Oklahoma has had a rich history up to this decade. Oklahoma won a combined 339 games from the 1950’s to 1989. Six national titles. The 1960’s were a decade that we could all live to forget, but, also, we would really love to forget the 1990’s. The beginning of this era, started off with Oklahoma being under probation, as punishment for the issues that were going on under Barry Switzer’s watch at the end of the 1980’s.
Gary Gibbs took over as head coach upon Switzers resignation. The Oklahoma Sooners began an uphill fight. Of course it probably was not as big as an issue as it would have been say today because of TV share revenue being like it is now a days. Part of Oklahoma’s punishment included not being able to be on national television.
Sooners fans would have to catch replays late Saturday night. Oklahoma, also, was not allowed to participate in post season play. Then you also factor in scholarship restrictions, Oklahoma was decreased to 18 scholarships that could be given out as opposed to the normal 25. Seven scholarship’s lost during that three year period.
All those would hinder recruitment for the Sooners, who were only four years removed from winning it all in 1985. Gary Gibbs did make the best of a bad situation. He coached OU from 1989-1994. Under him, Oklahoma had some decent years, going 7-4 and 8-3 during the probation period. In 1991, Oklahoma would return to the post season, defeating the Virginia Cavaliers in the Gator Bowl.
Coach Gibbs would have some decent wins under his belt, defeating UCLA, Pitt, Nebraska, Virginia, and Texas A&M, all ranked in the top 20. However, there was never any real consistency to be sustained under his tenure. The Sooners would have a great year say in 1991, where the Sooners went 9-3, the very next year in ’92 they dropped to 5-4-2. In ’93 the Sooners came back and went 9-3, only to follow up with a clunker in his final year, 6-6.
He weathered the storm for what he was thrusted into as best he could. Due to being unable to win the “big games” and the anger from the fan base, he resigned in 1994. And the coaches being successful after him? Not so much. I dedicate this paragraph to one, Howard Schnellenburger. He was one and done, only coaching in the ’95 season. Though he went 5-5-1, only winning 2 conference games. At the least, he didn’t lose to Texas though right? He tied, so I don’t know if that is much better. Oklahoma started off ranked in the top 15 and got up to be as high as tenth, but then, you might as well say the wheels came off the Schooner.
It doesn’t help that Schnellenburger talked about his incoming players as being unmotivated and out of shape. After posting the worst conference record since World War II, he resigned at the end of the 1995 season, posting a 5-5-1 record. That opened the door to bring in one John Blake. You see where this is headed right? If you quit reading at this point, I totally understand. I would rather just skip to Bob Stoops being hired, but alas I can’t.
New conference, new coach, worse results. That would be how you would describe John Blake’s tenure at Oklahoma. In the modern era, never did Oklahoma have a record that was as far under .500 as was Coach Blakes first year. 3-8. At least what you can say for him is that he improved each year by going 4-8 and 5-6 the following two years. That is something right? No, ok. The only top 25 win was against Texas in 1996. That, coincidentally, was Oklahoma’s first win of that season. Otherwise, ranked teams just had their way with Blake’s Sooners.
Lambasted is word I would use to describe the losses. San Diego State, 51-21, Nebraska 73-21, Kansas 52-24 in 1996. 1997 had such gems as, Kansas State 26-7, Nebraska 69-7, Texas A&M 51-7, Oklahoma State 30-7. What made that awesome, was the fact that those games were BACK to BACK to BACK to BACK. Least the Sooners played a little more respectfully in 1998, in Coach Blakes final year, after he was fired at the conclusion of 1998.
Now, you see why I wanted to skip to Coach Bob Stoops? After that PAINFUL review through our legacy, Oklahoma’s savior had arrived. Coach Stoops, had a rough first year, though producing a winning season for the first time in 4 years, at 7-5 losing a closely contested game to Ole Miss in the Independence Bowl, was at this point full of win.
Coach Stoops would also have a clear victory over a ranked opponent, defeating Texas A&M, ranked 13th, 51-6. He also, nearly brought home a win against Notre Dame before they came back at the end. That with in itself gave Oklahoma Sooners fans, hope for the new millennium. And, well we all know how Big Game Bob delivered in the following decade. We talk about that in the next installment. Thank God the 90’s are behind us now…