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. 




Head coach Barry Switzer produced many spectacular teams at Oklahoma during his sixteen year stretch as OU’s mentor. His statement about the 1974 contingent perhaps provides the best summary: “My 1974 team was probably the best all around group I ever coached.” Wearing the red helmet with white “OU” logo on both sides and white two-inch identifying numerals in the rear, this was an intimidating team that would take its place in the annals of Sooner and Big Eight history. Averaging a nation-leading 507.7 yards and 438.8 rushing yards per game would qualify any squad as a powerhouse, as would a per-game scoring average of forty-three points. Other than the 16-13 win over Texas and the 28-14 victory over Nebraska, the season was a laugher. While most eyes went to the staggering offensive performances, the stifling defense gave up but 8.4 points per game. The stars and statistics were so abundant that they seemed to overflow the stadium. The Wishbone didn’t allow focus on one offensive player yet All American HB Joe Washington was third in the Heisman voting and may have won it had the Sooners’ NCAA probation allowed him to be seen by a national television audience. His 1321 rushing yards and heart-thumping punt returns were often works of art. It seemed as if the entire OU offensive line was either All American like guard John Roush and center Kyle Davis, who played with the Cowboys and Forty Niners, or comprised the All Big Eight team. TE Wayne Hoffman, tackle Jerry Arnold, and guard Terry Webb joined their All American teammates in dominating the All Conference team. Those who were not accorded such honors also sported impressive credentials. QB Steve Davis ran the show with his 1260 yards of total offense and FB Jim Littrell, a devastating blocker, rushed for 827. Almost forgotten were receivers Tinker Owens, who was also an All American and Billy Brooks while tackle Mike Vaughn was a devastating blocker.  The defense was every bit as good as the offense with both remaining Selmon brothers, Lee Roy and Dewey named as All Americans. Rod Shoate completed his OU career as a three-time All American, the only Sooner other than Buddy Burris of the 1946-’48 squads to hold that honor. Shoate became a solid LB for the Patriots for seven seasons and added time in the USFL with New Jersey and Memphis. Yet another All American was DB Randy Hughes who went on to the Cowboys for six years of service. DE Jimbo Elrod was passed over for honors in ’74 but the state champion wrestler and weight lifter out of Tulsa had great collegiate potential in both sports. Switzer and his fine staff had compiled a two-year mark of 21-1-1, yet the upcoming ’75 season may have exceeded the incredibly high expectations of fans and critics. 

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