By Dr. Ken


The 1965 Sports Illustrated College Football featured Nebraska University fullback Frank Solich on the cover. This was a major boost to my spirits, seeing a 170-pound fullback on the cover of this nationally circulated magazine, in color, running with obvious power. Inside SI’s pages, the author used the description of Solich that struck a positive note when he called him “ a scaled-down blacksmith” in talking about his physique. As a short running back, I was always seeking out examples of smaller backs, such at the Houston Oilers 5’6”, 205 pound Charley Tolar to emulate. I recall sitting with Denny Barrett, a graduate assistant coach for the University Of Cincinnati as I gazed at the Sports Illustrated that for two or three weeks, I carried with me everywhere. Barrett had been a quarterback prospect for the UC varsity until he was injured and could not continue playing. To keep his scholarship, this short, talented player assisted as a freshmen team and varsity coach, working with running backs and quarterbacks. We were talking about Solich, the former long time Nebraska assistant and head coach before taking on his current position as head football coach for the Ohio University Bobcats and how with persistence, I too could try to become as good a player. I noted that I was sure I was not nearly as talented as Solich or most of our other UC players but Barrett made the point that while Nebraska was considered to be the most talented team in the Midwest, he believed that Tulsa could play them even-up. Before rolling one’s eyes and bobbing one’s head, it must be understood that Tulsa was, through the early and mid-1960s, an outstanding football program. Somewhat mired in the under publicized Missouri Valley Conference, they did not get the publicity they deserved, even in the region but for a number of years, they could and did play with anyone.


Times change, in football as with everything else but there was a time when it was an established tradition for the University Of Arkansas to play what was considered to be a heated regional rivalry game at Tulsa every Thanksgiving Day.  Although Tulsa lost on Thanksgiving Day of 1941, Coach Henry Frnka and his Hurricane team did receive an invitation to play Texas Tech in the Sun Bowl in El Paso, Texas. With only five post-season collegiate bowls, the Sun Bowl game was rather “big time” although it served more as a regional event than a national one like the other four bowls, Orange, Sugar, Cotton, and Rose Bowls. Tulsa was victorious 6-0 as their great player Glenn Dobbs threw a touchdown pass to Sax Judd. In 1942 Dobbs was everyone’s All America as Frnka ran a passing offense that was way ahead of its time yielding an undefeated season and a national Top Ten ranking. Dobbs also was one of the nation’s best punters and recognized as a charismatic star. Their reward was a place in the Sugar Bowl where they bowed to Tennessee 14-7. Dobbs passed through Los Angeles, Brooklyn, and the CFL before returning home to Tulsa to become Athletic Director while his brother Bobby coached the football team. After compiling a 30-24-2 record with his AD brother as his assistant coach, Bobby Dobbs left and the decision was made to bring Glenn Dobbs in as the Hurricane head coach for the 1961 season. Tulsa football was again on the map due to two significant events: Dobbs announced that he would pass for a five yard gain as well as run for it, and the barrier of racial segregation was broken. Both distinctions separated Tulsa from almost all of the other schools in the Southwest. What could be called the “Dobbs Era’ may have begun on October 27, 1963 as Tulsa squared off against Oklahoma State. With two transfer quarterbacks at the helm, Bill Van Burkleo who had left a slumping Oklahoma program and SMU star Jerry Rhome who transferred to Tulsa when a run oriented coaching staff took over at SMU, Dobbs put a former defensive back at the receiver position, an unheralded player named Howard Twilley. With Rhome in as the permanent starter for the second half of that game, Tulsa literally began to light up the scoreboard, salvaging a season with a poor start and nursing it to a 5-5 finish. In 1964 Rhome finished as the Heisman Trophy runner-up to Notre Dame’s John Huarte, the team was 8-2 and they defeated Ole Miss in the Bluebonnet Bowl. Tulsa had arrived. Willie Townes was named MVP in that Bluebonnet Bowl game and this led to his leaving school early after the 1965 season, signing with the Cowboys. As he could have played one more season, Dobbs then “locked out” all Dallas Cowboy scouts and coaches from Tulsa practices. Rhome’s replacement was Billy Guy Anderson and Tulsa’s passing game continued to roll. They had led the country in passing before Rhome became the regular quarterback and once he was named the starter, Rhome, Anderson, Glenn Dobbs, Jr. the coach’s son, and Greg Barton were always at the top of the passing statistics each of the years I was at UC. Anderson in fact while little known by most who follow the history of college football, broke most of Rhome’s records.


The Tulsa jerseys were royal blue with gold numbers and a gold Northwestern style sleeve stripe, and gold “TV” numbers on the sleeves. This was a standard design for the 1960s. The helmets were white with a gold/yellow stripe flanked by blue stripes on each side, and blue block numerals on each side of the helmet. This too was a standard look but clean and crisp. In 1967 the white helmet had a unique “hurricane warning” flag on each side which was eye catching. One of my summer time training partners Henry Fera transferred to Tulsa from Northeastern Oklahoma Junior College, a 6’1”, 280 pound offensive guard. Henry told me that Tulsa, as I already knew, threw the ball ninety percent of the time and thus had recruited big offensive linemen, much bigger than was typical for the time. Henry told me that the numbers on their jerseys were larger than normal too. “Coach Dobbs has all of us big guys and he wants us to look as big as possible. Our numbers are actually larger than standard, Coach thinks it makes us look even bigger!” I told him that they were easily the largest team we faced and there was no need to look any bigger! Playing Tulsa was always exciting because they were the class of the Missouri Valley Conference in the 1964-1968 period of time, always competitive and always dangerous on offense although some of their defenses were very underrated. Although their uniforms were pretty much standard issue for the time period, Tulsa always had a good look that was enhanced by the large numbers in a very nice color combination.