Oklahoma State basketball fan, at 87, has seen it all
BY KELLY HINES World Sports Writer
Sunday, December 16, 2012
12/16/12 at 10:13 AM
STILLWATER - Marge McMillian is more than an Oklahoma State basketball fan. She's a historian.
From Henry Iba to Travis Ford, the 87-year-old has seen it all. For the past six decades, Marge has passionately watched her Cowboys from several rows behind the team bench.
"She's a loyal fan and a true fan," Ford said. "People like her are with you during the good times and the bad times."
Growing up in the tradition-rich basketball town of El Reno, Marge has always loved the sport. When her husband's job moved the couple to Stillwater in 1953, she attended her first Oklahoma A&M game so she could watch former classmate Kendall Sheets play.
"When I came here, it was when Gallagher was little," Marge said. "You just came in and got a seat. So I came and sat down behind the bench because I wanted to watch him. That's where I've been sitting since 1953."
It wasn't always easy to get any seat. In the '50s, Marge got into games for free because she could pass for a student, but Gallagher Hall couldn't hold all the students who wanted to attend. Students with odd-numbered IDs could attend half the games, and those with even-numbered IDs the other half.
Depending on the game, Marge would find a student with an ID that could get her in. Otherwise, she wouldn't have been there on Feb. 21, 1957, for one of the most memorable games in school history. All 8,500 tickets were sold weeks in advance for the game against No. 2 Kansas and 7-foot phenom Wilt Chamberlain.
After the Cowboys prevailed 56-54 on a buzzer-beater by Mel Wright, Marge went home and awakened her 9-year-old son, Roger.
"She took me down to the celebration on what was then called College Avenue, now University," said Roger McMillian, a former mayor of Stillwater. "It was just like being in Times Square on New Year's Eve."
Marge enjoyed big wins like that one, but she has never been a fair-weather fan. She vividly remembers the years that followed Iba's tenure, the 10 straight losing seasons, only four wins in 1971-72.
"And I still came," she said.
Before the NCAA introduced strict rules regarding boosters, Marge and her husband, who went by the nickname "Peanut," frequently had members of the basketball team over for dinner. Among the favorite guests in the early '80s were Cowboys Leroy Combs, Lorenza Andrews, Matt Clark and Bill Self.
"We got to know those boys a lot better than these boys (current players) because we can't do that anymore," Marge said. "That was one of my favorite teams. Bill Self has remained a favorite of mine for all these years."
After Peanut's death in 1994, Marge became close with Mary Lee Draper, then the secretary for Eddie Sutton and who now is Ford's administrative assistant. The pair has sat together for nearly every home game for more than two decades and also has traveled to tournaments.
Through the years, Marge has been a welcome face within the OSU basketball offices, where she’s affectionately known as “the Cookie Lady.” At least once a month during the season, she will drop off baskets of her famous chocolate-chip cookies, and her recipe was selected by Sutton as his favorite for a cookbook fundraiser several years ago.
“The coaching staff and the basketball players really enjoyed them every time she brought them up,” Sutton said. “She is a big fan of the Cowboys.”
Everyone who meets Marge becomes a fan of hers, too. She even wins over the officials at whom she yells things like "Get a real job!" One time, Marge and a friend were giving the crew a hard time to the extent that afterward, a referee came over and offered them his whistle, telling them if they could do a better job to go for it.
Another night, longtime Big Eight official Jim Bain was getting a mouthful from Marge.
"Over everybody, you could hear her screaming at the officials," Roger said. "(Bain) comes over after a call ... and asked if that call was OK. After that, she and Bain became great buddies."
Said younger son, Jeff, who played golf at OSU: "The officials are still not off-limits. She's never upset with a coach. She's never upset with a player. She's the greatest fan because win, lose or draw, she's always ready for the next game."
Nine head coaches have been at the helm during Marge's fandom. She has fully supported all of them and speaks of each like a mother would of a son: "I feel like (Ford) has grown into this job. He's doing great. I'm proud of him."
The coaches have treated Marge like family in return. She is considered grandfathered into her seating arrangement, and each new staff has let her remain there, despite it being in the area for coaches' friends and relatives.
Over a span of almost 60 years, Marge has missed fewer than 10 games, and those absences were almost always unavoidable. Three or four years ago, she took two prescription pain pills for her back instead of one, and they knocked her out. Imagine how unhappy she was to wake up and discover she had missed a home Bedlam game as a result.
Because of back and knee problems, it's getting tougher for Marge to get around, but that doesn't stop her from going to games. A friend drops her off, and one of her sons takes her home.
"I'm going to watch them, I don't care what they do, because they're my team," said Marge, who also is an avid Cowboy baseball fan and helps with golf events. "I'm really disappointed with a lot of people who have (stopped going to games). I wish they hadn't, but I think they'll come back."
Her sons, who live in Stillwater, know not to miss a game without a good excuse, and how the team is doing can't be a factor.
"I know not to say that to her," Roger said. "I'll get a lecture: 'You've got to go no matter what. You have to go support the team.' "
Central Arkansas at No. 24 Oklahoma State
Central Arkansas (4-3)
Oklahoma State (7-1)
*assists per game
Vs. Central Arkansas
3 p.m. Sunday
Radio: KFAQ am1170
Original Print Headline: 87-year-old fan has seen a lot of OSU
Kelly Hines 918-581-8452
Marge McMillian, 87, cheers on the OSU men's basketball team in a win over South Florida Dec. 5 at Gallagher-Iba Arena. McMillian has been attending Oklahoma State basketball games regularly since 1953. KT KING / for the Tulsa World