1967 - 76  Sooner
(Authentic Reproduction)



On May 2, 1967 Charles Leo “Chuck” Fairbanks became Oklahoma’s new head football coach. Fairbanks was an All State end at Michigan’s Charlevoix High School before playing on the 1952 National Championship and 1953 Big Ten Championship Michigan State teams coached by the immortal Biggie Munn. After a brief but highly successful high school coaching career, Fairbanks became an assistant on Frank Kush’s Arizona State staff and maintaining his Michigan State ties, then moved to Bill Yeoman’s Houston staff. After his initial season on Mackenzie’s OU crew, he was elevated to the offensive coordinator spot when Homer Rice left to become Cincinnati’s head coach. Lacking the charisma and popularity of his former boss, the Board Of Regents agreed only to grant Fairbanks the “interim” head coach title so that the team had leadership for the ’67 season. Interim or not, Fairbanks made a slight change in the shape of the “OU” helmet logo that would be maintained for decades and become immediately identified with Oklahoma football. The red helmet maintained the white two-inch “NCAA style” rear numerals but the white “OU” logo on each side was changed from a rounded style lettering to a squared angled type that was very distinctive. Most of the players wore the white plastic Adams facemask which set the new logo off nicely. Defensive coordinator Pat James, believing that he was the natural heir to Mackenzie’s vacated position, departed which made critics doubt the successful conclusion to the season and in truth, no one would have predicted the eventual outcome. The team dedicated the season to their late coach Jim Mackenzie. Enjoying their best outing since 1958, Fairbanks continued the I-Formation offense and Five Man front defense installed by Mackenzie and parlayed performances by All Conference QB Warmack, RB’s Ron Shott and soph Steve Owens, and TE Steve Zabel into a 9-1 regular season record and the nation’s number three ranking with the only loss a 9-7 decision to Texas. Owens, another All Conference choice, led the Big Eight in rushing with 808 yards and scoring with seventy-two points. Captain Bob Kalsu led the charge on the O-line as yet another All Big Eight pick and played with the Bills the following season. In 1970 he became the only AFL or NFL player to be killed during the conflict in Viet Nam. The defense was again led by All American middle guard Granville Liggins who was named the UPI Lineman Of The Year. Deemed “too small” by the NFL, he starred in Canada for ten seasons.  DE John Koller supported Liggins well and also made the All Big Eight squad. Topping off a fantastic season, the Sooners faced number-two Tennessee in the Orange Bowl and upset them 28-24. The “interim” in front of Fairbanks name was removed as preparations began for the ’68 season. Although the record showed more wins than losses and the Sooners played in the first Astro Bluebonnet Bowl, the 7-4 season and 28-27 bowl game loss to SMU had some thinking that Fairbanks had lucked out in ’67 with the team Mackenzie had built. OU pounded Nebraska 47-0 and upset a Kansas team that was averaging 

a whopping forty-seven points per game up to their Novermber 9th meeting but  tying the Jayhawks for the Big Eight championship with the available talent was considered under achievement. Once again stars filled the roster as All Conference TE Zabel doubled up at DE opposite Jim Files and gave needed assistance to All Big Eight DB Steve Barrett. The offense continued to revolve around the tough running of All American Steve Owens who ran behind the blocking of FB Mike Harper and All Conference guard Ken Mendenhall. QB Warmack got the ball out to outstanding WB Eddie Hinton often enough to earn the speedster All Big Eight accolades and the number-one draft position for the Colts where he played for four seasons and contributed to their Super Bowl run. Hinton finished his five-year pro career with the Oilers and Patriots. 1969 put Fairbanks on the precipice. A 6-4 record with three All Americans and an additional team member noted as All Conference had boosters wondering if this staff was doing the best job possible. Owens of course, was the center of attention, the Heisman Trophy winner and All American choice who set seven new NCAA records. Teamed with QB Jack Mildren, the most sought after recruit in the Southwest who came through with 1319 passing yards, and All American TE Steve Zabel who still filled in when needed on the defensive side of the ball, victory was expected weekly. Zabel had a solid ten year career in the NFL with the Eagles, Patriots, and Colts, again playing both offense and defense. Guard Bill Elfstrom was an All Big Eight pick as was Mendenhall who moved to center, made All American on everyone’s ballot, and played eleven pro seasons, ten with the Colts. Files went to the Giants as their number-one choice and played LB in New York for three seasons. Three straight losses to Texas, getting bombed by Lynn Dickey and his Kansas State squad 59-21 after a thirty-two year winning streak over the Wildcats, the embarrassing forty-four point deluge put up by both Missouri and Nebraska, and a skin-of-their-teeth 15-14 win Oklahoma State had many considering a coaching change. 




One of nine children, Steve Owens grew up in Miami, Oklahoma as a Sooners fan. A gifted athlete, he was a hell-on-wheels running back and linebacker who was the Oklahoma State Player Of The Year in ’66 while OU was having one of their worst seasons ever. While he was winning the State title in the high jump, broad jump, and hurdles, he was leaning towards playing for Frank Broyles at Arkansas in part because Razorback assistant and recruiter Jim Mackenzie had won him over. Mackenzie’s sales job had to begin from scratch once he took over the Sooners program and he did lure Owens to Norman. An outstanding player on a talented freshmen team that included Jim Files and Steve Zabel, Owens made an immediate impact when he joined the varsity. A three-time All Big Eight performer and two-time All American, his list of OU and NCAA records could fill a gymnasium. His  records included an incredible twenty-three games in which he gained 100 or more yards, fifty-seven touchdowns and 336 points in his three-season career, 4041 rushing yards, fifty-five carries in one game (against Oklahoma State in ’69), 358 in the 1969 season, and a career carries total of 905. Highly respected as team captain, Owens was elected to The College Football Hall Of Fame and played for the Detroit Lions for six seasons. He was the first Lion to rush for 1000 yards or more in a season but knee injuries prematurely ended his pro career. Owens was very successful in business and returned to OU to serve as athletic director.   


Feeling a bit of heat, Fairbanks went into the 1970 season with a new Veer Offense but after two sub-par offensive performances against SMU and Wisconsin and an unexpected 23-14 loss to downtrodden Oregon State, offensive coordinator Barry Switzer lobbied hard to convert the attack to the Wishbone in the two week break before the annual bloodbath with Texas. With Jack Mildren at QB, the Wishbone was a natural. Number one Texas blasted them 41-9 with their own vaunted Wishbone but the team closed strongly and tied Alabama 24-all in the Astro Bluebonnet Bowl. Bear Bryant was impressed enough with the OU attack that he contacted his friend Darrell Royal at Texas for a crash course in the Wishbone and had it ready to go at Bama by the start of the 1971 season. The potential was there with soph HB Joe Wylie making All Big Eight and being named Conference Sophomore Of The Year. He rushed for 984 yards, FB Leon Crosswhite gained 568, dangerous return man Greg Pruitt established himself as an outside threat, and Mildren ground out close to 600 yards as he mastered the new attack.  Soph D-lineman Ray Hamilton and All Conference choices LB Steve Aycock and DB Monty Johnson headed an adequate defense. 1971 was the coming out party for the Oklahoma Wishbone and the assistant who was credited with its development, Barry Switzer. It was also a coming out party of sorts for the Big Eight Conference as 13-0 Nebraska, 11-1 Oklahoma, and 10-2 Colorado finished one-two-three in the final national rankings! OU’s solitary loss was to Nebraska in the wild 35-31 "Game Of The Century", a November 25th face off that pitted the country's two top teams in a slugfest complete with Husker Johnny Rogers’ famed punt return. Oklahoma’s offensive numbers were off the charts as they averaged 472.4 rushing yards per game including 516 against tough USC and scored thirty or more points in every game except their 20-3 win over Missouri. Mildren finished out with an All American season and became the first major division QB to rush for over 1000 yards in a season. All American and Academic All American, he played DB for the Colts and Patriots in a three-year pro career and became Lieutenant Governor of Oklahoma in 1990. HB and return man Greg Pruitt who shared the backfield with Joe Wylie and Leon Crosswhite, was also All American and came in third in the Heisman Trophy voting while OU’s third All American pick was center Tom Brahaney. Despite losing the Big Eight and National crown to Nebraska, the Sooners dominated the All Conference team with their three All Americans and TE Albert Chandler, guard Ken Jones, defensive linemen Ray Hamilton and Derland Moore, and DB John Shelly. 1971 marked another milestone as DB Glenn King became Oklahoma’s first African American co-captain. Proving that ’71 was no fluke, the Sooner Wishbone came out of the gate firing on all cylinders in 1972, posting another 11-1 record and defeating eventual number four Nebraska but stumbling 20-14 against a Top Twenty Colorado team in a game played on a very slippery field. They capped the season with a 14-0 Sugar Bowl win over Penn State and again populated the “All” teams with a bevy of stars. Pruitt once more missed out on the Heisman, this time finishing second as everyone’s All American and he carved out a very productive pro career between 1973 and 1984 with the Browns and Raiders. He was a popular choice for the College Football Hall Of Fame. Center Brahaney was another two-time All American pick and anchored excellent Cardinal O-lines from ’73 to 1980. The All Big Eight list was impressive and included “Sugar Bear” Hamilton who was solid in all three D-line spots for the Patriots. The Sooners totaled three All Big Eight defensive tackles as Derland Moore (Saints 1973-’85 and ’86 with the Jets) and Lucious Selmon made it too. OT Dean Unruh, FB Leon Crosswhite who lasted two years with the Lions, and super-soph LB Rod Shoate all made the All Conference squad with Shoate and his 139 tackles good for some All America nods. TE Al Chandler went on to a seven-year NFL career. HB and returner Joe Wylie, a bit overshadowed by Pruitt finished a fine career and played with the Raiders for a season before staying with Portland during their two years in the WFL. The future looked spectacular as reserve safety Randy Hughes, QB Kerry Jackson, and great freshmen performers RB Joe Washington (647 rushing yards) and WR Tinker Owens, Steve’s younger brother, were forces on the field.


With old timers experiencing visions of OU’s super teams and multiple National Championships of the 1950’s, it appeared that a major bump had been struck on the return road to greatness. On January 26, 1973 Chuck Fairbanks was gone, leaving behind his 52-15-1 record and a couple of swipes at the National Championship. He took the dual job of head coach and general manager of the New England Patriots but would return to college football and the Big Eight in 1979 as Colorado’s head coach. He would leave for yet another pro job, becoming the head coach of the USFL New Jersey Generals in 1983 before retiring to private business. Promoting from within, offensive coordinator and ultra-popular Barry Switzer, the former Arkansas linemen, accepted the new challenge. After serving as an Arkansas assistant and becoming a member of Jim Mackenzie’s 1966 OU staff, Switzer had been given appropriate credit for introducing what was now a famed and feared Wishbone attack. He was also light years ahead of most coaches, especially those in the very much segregated Southwest, in bringing in African American athletes, an advantage that would maintain OU’s on the field dominance for years. He began his tenure saddled with NCAA prohibitions that were instituted in April due to the use of reserve QB Kerry Jackson in three of 1972’s games. Jackson’s high school transcripts were proven to have been tampered with to allow him scholarship eligibility at Oklahoma. The Sooners were not allowed to participate in bowl games in ’73 and ’74 and could not appear on television in 1974 and ’75. Over the summer of ’73, Lee Roy Selmon, a star in the making, was discovered to have pericarditis, inflammation of the heart’s lining, and would miss part of Switzer’s inaugural season. Switzer was undeterred by these setbacks and his enthusiasm was contagious. The goal and the “one great reward for playing the game of football” was winning, as he put it, and the players bought into his philosophy. A 7-7 tie with powerful USC was the only blemish on a 10-0-1 season and the offense was still powerful averaging 361.4 yards on the ground each contest. As QB Steve Davis, a Baptist minister ran the attack, All Big Eight “Little” Joe Washington ran behind All Big Eight guards John Roush and Eddie Foster, a converted defenseman who was also named an All American. Owens remained a clutch receiver but surprisingly, the strength was in the defense as brother act Lucious, Lee Roy, and Dewey Selmon of Eufaula, Oklahoma proved to be the immovable object. Lucious and LB Rod Shoate were All Americans and with All Conference DE Gary Baccus and DB Randy Hughes as other All Big Eight selections, the Sooner defense was considered to be “offensive”! Lucious was the first of the Selmon brothers to bring honor to their family as he also garnered National Defensive Player Of The Year and Big Eight Athlete Of The Year accolades and played with the USFL Memphis Showboats of the USFL before coaching for almost three decades at both the collegiate and professional levels.

If interested in any of these OU helmets please click on the photos below.