We continue our seven part series on the Legacy of the Oklahoma Sooners. I mentioned that we would enjoy going through and seeing the greatness that is Oklahoma. I also said, we would cringe. This is a decade that will be painful to talk about. The 1960’s, was not so memorable in Sooner football history.
We saw multiple head coaching changes during this decade, legendary Coach Bud Wilkinson left the program at the end of 1963. From 1960-1963, Wilkinson’s Sooners suffered multiple defeats in 1960 (3-6-1), and 1961 (5-5). He was able to engineer a rebound in 1962 and 1963 going 8-3 and 8-2 respectively finishing in the top 10 in both the AP and FWAA polls those seasons.
Coach Wilkinson left the program after the 1963 season to enter politics, running as an Oklahoma Senator for the Republican party. However, Wilkinson would be defeated losing a closely contested race to Democrat Fred R. Harris. After the failed bid, Wilkerson became a color analyst for ABC Sports. Wilkinson’s replacement, was head coach Gomer Jones, serving as an assistant under Wilkinson for the 17 years that Coach Bud was at Oklahoma.
Unfortunately, after an 8-2 campaign in 1963, Coach Jones had a fall off. He coached the Sooners for two seasons, accumlating a record of 9-11-1, suffering several disappointing losses. Coach Jones also doubled as Oklahoma’s athletic director, which he was AD from 1964, until he passed away seven years later in 1971. His replacement Jim MacKenzie did not fair much better in his one year in 1966. He amassed a 6-4 record, a game above .500.
Chuck Fairbanks took over in 1967, finally leading a Sooner campaign back to prominence, going 10-1 defeating second-ranked Tennessee in the Orange Bowl in a close game, and finishing in both the AP and FWAA as number 3 in the nation. They defeated the Vols 26-24.
However, that high would lead to yet another mild dip to close out the 60’s were Fairbanks Sooners would go a combined 13-8 in 1968 and 1969. The only game that appeared to be a thorn in the side for the Sooners during the 60’s was the Red River Rivalry, losing their only contest in 1967 to Texas by a score of 9-7.
As I said, this part of Oklahoma’s history is “cringe worthy”. Oklahoma spent a lot of time being blanked in multiple games during the 60’s. OU failed to score a touchdown against Navy, Kansas, Texas, and Alabama in those contests. Oklahoma not only failed to score a touchdown, but were demolished by Notre Dame, Colorado, and Mizzou. They lost all these games by an average of 22-0. Another hard pill to swallow, was the fact Oklahoma lost to Texas 9 out of 10 years. 1-9 against Texas? Not much more that needs to be said about that.
Of course, there were glimmers of hope. Oklahoma had some good victories during this time. Top 10 rank wins include Mizzou, Nebraska, Oklahoma State, USC, Clemson, Colorado, Tennessee, and Kansas. During this decade, USC, Tennessee, and Kansas were ranked 1, 2, and 3 respectively at the time of their losses to Oklahoma.
Oklahoma suffered greatly at times during the 60’s. With the abundance of coaching changes, Oklahoma had a decade record of 60-41-2 (.583). The silver lining: it could have been a lot worse. Next week, we take a look back at the happening 70’s.
Steve Owens, Running Back (1967-1969) — One of the few bright spots of the 1960’s era Sooners, Steve Owens was a monster at running back. In three seasons, Owens ran for 3,928 yards and ran in 57 touchdowns. In 1969, he won the Heisman Memorial Trophy, Walter Camp Player of the Year Award, and was a consensus All-American. Owens led the Big Eight in rushing yards and rushing touchdowns for all three seasons he played. He, also, held the record for most rushing touchdowns in a career in the Big Eight era. Owens’ presence will forever live in Norman with his statue standing proudly in Heisman park.
Granville Liggins, Nose Guard (1964-67) — Liggins was born in Tulsa, OK and came to the University of Oklahoma as not only a football player, but a wrestler. Liggins was named an All-American in 1966 and a unanimous selection in 1967. However, he was also an All-American wrestler in 1967 as well, the first Sooner to be named All-America in two different sports. Liggins was a talented pass rusher, who was named the UPI Lineman of the Year and finished seventh in the Heisman voting that season. Liggins helped Oklahoma beat the Tennessee Volunteers in that classic 1968 Orange Bowl, and played pro ball in the Canadian Football League until retiring after the 1978 season.
Jim Grisham, Fullback (1961-1964) — Grisham ran for 2,297 yards and scored 19 times as a tailback for the Sooners. He was a 1963 Consensus All-American, and led the Big Eight in rushing touchdowns in 1963 and only second in rushing yards. Grisham couldn’t, however, earn any bowl wins while at OU. Though, he was ruled ineligible for the 1964 Orange Bowl, which the Sooners lost, missing a few players who signed professional contracts before the game.