OU football: The first coach-in-waiting
The coach-in-waiting is all the rage in college football and basketball, so much so that it’s starting to have enough failures that it might lose steam. Coach-in-waiting schemes at Texas and Maryland have blown up just this month.
This is a formula that was officially started by DePaul with coach Ray Meyer and son Joey 30 years ago. The Suttons at Oklahoma State got on board earlier this decade, and all kinds of schools — and NFL teams — are doing it now.
But OU was a coach-in-waiting pioneer. The Sooners once decided on a crown prince philosophy. The Sooner brass just didn’t tell anybody that Bud Wilkinson was going to be their man.
Wilkinson was brought to OU in 1946 as a package deal with new football coach Jim Tatum, and while the historical data shows that no formal promise or offer was made to Wilkinson, it’s absolutely clear that the Sooner administration wanted Wilkinson to eventually be the man in charge.
In January 1946, after Snorter Luster was forced out as football coach, the OU regents staged a coaching search and settled on two men: Tatum, who was just coming off military football in World War II, and Red Drew, who then was coach at Alabama.
Tatum came in for an interview and brought along Wilkinson. Smart move. Wilkinson completely impressed the regents, to the point that some, led by the powerful Lloyd Noble, wanted to offer Wilkinson the job.
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