When OSU basketball became a phenomenon 20 years ago, so did the Cool Chicks

When OSU basketball became a phenomenon 20 years ago, so did the Cool Chicks

Oklahoma State’s last Final Four team became a phenomenon, but it wasn’t just the basketball that people loved.

Jenni Carlson

By Jenni Carlson

| Jan 30, 2024, 2:00pm CST

Jenni Carlson

By Jenni Carlson

Jan 30, 2024, 2:00pm CST

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Kristi Tobin and her sister Natalie Bobik were chatting after an Oklahoma State basketball game with Terrence Crawford, then a Cowboy forward, when some fans approached.

They wanted autographs on their basketball.

They handed it to the sisters first.

“What is going on?” Tobin remembers thinking.

Here’s what was going on: the sisters had become part of an orange-hued phenomenon.

Twenty years ago, nothing was bigger than Cowboy basketball. Every time Eddie Sutton’s squad played, students camped out for the best seats and fans flocked to Gallagher-Iba Arena. 

There was nothing bigger than John Lucas and Tony Allen, Ivan McFarlin and Daniel Bobik, and the Graham twins, Joey and Stevie. They played a hard-charging, high-flying brand of basketball that was fun to watch.

In the end, that 2004 team went all the way to the Final Four, the last time OSU made it that far.

Twenty years isn’t all that long ago, but with the state of OSU basketball today, the fervor of that season seems like an alternate universe. Players have said the arena got so loud that year they could feel the floor shake. Nowadays, there are so few fans at games you can easily hear shoes squeak on the floor.

But there was a time not so long ago but now so far away when the Cowboys were like the main attraction at the circus. Everyone wanted to see what jaw-dropping stunts were coming next.

And the circus got so big, some entertaining sideshows popped up along the way. 

None was bigger than Cool Chicks Wear Orange.

Rockin to the ‘William Tell Overture’

The original Chicks: Natalie Bobik, wife of Cowboy guard Daniel Bobik, and Kristi Tobin, Natalie’s younger sister.

Now, for the uninitiated or the forgetful, a quick rewind on the Chicks. Bobik and Tobin were energetic, blond twentysomethings back in 2004 who wore matching Cool Chicks Wear Orange shirts, funky hats and orange glasses to games. Then when the OSU pep band played “The William Tell Overture” during a second-half timeout, the sisters mimicked riding imaginary horses and roping invisible livestock.

Cowboy fans loved it.

So did TV cameras. The Chicks became so popular that they were part of the “One Shining Moment” montage at the end of the season.

“It ended up being the most fun, crazy thing ever,” Bobik said.

But how did it get started?

The sisters don’t exactly remember who came up with the idea to dance, much less wear matching shirts, but the idea for the shirts sprung from Bobik’s high school days. She was a cheerleader, and because the school’s colors were orange and blue, the cheerleaders got Cool Chicks Wear Orange shirts.

“But nobody liked it,” Bobik said. “We hardly ever wore it.”

But before the 2004 Big 12 Tournament in Dallas, the sisters decided to resurrect the idea and make their own Cool Chicks Wear Orange shirts. They went to Dupree Sports in Stillwater and asked Chad Watkins, one of the owners, to put black vinyl lettering on a couple of cute orange shirts.

The sisters wore the shirts, did the dance and the rest was history.

Merchandising Cool Chicks

By the time they got back to Stillwater after the Big 12 Tournament, which the Cowboys won, they found out that stores were actually selling Cool Chicks Wear Orange shirts.

“I was like, ‘Hold up. That’s our idea. If anybody’s making some money, we’re making some money,’” Bobik said, laughing.

She said store owners were great about getting a percentage of the sales to the sisters — eventually, they would trademark “Cool Chicks Wear Orange” — but for the rest of the postseason and even into the next season when Daniel was a senior, the sisters did the Cool Chicks side hustle.

They’d set up a booth on a street corner near the football stadium or the basketball arena on game days. They’d sell gear outside the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, where they were members. They’d even take some shirts to games.

“It’s so illegal,” Tobin said, “but we took the shirts, like 50 or 100 shirts, with us in just big huge bags.”

Bobik remembers one game when the shirts were gone in five minutes.

“This rush of people literally swarmed us,” she said.

The sisters ended up with a big stack of cash. Bobik recalls it being more than $5,000. She was so worried about carrying around that much cash she gave it to her 6-foot-5 mountain of a father for safekeeping.

Supporting ‘Daniel and the Cowboys’ 

That money became a huge help to Bobik and Tobin. Those were pre-name, image, likeness days, so there were no big payouts to college athletes like there are today. 

Additionally, the NCAA had not yet started helping defer travel costs for players’ family members during the NCAA Tournament.

“You can’t just find cheap flights last minute to all these places,” Tobin said. “It costs an arm and a leg. The biggest thing was just being able to go and support … Daniel and the Cowboys.”

For a while, after Daniel Bobik finished his career at OSU, his wife and sister-in-law kept the Cool Chicks business going. They expanded the brand to other schools and teams, though they always told people getting into the OU market was a no-go.

Eventually, though, the sisters left Stillwater — Natalie and Daniel and their four kids eventually settled in Arizona while Kristi, her husband, Jeff, and their five kids live in California — and their Cool Chicks side hustle became a thing of the past.

All of it is just memories now.

But they are sweet ones.

‘Your wife is crazy. I like her’

Movie actor Tim Robbins made the journey from his home in New York City to East Rutherford, New Jersey, to watch the Cowboys in the regional semifinal. His son had picked OSU to win the national title on his bracket, so Robbins thought they should take the chance to see the Cowboys play.

He ended up sitting next to the Cool Chicks.

After the game, Robbins was invited into the OSU locker room, and when he saw Bobik, he approached, shook his hand and said, “Your wife is crazy. I like her.”

Daniel Bobik admits he might not have been able to articulate back then what made that season so special, but now, he realizes it was about more than stifling defense or stunning offense or anything that happened on the court.

“Now, I realize we were bringing joy to other people’s lives,” he said. “People remember when John Lucas hit the shot and we’re going to the Final Four — ‘I remember I was at my dad’s house and we were jumping up and down yelling at the TV’ or ‘I remember I was at Eskimo’s Joe’s.’

“This was more than just us playing basketball.”

And nothing personified that joy quite like the Cool Chicks. 

“I think I almost had more fun than Daniel did,” Natalie Bobik said, “because I actually got to interact with people in the crowd.

“It was just the best.”

Natalie Bobik, far left, and Kristi Tobin, far right, became known as the Cool Chicks Wear Orange sisters during Oklahoma State’s 2004 Final Four season. They are pictured with former Cowboy guard and Natalie’s husband, Daniel Bobik, and Kristi’s husband, Jeff Tobin. (Contributed)

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Jenni Carlson is a columnist with the Sellout Crowd network. Follow her on Twitter at @JenniCarlson_OK. Email [email protected].

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