The Oklahoma Legacy: Reliving the 1970’s (Part One)


As we continue with our series looking back at the University of Oklahoma’s history, we have gone through an era where Coach Bud Wilkinson brought the Sooners to prominence in the 1950’s—winning three national titles and a lot of football games. Then we reviewed the dark times that was the 1960’s. A hard era, which Texas had its way with the Sooners. Things in life that make you go ‘uggghhhh‘.

The Sooner kicked off the 1970’s decade with a 7-4 season that ended in a 24-24 tie with the Alabama Crimson Tide in the Bluebonnet Bowl.  After that year, the Sooners began their climb back to the top of college football. Chuck Fairbanks lead Oklahoma to back-to-back 11-1 seasons and led the Sooners to 1971 and 1972 Sugar Bowl victories.

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The Sooners lone loss in 1971 was the historic “Game of the Century.” In a classic battle between two of college football’s greatest rivals, the then second-ranked Sooners were defeated by the top-ranked Nebraska Cornhuskers, 35-31, in Norman, Oklahoma. The Sooners finished their year with a 40-22 win over the fifth-ranked Auburn Tigers. The win gave Oklahoma its first eleven-win season since 1955.

In the following year, Oklahoma got its revenge on Nebraska in 1972 with a 17-14 in Lincoln, Nebraska and went on to blank the Penn State Nittany Lions, 14-0, in the Sugar Bowl.

In Fairbanks’ last two seasons, Oklahoma finished the season ranked in the top three in both the Coaches, and AP polls. It was safe to say that Oklahoma wasted no time returning to glory under Fairbanks in the early 1970’s.

Similar to the previous decade, Oklahoma saw a head coaching change. However, the results were FAR different.

Coach Fairbanks’ successful six season tenure with Oklahoma would land him an NFL head coaching position with the New England Patriots. Oklahoma hired from with in, and promoted “The King” himself, Barry Switzer. Serving as Fairbanks’ offensive coordinator for six years, Coach Switzer already had a feel for recruiting, and where he wanted to go with the program. Coach Switzer would continue to build what Fairbanks started.

Switzer got Oklahoma over the hump with in his first two years. In the 1974 season, Oklahoma would not play in a bowl game, however Ohio State and Alabama, who were ahead of Oklahoma during the season, would be defeated, leaving Oklahoma as the last undefeated team. As the number one team in the nation, they were awarded the National Championship. The drought lasting nearly 20 years, ended. Oklahoma finally brought home another title.

1975: another year, another national title. Why not? Like in 1974, Oklahoma was ranked third in the nation at the time, and the two teams ahead of them were defeated. Ohio State once again was in the mix to win a National Championship but lost in its bowl game. Texas A&M, would also fall in its bowl game. Oklahoma defeated Michigan in the Orange Bowl, 14-6. Switzer had his Sooners once again at the right place at the right time.

Oklahoma would continue to have good performances through out the rest of the 1970’s. While, Oklahoma failed to secure a third national title during this decade, as with the previous, to win two national titles in this time was still excellent. Oklahoma had returned to its proper place in the ranks of college football.

Oklahoma during the span of the 1970’s defeated and tied many top teir programs of their day. USC, Penn State, Colorado, Nebraska, Mizzou, Michigan, and Florida State all had ranked in the top 20 and lost to Oklahoma during this time period. Oklahoma also bounced back in the win loss category from the previous decade. Amassing an impressive 102-12-3 (.887) record. Two national titles, with a chance in 1976 to win a third, before losing unexpectedly to the Arkansas Razorbacks, which they were a 24 point under dog in that game.

Some of their noted losses also included Kansas, Colorado, Nebraska, and Oregon State. Texas ended up back on the losing end of the Red River Showdown. Oklahoma had a 6-3-1 record during this decade. I believe, that earns a “BOOMER!”. Oklahoma also was ranked in the top ten in both the AP and Coaches poll 9 out of 10 years during the 70’s.

Part Two will be available Thursday.