OU Football History & Tradition | Updated Oct. 18, 2017
Oklahoma is the only program in major college football to produce four head coaches with at least 100 wins each. Bob Stoops reached the mark faster than any coach in college football history and finished his career with 190 victories. The others? Barry Switzer (157 wins), Bud Wilkinson (145) and Bennie Owen (122).
NC - National Championships; CC - Conference Championships
|Programs with Most 100-Win Coaches|
|Oklahoma||Stoops (190), Switzer (157), Wilkinson (145), Owen (122)|
|Georgia Tech||Dodd (165), Alexander (134), Heisman (104)|
|Michigan||Schembechler (194), Yost (165), Carr (122)|
|Ohio State||Hayes (205), Cooper (111), Tressel (106)|
|Southern Cal||McKay (127), Jones (121), Robinson (104)|
|Tennessee||Neyland (173), Fulmer (147), Majors (116)|
Lincoln Riley was named OU's 22nd head coach on June 7, 2017, succeeding Bob Stoops, who retired after 18 seasons at OU.
Stoops led the Sooners to the program's seventh national championship in 2000 and won 10 Big 12 Conference titles. Stoops won his 100th game at OU on September 13, 2008, with a 55-14 win at Washington, and he became OU's all-time winningest coach on Nov. 23, 2013, when the Sooners defeated Kansas State, 41-31, in Manhattan, Kan. He finished his career with a 190-48 (.798) overall record.
Barry Switzer leads all Oklahoma coaches in winning percentage and most conference wins while Bud Wilkinson accumulated the most conference titles (14) and best conference winning percentage.
Bennie Owen, the namesake of Owen Field, coached the Sooners for the longest tenure, 21 seasons, from 1905-1926. Five coaches who directed the Oklahoma program are in the College Football Hall of Fame including Switzer, Wilkinson, Owen, Jim Tatum and Lawrence Jones.
|Oklahoma Head Coaches|
NC - National Championship; CC - Conference Championship
Lincoln Riley (2017-present)
One of the brightest young coaches in college football, Lincoln Riley was named OU's 22nd head coach on June 7, 2017.
Bob Stoops (1999-2016)
The winningest coach in Oklahoma history, Bob Stoops firmly etched his indelible stamp upon college football.
Quantifying the lasting impact that Stoops has made on Oklahoma is the easy part. No head coach in the Sooners’ illustrious history has produced more victories than Stoops (190), who surpassed Barry Switzer in 2013.
Stoops led the Sooners to a school-record 18 consecutive bowl berths and 10 Big 12 titles. Even though he didn’t arrive in Norman until the Big 12 was three years old, the Youngstown, Ohio, native coached the program to more than three times as many championships (10) as the next closest school in the league.
During the BCS era, Stoops was the only coach to win a national championship and every BCS bowl game.
John Blake (1996-1998)
John Blake was a four-time letterwinner at noseguard for the Sooners under Barry Switzer. He served as the defensive line coach from 1989-92 under Gary Gibbs and under Switzer with the Dallas Cowboys before taking the head coaching job at Oklahoma. Blake was named OU's 20th head coach Dec. 31, 1995, and led the Sooners through three seasons. One of the youngest coaches in college football, Blake led OU to victory over Texas in the first Big 12 overtime game, 30-27, in 1996.
Howard Schnellenberger (1995)
Despite arriving at the University of Oklahoma with a career record that was less than .500, Howard Schnellenberger was highly touted and respected by his peers across the country. Schnellenberger had directed the Miami Hurricanes to a national championship in 1983 after only five years at the helm, and brought perennial loser Louisville to respectability, guiding the Cardinals to bowl victories over football powers Alabama and Michigan State during his 10 years as head coach.
Schnellenberger attended the University of Kentucky where he was an All-American end, then went on to play two years in the Canadian Football League. After serving as an assistant at Kentucky, Alabama and the Miami Dolphins, Schnellenberger was named the head coach of the Baltimore Colts in 1973, and after two years in Baltimore, was the offensive coordinator of the 17-0 Super Bowl Champion Miami Dolphins.
After his lengthy tenures at the University of Miami and the University of Louisville, Schnellenberger lasted only one year as the coach of the Sooners. Still, he renewed fan interest in the program, shown by the sellout (two) and near sellout home games. His lone Sooner team finished 5-5-1, keeping the non-losing season string alive at 30.
Gary Gibbs (1989-1994)
During his six seasons as the Sooners' head coach, Gary Gibbs led the football program through some of the toughest times in recent history. He took the helm in the summer of 1989 after Barry Switzer resigned. The Sooners began a probation term during that same period.
In his first three seasons, the Sooners continued their pattern of success with the team making its first trip to a bowl game in two years. Oklahoma defeated Virginia at the 1991 Gator Bowl, 48-14. The full effects of probation finally caught up with the Sooners in 1992 as they compiled a 5-4-2 record. In 1993, Oklahoma defeated Texas for the first time in the Gibbs era, 38-17, as well as Texas A&M. The Sooners faced Texas Tech in the John Hancock Bowl, beating the Red Raiders 41-10.
Gibbs started as a linebacker on Oklahoma's 1974 national championship squad and graduated from OU in 1975. Before deciding to join the OU coaching staff in 1975, Gibbs signed with the New England Patriots as a free agent. In 1981, Gibbs was named the Oklahoma defensive coordinator. Under his direction, OU defenders led the nation in total defense three straight years (1985-87) and twice finished first in rushing defense (1986 and 1987). Gibbs also helped the Sooners win a national championship in 1985.
Barry Switzer (1973-1988)
Oklahoma's all-time winningest coach, Barry Switzer, led his Sooner teams to three national championships, 12 Big Eight Conference championships and eight bowl wins in 13 appearances. Switzer led the Sooners on a 28-game win streak from 1973 (his first season as head coach) to 1975. When the Sooners won the national championship in 1975, it marked the first time in history a team had won back-to- back titles more than once.
Switzer, also a former head coach of the Dallas Cowboys, overcame meager beginnings in a rickety house in the Arkansas woods to gain his many successes. He graduated from Crossett High with honors and played center and linebacker for the University of Arkansas. Before coming to Oklahoma as an offensive line coach in 1966, Switzer was a B-team coach and scout for the Razorbacks.
In 1967, he was named offensive coordinator for the Sooners. In 1970, he convinced Chuck Fairbanks, then OU head coach, to make the most significant and gutsy move in OU's football history, a switch to the wishbone offense. The only vehicles for learning this novel offense were films of the 1968 and 1969 OU-Texas games, since Texas was the only school that used the wishbone. This offense saved the career of Fairbanks and his seven assistants and made possible Oklahoma's second football dynasty.
Switzer resigned as Sooner coach in June of 1989, saying that "coaching was no longer fun." He stayed out of coaching, despite many offers, until Jerry Jones, the owner of the Dallas Cowboys, offered him the head coaching position in April of 1994. During the 1994 season, Switzer led the Cowboys to a 13-5 record and the NFC Championship game. In 1995, he led Dallas to a Super Bowl win over Pittsburgh. He coached the Cowboys through the 1997 season.
Chuck Fairbanks (1967-1972)
As Oklahoma's 16th head coach, Chuck Fairbanks won three Big Eight Conference titles (1967, 1972 and a shared title in 1968). He had 24 players earn all-league honors while nine received All-America accolades. Fairbanks also coached the 1969 Heisman Trophy winner, running back Steve Owens. In bowl games at OU, he posted a 3-1-1 record with the Sooners playing in a pair of Sugar and Astro-Bluebonnet bowls, and one Orange Bowl.
Fairbanks was the first OU coach to use the wishbone formation, a triple option offensive attack that Texas used on its way to the 1969 national title. The wishbone became the backbone of OU's offensive dynasty for the next 20 years.
In 1973, Fairbanks left OU to coach in the NFL for the New England Patriots. During his six-year tenure as the Patriots' head coach, Fairbanks set a club record with 46 wins. The Patriots also won two division titles in the American Football Conference's East division (1978 and shared in 1976). In 1978, Colorado began its battle to get Fairbanks as head coach, despite his four remaining years with the Patriots. After more than three months of legal battles between the Patriots and Buffaloes, the two factions agreed on a settlement that released Fairbanks from his NFL contract and allowed him to take over the helm at Colorado. He remained with the Buffaloes for three years.
Fairbanks began his coaching career at Ishpeming High School in Michigan. From there, he went to Arizona State and Houston before coming to OU as a defensive backfield coach in 1966. As a player at Michigan State, Fairbanks played offensive end on the Spartans' 1952 national championship team. In 1954, he concluded his playing career by earning a berth in the Blue-Gray All-Star game.
Jim Mackenzie (1966)
After finishing his first season as the head coach at Oklahoma, 37-year-old Jim Mackenzie died from a massive heart attack. In his only season at OU, his Sooners finished 6-4, but missed being 9-1 by only 10 points. Mackenzie's team upset two bowl teams, Texas and Nebraska, and he was named the 1966 Big Eight Coach of the Year by both AP and UPI.
Mackenzie came to Oklahoma in December 1965, after spending nine years as assistant to Frank Broyles. Mackenzie was with Broyles for one year at Missouri as well as eight years at Arkansas. Mackenzie built great defenses for the Razorbacks, and in 1964, Broyles named Mackenzie assistant head coach. Oklahoma's 15th head coach was an All-Southeastern Conference tackle under Coach Bear Bryant at Kentucky. Kentucky compiled a 28-3 record and went to a bowl every season Mackenzie played. The Wildcats also upset Oklahoma's 1950 national champions, 13-7, in the 1951 Sugar Bowl.
Mackenzie left an outline for Oklahoma's success in "The Winning Edge," a list of 20 principles Mackenzie believed held the keys to success in both football and life.
Gomer Jones (1964-1965)
Gomer Jones was the Oklahoma line coach for 17 years under Bud Wilkinson. He assumed the athletic director and head coaching duties in 1964. In 1965, Jones resigned as head football coach, but remained as athletic director until his death in 1971. He joined the OU staff in 1947 after being a line coach at the University of Nebraska.
Jones developed 16 All-American interior linemen while he was line coach at OU as well as two other All-Americans while he was head coach. He helped to develop nine Oklahoma bowl teams, 14 Oklahoma teams that won conference championships and three teams that won national championships.
Jones graduated from Ohio State in 1935. While there, the 220-pound center was a first team All-American. After graduation, he played professional football with the Cleveland Rams. In 1937, he began his coaching career as freshman football and basketball coach at John Carroll University. From 1938-1940, Jones was assistant line coach at Ohio State, then in 1941-1942, Jones coached high school football in Ohio. Before going to Nebraska in 1946, he served in the Navy as line coach at St. Mary's Pre-Flight school.
Jones' final coaching endeavor was termed "brilliant" as he coached the line of the West team that upset the favored East 22-7 in the 1965 Shrine game. That line paved the way as the West outrushed the East 208-70 net yards. Jones authored two books, Modern Defensive Football and Offensive and Defensive Line Play. He collapsed and died in a New York City subway station while accompanying the Oklahoma basketball team during the 1971 National Invitation Tournament.
Bud Wilkinson (1947-1963)
While confining OU's recruiting to a 150-mile radius of the Norman campus, Oklahoma's 13th football coach produced teams that were 6- 2 in postseason play, won the national championship in 1950, 1955 and 1956 and did not lose an astounding 74 straight conference games from 1946-1959 (72 wins, 2 ties). He still holds the modern record for wins by a Division I-A school with 47 straight victories from 1953- 1957, a streak that stopped when the Sooners lost to Notre Dame, 7-0.
After the 1947 season, the Sooners won 12 straight conference championships. In 17 seasons at Oklahoma, Wilkinson fostered racial integration and graduated players at an 87.2 percentage rate while becoming the eighth-winningest coach in Division I-A history.
His career began as a player at Minnesota, where he helped the Golden Gophers win two national championships in football, captained the golf team and was a goaltender in hockey. Wilkinson won the Big Ten Medal of Honor as the outstanding scholar-athlete in 1937. After serving as an assistant at Syracuse where he received his master's in English Education, Wilkinson coached at Minnesota and with the Navy's Pre-Flight School Seahawks. He also served in the Navy during World War II. Upon his return to the states, Wilkinson decided to give up football and work in his father's Minneapolis mortgage business.
Not long after his decision, Wilkinson's Navy buddy, Jim Tatum, Oklahoma's new head coach, asked him to come to Norman as an assistant coach. Wilkinson accepted and in one year, he was the Oklahoma head coach and athletic director. In 1964, he resigned from OU and ran for the U.S. Senate as a Republican, but fell short. Wilkinson was an ABC sports analyst from 1965-77, and from 1979-80, he coached the St. Louis Cardinals. He also served as a consultant to President Nixon and was a member of the White House Staff from 1969-71. Wilkinson died in 1994 of congestive heart failure at age 77.
Jim Tatum (1946)
In his only year as OU coach, Jim Tatum devised a massive recruiting effort that took the Sooners to prominence. His venture in the first year after World War II had never happened before or since because NCAA rules would not permit it and no school could afford it. The process almost bankrupted OU. Tatum had tryouts, winter practices, spring practices and summer practices. The few rules the NCAA had in those days were largely ignored by Tatum.
In pursuit of building a national powerhouse, he snared many discharged servicemen who had played at other colleges before the war. Tatum also raided rival campuses, recruited a conventional number of high school seniors and ran off most of the 1945 players. Estimates on the number of players who tried out ran as high as 600. Oklahoma's 1946 recruiting class produced nine All-Americans.
In the 1945 coaching search, Oklahoma opted to hire Tatum over Paul "Bear" Bryant. A 32-year-old North Carolina native, Tatum had served with Jap Haskell, OU athletic director, in the Navy. Tatum was head coach one year at North Carolina before the war and led a Navy team at Jacksonville. He also was line coach at Iowa Pre-Flight under Missouri's Don Faurot, inventor of the Split-T offense.
Some of the regents were more impressed with Charles (Bud) Wilkinson, Tatum's friend who accompanied him on the interview, than Tatum. After the Sooner victory over North Carolina State in the Gator Bowl, Maryland contacted Tatum and offered a coaching position. OU President Dr. George Cross privately hoped Tatum would leave so he could elevate Wilkinson.
Tatum had become "very difficult to work with," said Cross. Tatum had also spent the athletic department's entire surplus of $125,000 before the first game and run up a deficit of $113,000. Tatum did accept the contract with Maryland. From there, he accepted the head coaching position at the University of North Carolina. Tatum died suddenly in 1958 of a mysterious viral infection despite appearing to be in excellent health.
Dewey Luster (1941-1945)
At 5-foot-4, 135 pounds, Dewey "Snorter" Luster made a mark at his alma mater as the football and boxing coach. He piloted Oklahoma football to Big Six Conference titles in 1943 and 1944, and his team never finished below second place in the Big Six. Because of ill health, Luster missed several practices and the final game of the season against Oklahoma A&M in 1945. He resigned after that season.
Luster lettered four years as a football player at OU. He was a starting end his last two years and team captain of the undefeated 1920 team (6-0-1) his senior year. Luster organized the Sooners' first wrestling team in 1920 while he was still an undergraduate. At that time, he also installed a boxing program at the university, which was winless in two meets. Thirty-six years later in 1956, Luster's boxing team placed sixth in the NCAA Championships. The sport was discontinued after that season.
Luster got his nickname because he snorted so much as an amateur boxer. He decided he did not want a boxing career after fighting professional Mutt McGee for 10 rounds when Luster was only 15 years old. Before coaching at OU, Luster coached football at Norman High School. In 1922, he received his law degree from Oklahoma. Luster died at age 81 in his Norman home.
Tom Stidham (1937-1940)
Oklahoma's 10th football coach, Tom Stidham posted OU's most successful record of all time against Texas with only one loss in four years. His greatest triumph while at OU was his 23-0 demolition in 1939 of Coach Lynn Waldorf's Northwestern team that was picked to win the national championship. Stidham was the first Oklahoma coach to defeat Waldorf (both Adrian "Ad" Lindsey and Lewie Hardage had also tried).
Stidham's 1938 Sooners were undefeated in the regular season and were ranked No. 4 in the AP poll, but lost in the Sooners' first bowl appearance, the Orange Bowl, to Tennessee. After OU's hard-fought loss to the Volunteers, Stidham went back to his hotel room, took off the gray suit he had worn triumphantly in the 10 games Oklahoma had won and dropped it out the fifth-floor window.
He was a native Oklahoman who grew up in Checotah. Stidham was one-sixteenth Creek Indian. He went to Haskell Indian Institute of Lawrence, Kan., and played football from 1925-26 under Coach Dick Hanley. In 1927, Stidham went to the University of Iowa, but before he gained eligibility, Hanley, who had accepted the coaching position at Northwestern, asked him to be an assistant coach. He was Northwestern line coach from 1933-34.
Captain "Biff" Jones hired Stidham to coach the Oklahoma line in 1935. When Jones left in 1937, Stidham became the head coach. In his time, Stidham placed more of his Oklahoma players with professional teams than any other coach. In 1940, 17 Sooners started in pro football and 10 stayed all season.
Lawrence Jones (1935-1936)
Oklahoma's ninth football coach, Lawrence "Biff" Jones had also served as head coach at Army for four years (1926-29) and at Louisiana State for three years (1932-35). He left Oklahoma originally because the Army decided to transfer him to Fort Leavenworth, Kan., but an offer to head the Nebraska football team prompted Jones to resign from the Army and travel to Lincoln.
During his 19-month tenure at OU, he rebuilt the athletic training department by adding whirlpool baths and needle showers and organized the equipment department to save thousands of dollars. He installed the Warner system of single and double wingbacking, a 1-9-1 shift, and strengthened the faulty Sooner running game. At the end of Jones' first season, the Sooners rushed 1,748 yards, nearly 200 yards per game, while permitting the opponents only 873 yards.
At Nebraska, Jones led the team to two Big Six titles in four years. He coached the 'Huskers from 1937-40. In 1937, Nebraska was ranked 11th in the country and in 1940, NU was ranked seventh in the country.
Lewie Hardage (1932-1934)
The backfield coach for Vanderbilt before accepting the head coaching position at Oklahoma in 1932, Lewie Hardage played football as well as baseball for the Commodores. During his tenure at OU, he developed a lightweight football uniform consisting of foamed rubber head gear, knee pads and shin guards along with pants that ended three inches above the knee. This gear weighed approximately eight pounds, half of what the old style had weighed. He also built OU's fastest all-weather football field in his time.
Only 12 players attended spring practice in 1932, but running back Bill Pansze kept the Sooners up 3-0 for the first half of the season. A knee injury in the Texas game took Pansze out for the remainder of the season and severely slowed the OU running game. "The same wolves who had harassed Ad Lindsey, began to yip at Hardage's heels" because of the Sooners' poor running and blocking.
Hardage was fired in 1934. He then became the backfield coach at the University of Florida. Hardage later married and moved to a farm in Mississippi.
Adrian Lindsey (1927-1931)
Oklahoma's seventh football coach, Adrian "Ad" Lindsey, is remembered as the coach who resigned quietly after failing to produce a winning team. Lindsey's record (19-19-6) was not that bad, however. His players were small in size and number and the schedules they faced were too difficult for such a small squad.
Lindsey's 1929 team defeated Nebraska, 20-7, marking the worst defeat the Cornhuskers saw from a Big Six team in two decades. In 1931, he took his team and defeated the University of Hawaii in Hawaii, 7-0. This game marked the first time a university from the midwest was asked to play in the islands.
Before coming to Oklahoma, Lindsey was an assistant football coach at Kansas, his alma mater. After his coaching tenure with the Sooners, Lindsey returned to KU as the head football coach until 1938. He also played professional baseball for the Pittsburgh Pirates from 1921 to 1925 and in Montreal for the Canadian League from 1925 to 1927. Lindsey fought with the Army in World War II and retired as a colonel in 1954. He died at age 85 in 1980.
Bennie Owen (1905-1926)
At the age of 17, Oklahoma's sixth football coach made part of the famous Cherokee Strip run from the south Kansas border into Indian Territory, making him a true Boomer. His age prevented acquisition of any land, but his sense of adventure took him four miles into the territory before turning back.
Bennie Owen coached Oklahoma for 22 seasons, longer than anyone else in school history. He began a tradition and a stadium that have endured for almost a century. Before coming to the university, Owen played and coached under Fielding Yost at Kansas and Michigan, and helped develop Yost's feared hurry-up offense. In it, Owen, the quarterback, would yell out signals for the next play on the bottom of the pile up of the preceding play. Although Owen only weighed 126 pounds, he was respected by all as a fierce competitor.
Before coming to OU in 1905, Owen coached and taught chemistry at Bethany, Kan., an early football power. Four of Owen's Oklahoma teams -- 1911, 1915, 1918 and 1920 -- were undefeated. Owen's first football star at OU was Owen Acton in 1907, a halfback, who the university recognizes as its first all-conference player.
Despite this, the 1907 season was misfortunate for both Owen and Oklahoma athletics. Owen lost his arm in an October hunting accident which left him out of coaching for the remainder of the season, and the athletic director, Vernon Parrington, was discharged by the new governor, Charles Haskell, along with all other Republicans at the university. It was not until 1911 that Owen and his players began to get national attention.
In 1913, OU's Claude Reeds was recognized as an All-American. About this time, Owen began to seriously play around with the forward pass, which had been introduced on a highly restricted basis in 1907, to open up the game. Reeds was the first to make good use of the pass, but another Sooner All-American, Forest "Spot" Geyer, built a legend with it. At the end of the 1920 season, Owen announced that he intended to raise $340,000 to build a 30,000-seat stadium, with an eventual expansion to 52,000 seats, and a 5,000-seat gymnasium. By 1928, Owen's vision resulted in Memorial Stadium circling Owen Field, as well as the OU Field House.
Owen coached six more years after 1920 before becoming solely athletic director. In 1950, Owen was one of 21 coaches to be elected to football's first National Hall of Fame.
Fred Ewing (1904)
Oklahoma's fifth football coach, Fred Ewing was hired to coach the Sooners for the 1904 season, through Thanksgiving Day. To coach, Ewing took an extended vacation from the University of Chicago Medical School. At Knox College in Galesburg, Illinois, Ewing had been rated as the greatest Knox tackle of all time.
He became the first Oklahoma coach to insist on using only scholastically eligible varsity players. Despite the fact that Ewing was only one year removed from his collegiate football career and that Roberts and McMahon, the two Oklahoma coaches before him, had played, he never participated in any of Oklahoma's varsity games.
Ewing regularly used the Minnesota Shift, a formation in which on nearly every play, one offensive tackle was set behind the other offensive tackle and carried the ball or blocked. The 1904 season marked the first meeting between Oklahoma and Oklahoma A&M. Ewing's team defeated the Aggies, 75-0. One week later, Oklahoma faced Texas for the first game of the long series at the Texas State Fair in Dallas. Texas won, 50-10.
Ewing devised a system of strapping strained ankles with adhesive tape that was years ahead of its time. The system got varsity players with injured ankles back into action quickly. The day after the Thanksgiving game, Ewing returned to medical school in Chicago.
Mark McMahon (1902-1903)
Captain and left tackle of the 1901 University of Texas team, Mark McMahon heard of Oklahoma's head coaching vacancy after the Texas and Pacific Railroad team of Dallas, composed of ex-college players like himself, defeated Oklahoma 11-5. That game marked the first time an Oklahoma football team ever played at the Texas State Fair.
McMahon, who just graduated from UT Law School, asked for the coaching job to pay back his school expenses. He was hired under the condition that he would teach the OU team the wing shift, the trick play the Dallas team used to defeat the Sooners.
McMahon's style was a mixture of the popular Princeton vogue he had learned at Austin combined with some moves he learned from the coach of the Dallas team, Charley Moran. He stressed line play and introduced the first tackling dummy in Norman. McMahon was known to suit up and throw some tackles if the team needed him. He liked long, hard schedules and because of that, the 1903 team played more games on the road than any OU team before or since. Of the 12 games in two months, only two were played in Norman. After repaying his law school debts, McMahon moved to Durant in the winter of 1903 to practice law.
Fred Roberts (1901)
Fred Roberts first came to Norman in 1899 at the insistence of C.C. "Lum" Roberts, his cousin, who was then captain of the Sooner football team. Oklahoma's third football coach was a halfback who could both dodge and smash dangerously. When the 1899 OU team beat Arkansas, Roberts scored both Oklahoma touchdowns. In the final game of the that same season against the Arkansas City, Kan., Town Team, Roberts ran 70 yards off tackle for a touchdown.
In 1900, Roberts left OU to play halfback for Bennie Owen at Washburn College of Topeka. When Vernon Parrington relinquished his coaching duties in 1901, Roberts was persuaded to return to Oklahoma to coach the team as well as play on it. In the Texas game at Austin, Roberts played so well that The Dallas Morning News said, "Roberts of OU played one of the prettiest individual games ever seen in this city." Against Fairmont, Roberts kicked seven field goals out of seven tries. He gained the reputation of being the outstanding halfback of the southwest.
Roberts had to refuse the coaching job in 1902 because of increasing duties on his farm. He still returned from his farm to play for Oklahoma occasionally under Coach McMahon when the team needed him. In OU's final game of the 1903 season versus the previously undefeated Lawton Town Team, Roberts led Oklahoma over its opponent, 27-5.
Vernon Parrington (1897-1900)
Vernon Parrington came to Oklahoma in 1897 after running for office as a member of the Populist political party. After leaving OU, he won the Pulitzer Prize in 1928 while teaching at the University of Washington with his book Main Currents of Political Thought. He was the first full-time football coach at OU. He played football at both Emporia College in Kansas and Harvard. He coached primarily the "tackle back" style which he learned from his Harvard coach, Bernard W. Trafford.
Parrington gave up his coaching position in 1901 because it interfered with his teaching, but he remained as athletic director. He taught English, French and German for the next seven years at OU until he was fired along with other faculty members, including OU pioneer president, Dr. David Ross Boyd, when the party control of the state government changed. Parrington then went to Washington. He died suddenly in 1929 in Gloucestershire, England, while taking the first vacation of his life.
Jack Harts (1895)
John A. "Jack" Harts proposed, recruited and doctored the university's first football team in Bud Risinger's Norman barber shop. He had arrived for the fall term in 1895 to attend school and teach a class in elocution (the study of formal speaking). Harts could kick farther than anyone else on the team. Because of his athletic ability and popularity, he was elected captain as well as coach.
Harts had played collegiately at Southwestern College in Winfield, Kan., before coming to Norman. Before the first game, he jerked a knee tendon while making a flying tackle in practice and was unable to play. Harts realized that he lacked two players for the game so he enlisted the town's barber and a horse driver. This first team never scored a point or made a first down. The university's longest gain came on the team's first play when Bert Dunn returned a kickoff for 50 yards. Shortly after that game, Harts left school to prospect for gold in the Arctic.
OU Football History & Tradition