On the eve of the 1930s, Col. Barrett was out and Col. Walter E. Downs was in as OMA president. The “Colonel” designation was an honorary commission in the Oklahoma National Guard given each head of OMA.
Downs, a World War I combat veteran, instituted a year-long initiation period for freshmen – with the newcomers dubbed “rabbits.” That new-man nickname stuck for the life of the school.
By 1930, OMA’s enrollment was nearing 300, ten times the size of the first class 11 years earlier. That same year, the school got a Reserve Officer Training Corps (R.O.T.C.) cavalry program, with the federal government sending 60 horses and 11 enlisted men to the Hill.
Later in the decade, two major building projects came along. The Will Rogers Auditorium, begun in 1935 and the Jesse Bushyhead Field House a year later.
The cavalry program gave birth to a polo team, which quickly became one of the best in the nation. In a famous 1934 event, sponsored by Will Rogers, the OMA Flying Cadets beat the Stanford University squad twice in a row, following a train trip that carried the Claremore riders and their steeds to the West Coast.