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. 




The uniform was the same as was the red helmet with the distinctive white rounded “OU” logo on the sides and white two-inch numerals in the rear. For some of the players on both the 1974 and 1975 National Championship teams at Oklahoma, it was a toss-up to determine which of the two squads had more stars, although the ’74 team seemed to have less difficulty getting through the schedule. There was no doubt however, that the ’75 recruiting class had athletes that could help the program immediately as well as in the future. As it was the season before, the awesome Wishbone produced numerous “name” players and the defense was rock-ribbed although it was only in scoring defense that they were a top ten national contingent. Unlike ’74, the wins came much harder. There were closely played games where the winning scores came dramatically late or barely allowed the Sooner machine to squeak by with the 21-20 win over Colorado and the 28-27 Joe Washington inspired victory over Missouri being prime examples. This season perhaps brought forth the term “Sooner Magic” that was forever closely linked to Switzer as the extremely competitive coach seemed to rally his troops to their fullest playing potential when a game looked to be at its bleakest point. It took a late TD to beat Texas 24-17 and although they knocked Nebraska from the ranks of the unbeaten, the 35-10 score was heavy with fourth quarter heroics. The Orange Bowl win over Michigan in a 14-6 slugfest was a nailbiter that secured the National Championship as the victorious Sooners leap-frogged over Ohio State who dropped the Rose Bowl to UCLA. The only defeat suffered by QB Steve Davis in his collegiate career and by Coach Switzer in his first forty games at the helm came against Kansas. Eight turnovers allowed first-year KU coach Bud Moore to highlight his own Wishbone driven 7-5 season behind his QB Nolan Cromwell. The 23-3 loss, at home, was an aberration and the season was chock full of highlights. The list of All Americans was a long one as Lee Roy and Dewey Selmon completed their collegiate careers with Lee Roy winning the Outland Trophy, Lombardi Award, and he was an Academic All American. He remains recognized as one of the greatest college players of all time and is a member of The College Football Hall Of Fame and GTE Academic Hall Of Fame. He was the first pick of the 1976 NFL draft and became the cornerstone of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers defense in a ten-season career that also won him entry to the Pro Football Hall Of Fame. Selmon was successful in the banking business and various charities before becoming the AD at the University Of South Florida where he currently heads a fund raising organization. Dewey was also drafted by the Bucs, played LB and DT for them over the course of seven seasons and completed his pro career with the Chargers. Dewey’s son Zac played at Wake Forest and his entire family is involved in many charitable projects in the U.S. and parts of Africa. DE Jimbo Elrod was also named All American and was tireless as OU’s all time sack leader. He played three seasons with the Chiefs and one with the Oilers. With their high octane attack, five of the eight ’75 Sooner All Americans were from the offense. Washington completed a storied and College Football Hall Of Fame career and provided more flash than his very noticeable silver-painted shoes. His career rushing mark of 3995 was greater than Steve Owens or Billy Sims and no one at OU has touched his 5781 all-purpose yards. He continued bringing high-level excitement in a nine-season pro career spent primarily with the Colts and Redskins, a threat to go all the way on any play. Receiver Tinker Owens, a four-year starter, proved that he was not riding the coattails of his Heisman winning big brother. The two-time All American graduated having led the team in receiving for all four of his seasons and played for the Saints for six years. The “other receiver” Billy Brooks finally received his due, also receiving All American notice and becoming the Bengals’ first-round choice. He played in Cincinnati for four years and then split a season with the Chargers and Oilers. Guard Terry Webb and tackle Mike Vaughn received the recognition they had earned by opening the holes up front for QB Davis who wrapped up a great college career, Washington, Littrell, and HB Elvis Peacock. DB Zac Henderson developed nicely into an All Big Eight quality player, supported in the secondary by Scott Hill who is still a fan favorite for applying one of the most crushing tackles in OU history on Pitt’s Tony Dorsett.  


The Sooner express was slowed a bit as they entered October of 1976 as injuries mounted. A 6-6 tie with Texas and losses to Oklahoma State and Colorado had some thinking that the great ride was over but the team bounced back to win out, come from behind late to beat Nebraska 20-17 with the aid of a spectacular eighty-one-yard “hook and ladder” play that wound up in the hands of hero Elvis Peacock, and they trounced Wyoming 41-7 in the Fiesta Bowl to finish at a very acceptable 9-2-1. QB Dean Blevins had the usual collection of stars in support and shared the QB spot with Thomas Lott who came on late in the season to take over the pivot. The Wishbone rush game was so good he went three games without throwing a single forward pass! HB Horace Ivory was the wheel horse, later playing with the Patriots from ’77 into the 1981 season and finishing in 1982 after going to the Seahawks during the ’81 season. FB Kenny King tallied 791 rush yards and Peacock again was an all-the-way threat. Touted back Billy Sims was a non-factor due to injury. Greg Roberts and Karl Baldischwiler played next to All American Mike Vaughn, referred to as “USS Vaughn” due to his 6’7” size. So deep was the backfield that FB George Cumby moved to LB and teamed well with All Big Eight choice Daryl Hunt. Reggie Kinlaw anchored the D-line at MG until going down with a knee injury against Colorado but DT’s Phil Tabor and Anthony Bryant supplied plenty of stopping power with DE Mike Phillips. DB Zac Henderson was tabbed as All American and hard-hitting Scott Hill All Conference. The 10-1 regular season of 1977, built upon a combination of the usual Wishbone attack and a new Pro-I formation, got off to a tough start as the Sooners just got by Vanderbilt 25-23 and lost 13-6 to rival Texas on October 8th. The early schedule included a great 29-28 victory at Ohio State as kicker Uwe Von Schamann led the “Block that kick” chant by 91,000 Buckeye fans and immediately knocked through the winning forty-one yard field goal. It was clear sailing despite a tussle with Missouri as they dominated Colorado and Nebraska. Unexpectedly losing in the Orange Bowl, 31-6 to an Arkansas team that had suspended key players prior to the game sullied the season and had many forgetting that once again, OU was the country’s best rushing team and dominated the All Conference squad and had five All Americans. Kinlaw recovered from his knee injury of ’76 to control the line from his NG spot, Cumby and Hunt came into their own at LB as All American choices, and DB Zac Henderson completed his OU career as a two-time selection. Henderson was productive in the CFL before joining the Eagles in 1980 and then played with Tampa Bay in the USFL. All American guard Greg Roberts led the offensive line with Baldischwiler as an All Conference pick having a nine-year NFL career with the Lions and Colts. QB Lott ran for 761 yards which got him an All Big Eight honor also. 

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