Oklahoma honors Toby Keith, an avid Sooners fan, with heartfelt tribute before basketball game

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The Oklahoma Sooners paid tribute to a native of the state, country singer Toby Keith, who passed away Monday after a battle with stomach cancer. Keith was 62 years old. 

Keith was a well-known Sooner at heart, having supported all Oklahoma athletics over the years as a native of Clinton. 

So, before the Sooners’ men’s basketball game against BYU on Tuesday night, Oklahoma set up a guitar with a red OU solo cup – his signature drinking receptacle which was the subject of one of his many hit songs – in the seat he held next to athletic director Joe Castiglione behind the courtside basket.


Toby Keith at softball game

Toby Keith looks on during Game One of the NCAA Division 1 Softball Championship between the Oklahoma Sooners and the Florida State Seminoles at USA Softball Hall of Fame Stadium on June 7, 2023 in Oklahoma City. (Ian Maule/Getty Images)

A moment of silence was also held for Keith prior to tip-off. 

“The OU Athletics family is incredibly saddened by the passing of our dear friend Toby Keith,” Oklahoma Athletics said in a statement earlier Tuesday. “It’s a profoundly sad reality to exist in a world where Toby doesn’t. He brought life and joy to every room he entered, and our hearts are dimmer today without him. 

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“An American icon and a stalwart Sooner. A superstar talent and a fierce friend of our program. We thank him for the unwavering support he always gave, his generosity as a human being and the countless smiles and memories he created here in Oklahoma and around the world.”

Keith’s family said the country star died peacefully on Monday, they wrote in a statement. 

“He fought his fight with grace and courage,” it continued. “Please respect the privacy of his family at this time.”

Keith revealed in June 2022 that he had been diagnosed with stomach cancer. 

Toby Keith on Jumbotron at Oklahoma football game

Country music star Toby Keith, left, and former Oklahoma head coach Bob Stoops encourage Oklahoma Sooners fans before a game against the Iowa State Cyclones at Gaylord Family Oklahoma Memorial Stadium on Sept. 30, 2023 in Norman, Oklahoma. (Brian Bahr/Getty Images)

Keith had many country music hits over the years, including his breakout song, “Should’ve Been a Cowboy.” It was the most-played country music song of the 1990s, playing 3 million times on radio stations. 

He also touted hits like “How Do You Like Me Now?!,” “As Good As I Once Was,” “Beer for My Horses,” a duet with Willie Nelson, and “My List.”

Keith is also well known for his song, “Courtesy of the Red, White and Blue (The Angry American),” following the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

Patriotism was a main pillar in Keith’s life, having gone on 11 USO tours to visit and play for troops serving overseas. He also showed support for military members in various other ways, whether it was through songs like “American Soldier,” or using his philanthropic efforts to raise money for them. 

Toby Keith at concert

Musician Toby Keith performs during the Oklahoma Twister Relief Concert to benefit United Way of Central Oklahoma May Tornadoes Relief Fund at Gaylord Family Oklahoma Memorial Stadium on July 6, 2013 in Norman, Oklahoma. (Rick Diamond/Getty Images for Shock Ink)

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Keith was loyal to his country and loyal to his home, something the Sooners can certainly vouch for after his years of support. 

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