Oklahoma football: President Bud Wilkinson?
In the Wednesday Oklahoman, you could read all about the election and all about Bob Stoops matching Bud Wilkinson in OU coaching victories, with 145. Others had to do the heavy lifting on the election. I stuck to Bud and Bob, which you can read here.
But while leafing through Jay Wilkinson’s book about his father, Dear Jay, Love Dad, I came across a nugget. I had read it months ago, when I first got the book, but my memory was jogged by the convergence of the Stoops landmark and election day.
It’s not wild to imagine a scenario in which Wilkinson was president of the United States.
Wilkinson left OU in December 1963. Two months later, he announced his candidacy for the U.S. Senate. Wilkinson, running as a Republican, was upset by darkhorse Democrat Fred Harris. Wilkinson, who so often had great timing as the OU football coach, was the victim of the opposite in politics. 1964 was the year Lyndon Johnson routed Republican Barry Goldwater. That remains the last election in which a Democrat carried Oklahoma in the presidential race.
In 1964, Oklahoma was a heavily-Democratic state, and the LBJ landslide made it even more difficult for Wilkinson to get voters to cross over. Wilkinson lost by less than 22,000 votes, and his political career was over before it had begun.
Wilkinson was a man who appealed to many sides. Politically, he was a Republican and was a friend of Richard Nixon. But Wilkinson also was a friend of John Kennedy. While still the OU coach, Wilkinson was offered a job by JFK to head his initiative on physical fitness. Wilkinson didn’t want to leave coaching at the time but agreed to become a consultant.
Let’s let Jay Wilkinson take up the story from there.
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