuries to play three full seasons at Oklahoma as a rock-solid, two-way lineman on both offense and defense. In his final season of eligibility, in 1962, Cross served as captain of the Big Eight champion Sooners and earned All-America honors. He was also voted the Big Eight’s most outstanding lineman that season.
Cross followed up his college playing career serving one year as an assistant under Wilkinson (in Wilkinson’s final OU season in 1963). He left Oklahoma to join the coaching staff at Army, where he served as an assistant for three seasons before returning to OU as defensive line coach and recruiting coordinator under first Jim MacKenzie and then Chuck Fairbanks.
In 1971, Cross moved into an administrative position in the athletic department as assistant athletic director. After 12 years in that role, in 1982 he was promoted to associate athletic director. He retired from the University of Oklahoma in 1991, but still remained involved in OU sports activities.
Among the projects Cross played an active role in were the original expansion of the south end of OU Memorial Stadium, the construction of L. Dale Mitchell Park for baseball, as well as the softball and gymnastics facilities and the rebuilding of the track and field facilities .
I knew Leon personally and can vouch for what a kind and well-respected human being he was. He and I worked together on a proposed book project involving the Oklahoma men’s gymnastics program. It was Leon’s vision of him to document the history and rise to success of OU men’s gymnastics and the individuals who were so much a part of that success, which includes 12 national championships, 27 conference championships and 52 individual national titles.
Cross truly loved the University of Oklahoma and dedicated most of his working life to serving the university and helping to improve and grow its athletic programs. The D. Leon Cross Scholarship, which assists student-athletes, lives on in his honor.
Cross may have been born and raised in Hobbs, New Mexico, but he will remain a Sooner forever,