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Bud Wilkinson's win streak takes top billing
For many of the installments in our “best and worst times to be a fan” series, it’s been difficult to parse the high points and low points.
Oklahoma’s best time was easy: Watching a team go without a loss for 48 consecutive games may be one of the best times to be a fan of any program anywhere. The Sooners demolished opponents in the 47 wins from 1953-57, winning two national titles along the way.
The Sooners’ lows, though, were just as obvious. The end of the Barry Switzer era brought off-field controversy, both from the law and the NCAA. The next three coaches brought futility.
The rest of Oklahoma history, though, has been successful for the most part. Before his fall as OU’s coach, Switzer kept the Sooners on top with three national titles. Bob Stoops resuscitated the program for the 21st century where it remains — more often than not — the class of the Big 12.
Other best times/worst times:
BEST TIMES TO BE AN OKLAHOMA FAN
National championships: 3
Coach: Bud Wilkinson
Notable players: Billy Vessels, Jim Weatherall, J.D. Roberts, Max Boydston, Tommy McDonald, Clendon Hughes, Stan West, Tom Catlin
Hard to believe one of the best eras in college football started with a loss to Santa Clara. After that, Oklahoma embarked on a 31-game win streak, culminating in the 1950 national title. That was child’s play. Oklahoma won a record 47 consecutive games starting Oct. 10, 1953. Perhaps the era was boring, though, as the Sooners earned those wins by an average of 28.6 points per game before losing 7-0 to Notre Dame on Nov. 16, 1957. Oklahoma won the Big 8 in 11 consecutive seasons, won the national title in 1950, ’55, and ’56 and took home a Heisman in 1952 (Billy Vessels). In 1956, Oklahoma players split national player of the year awards as Tommy McDonald won the Maxwell and Jerry Tubbs won the Walter Camp. As Oklahoma won 107 games during this span, no other team won more than 87. And as the Sooners won 92.3 percent of their games over 10 years, no other team won more than 80 percent.
National championships: 1
Coach: Barry Switzer
Notable players: Brian Bosworth, Keith Jackson, Rickey Dixon, Tony Casillas
Bosworth and Switzer made up a intriguing duo of college football villains during this era when OU went 11-1 in three consecutive seasons, including the ’85 championship. This last hurrah for Switzer was spoiled by Miami (led by former Oklahoma State coach Jimmy Johnson), which handed OU its only losses each season from 1986-87.
National championships: 2
Coaches: Chuck Fairbanks, Barry Switzer
Notable players: Billy Sims, Lee Roy Selmon, Mike Vaughan, Greg Roberts, Tom Braheney, Rod Shoate, Randy Hughes, Greg Pruitt, Lucious Selmon, Dewey Selmon
Switzer didn’t match Wilkerson, but he came close. This era produced back-to-back national champions in 1974 and ’75, a Heisman winner (Sims) in ’78 and a legendary defensive line of brothers Lee Roy, Lucious and Dewey Selmon in 1973. Dewey and Lee Roy played on OU’s next two title teams.
National championships: 1
Coach: Bob Stoops
Notable players: Sam Bradford, Jason White, Adrian Peterson, Josh Huepel, Tommie Harris, Rocky Calmus, Teddy Lehman, Derrick Strait, Duke Robinson
Bob Stoops led Oklahoma back to national prominence as the former Wishbone team embraced modern offenses. Startign in Stoops' second season, OU won the Big 12 championship game in six of nine years and reached the national championship game four times, while claiming the 2000 title. Bradford and White won the Heisman while Peterson made a case to be the best freshman in college football history.
WORST TIMES TO BE AN OKLAHOMA FAN
Coaches: Gary Gibbs, Howard Schnellenberger, John Blake
The ‘80s ended as Oklahoma players would hit a litany of legal troubles, including starting quarterback Charles Thompson arrested for selling cocaine. NCAA sanctions also cut into the program as Switzer resigned before the 1989 season. Under Gary Gibbs, Oklahoma went 44-23-2 as the Sooners dealt with sanctions. The worst was yet to come. OU hoped the outsider Schnellenberger would return the program to prominence, but he was ushered out after a 5-5-1 season. John Blake was even worse as he went 12-22 for the lowest win percentage (35.3) by any Oklahoma coach. The ‘90s ended up the first decade since the ‘20s in which Oklahoma failed to win a conference title.
Coaches: Biff Jones, Tom Stidham
Not a particularly awful stretch for the era before Bud Wilkinson, but the prospect of five ties in two seasons sounds like no fun. Before the Sooners reeled off a four-game win streak at the end of the 1937 season, Oklahoma had gone through a 1-2-2 stretch in Norman. Oklahoma made up for it by going 10-1 the following season before losing in the Orange Bowl.
IT WASN’T SO BAD WHEN...
Coach: Bob Stoops
If 2013 is a down season for Oklahoma, the grumblings will start. Even though Oklahoma has the upper hand over Texas, a few ill-timed close losses have knocked the Sooners out of the national championship and Big 12 races. The “Big Game Bob” moniker has all but disappeared as Oklahoma has lost major bowl games to Boise State, West Virginia, Florida and Texas A&M.
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