NORMAN – It’s another Sooner sweep. For the third time in the last five years, Oklahoma student-athletes have won the Big 12’s top athletic honor. The conference office announced Thursday that Maggie Nichols and Jalen Hurts are the 2019-20 Big 12 Athletes of the Year.
Thirteen Sooners have now been named Big 12 Athlete of the Year in the 24-year history of the league, including a stunning nine in the last eight years. Nichols and former OU football player Baker Mayfield swept the awards for OU in the 2017-18 season and former basketball player Buddy Hield and former softball player Paige Parker were winners in 2015-16.
OU’s other Big 12 Athletes of the Year were Kyler Murray (2018-19; football), Lauren Chamberlain (2014-15; softball), Keilani Ricketts (2012-13; softball), Sam Bradford (2008-09; football), Jason White (2003-04; football), Stacey Dales (2001-02; women's basketball) and Josh Heupel (2000-01; football).
Nominees for this year's Big 12 Athlete of the Year awards were submitted by Big 12 institutions and selected by a media panel based on athletic performance, academic achievement and citizenship. Fan voting conducted via Big12Sports.com also was a consideration in the final tallies.
MAGGIE NICHOLS The 2020 AAI Award winner, Big 12 Gymnast of the Year and Honda Sport Award finalist, Nichols wrapped up her illustrious career with her second Big 12 Athlete of the Year award.
She is the only Sooner to ever repeat as the Big 12 Athlete of the Year and joins Nebraska’s Sarah Pavan (2006-07, 2007-08; volleyball) and Texas’ Cat Osterman (2002-03, 2004-05, 2005-06; softball) as the only repeat winners – male or female – in league history. After the 2017-18 season, Nichols became the first ever gymnast to be named Big 12 Athlete of the Year.
The Little Canada, Minn., native guided the Sooners to 11 consecutive weeks ranked No. 1 nationally and a 16-0 record before the season was suspended due to COVID-19. Nichols was ranked No. 1 on vault and in the all-around, No. 2 on bars, No. 4 on floor and No. 7 on bars, while boasting the top-three all-around scores for the year.
With five perfect 10s in 2020, Nichols finished her career with 22 perfect scores to rank fourth all-time in NCAA history. Against West Virginia and Texas Woman’s University, she notched a perfect 10 on vault and bars to earn multiple perfect scores in the same meet for just the second time in her career. Her most prolific performance came in the home opener over Arkansas as she tallied a perfect score on vault and a 39.900 in the all-around. The mark was her fourth score of 39.900 and was the top score in the nation in 2020. She is the only gymnast in NCAA history with multiple marks of 39.900 or higher in the all-around and boasts the fourth-highest with a 39.925.
Nichols’ list of career accomplishments and accolades is beyond extensive. She is a two-time Big 12 Gymnast of the Year, Big 12 Newcomer of the Year, two-time South Central Region Gymnast of the Year, four-time Honda Sport Award Finalist, Honda Sport Award Winner, NCAA Inspiration Award Winner, Arthur Ashe Courage Award Winner and a six-time NCAA individual champion. She holds the OU record for perfect scores in a career (22), perfect scores in a season (8), individual NCAA championships (6), All-America honors (30), All-Big 12 accolades (17), individual event titles (146), uneven bars titles (35), beam titles (33) and all-around titles (30).
Nichols led the Sooners to a 111-2 record, three undefeated seasons, three Big 12 championships and two national championships over the last four years.
JALEN HURTS In his only season at Oklahoma after transferring from Alabama, the 6-1, 221-pound Hurts was the 2019 Heisman Trophy runner-up after accounting for 53 touchdowns. He threw for 3,851 yards and 32 TDs while rushing for 1,298 yards and 20 scores. He also caught a pass for a touchdown.
The Houston native was a first-team All-Big 12 selection by the league's coaches and media and was the conference's newcomer of the year by AP and offensive newcomer of the year by the coaches. He earned second-team All-America honors from Sporting News and was a third-team All-American by AP. Hurts was also a finalist for the Maxwell Award, Davey O'Brien Award, Manning Award, Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Award, Earl Campbell Tyler Rose Award and Senior CLASS Award.
As a Sooner, Hurts led the nation in yards per pass attempt (11.3; FBS record is 11.6) and ranked second in passing efficiency rating (191.2; fourth best in school history), yards per completion (16.3), points responsible for per game (22.9) and touchdowns accounted for. He also ranked third in the country in total offense (367.8 ypg), sixth nationally in completion percentage (.697; third best in school history), seventh in rushing touchdowns (20 was the second most among QBs), eighth in passing yards and 11th in passing touchdowns. He averaged 275.1 passing yards and 92.7 rushing yards per contest.
Hurts compiled 5,149 yards of total offense in 2019 (3,851 passing, 1,298 rushing), good for the second-highest figure in OU history. He set school single-season records for rushing yards by a quarterback and points scored by a QB (126). He also tied the school single-game record for rushing touchdowns by a QB (Jack Mildren also had 20 in 1971).
The senior became the first quarterback since 1981 (Darrell Shepard) to lead OU in scoring and the first since 1988 (Charles Thompson) to lead the Sooners in rushing yards. He was one of just two players nationally since at least 1996 to record 32-plus passing TDs and 18-plus rushing TDs in a season (Florida's Tim Tebow had 32 and 23, respectively, in 2007 when he won the Heisman Trophy) and he became only third FBS player to register at least 3,000 passing yards and 1,000 rushing yards by the 11th game of a season.
In 2019, Hurts also became the only FBS player since at least 1996 to post a passing efficiency rating of 245.0 or better five times in the same season (minimum 15 attempts) and the only player to do so more than three times.
Hurts led OU to a 12-2 record, its fifth straight Big 12 title and its third consecutive College Football Playoff appearance. He was selected by the Philadelphia Eagles with the 21st pick in the second round (53rd overall) of April’s NFL Draft.
- Mike Houck | Assistant AD/Strategic Communications University of Oklahoma Athletics Department