The world grew dim on Thursday, Sept. 26, as the news that Tom Collins, a lifelong Sooner fanatic and friend to many in the world of sports, had passed away from an ongoing battle with pancreatic cancer.
Collins, better known as “Taco” to the world, was 72 and was a resident of Norman, Oklahoma, adding to his fandom of the Oklahoma Sooners.
If OU was competing, you could bet that Taco was either in attendance or sporting his crimson and cream in support of his beloved Sooners.
Taco was known by many as he had spent nearly three decades as a volunteer for Big 12 and NCAA events from Big 12 Baseball in the Chickasaw Bricktown Ballpark to the Women’s College World Series in the ASA Hall of Fame Stadium.
As a personal memory for me, Taco was one of the first people that befriended me when I started covering Big 12 baseball back in 2016 as a college student with an internship, and it was the most enlightening and calming thing for me to see such a kind smile like Taco’s.
“Do you know Ryan Cameron?” Taco first asked me.
“Absolutely,” I said. “He’s someone I work with at Oklahoma State.”
“Ah yes, a fellow Aggie,” Taco replied. “Boomer Sooner.”
I knew instantly we’d be friends.
“Having the opportunity to be around people like Taco is a large part of what makes working in athletics enjoyable,” Oklahoma State Golf and Women’s basketball SID Ryan Cameron said. “While he bled crimson and cream, many Cowboys and Cowgirls, as well as those associated with other schools around our league, are proud to be considered among his countless number of friends.”
When Taco was diagnosed with cancer, it wasn’t just a small group of family and friends who rallied behind him, but rather a much larger force of people who were part of Team Taco who backed up the beloved sports figure as the chemo destroyed his appetite causing him to lose around 50 pounds.
The pancreatic cancer didn’t stop the fire under his feet, though, and he remained a large part of the Big 12 Baseball Tournament and the Women’s College World Series for a 27th year this past June.
Taco even played a large part in Big 12 Football Media Day in Dallas always showing his support for Lincoln Riley and the Sooners becoming a notable figure around the Sooners and a beloved presence around OU athletics.
“No matter what your allegiance was, or even if you didn’t have one, you could always count on getting a good poke in the ribs from Taco,” Franchise OU insider John Hoover said. “Boy did he love his Sooners. He’ll be missed by everyone who knew him — throughout the Big 12 and beyond.”
Throughout his many years involved in supporting Sooner Athletics, Taco became known and loved by many notable Sooner athletes, as well as part of the Sooner family as someone you could always count on to show allegiance through the good times and the bad.
RIP Tom Collins… Thankful for your great hugs and constant support. You will be missed greatly. We love you forever Taco!
— Lauren Chamberlain (@LChamberlain44) September 26, 2019
— Oklahoma Sooners (@OU_Athletics) September 26, 2019
“Taco made every sporting event better and brighter,” Franchise radio personality and KFOR sports anchor Dylan Buckingham said. “I’ll always remember seeing the way people would light up the moment they saw him. I’ll miss how kind he was, our dinners on the road, and just his happy nature. If you knew Taco, you’re better because of it.”
As a personal note from myself, Taco will forever hold a special place in my heart as he was a kind face and a welcoming soul to me when I was young and timid getting my feet wet in the world of sports.
Sometimes it can be incredibly intimidating being a young woman covering sports, but walking into events and seeing people like Taco ready to welcome me with open arms made me feel calm and at ease, and I will never be able to thank him enough for his approachability and impeccable character.
Rest in peace to a man who will forever be so loved by the multitudes of people he impacted during his time on Earth.
Team Taco forever.