Chuck Fairbanks died last week, invoking lots of stories from the old days of Oklahoma football — the 1960s and early 1970s. I wrote about Fairbanks in a column you can read here, and wrote an accessory piece of five interesting Fairbanks stories, which you can read here. I also did a followup blogs, one about his Patriots career, which you can read here, and the other about OU days, which you can read here.
But a couple of Fairbanks stories came in later and were interesting enough to trot back out.
Here’s one from Nick Dyer: “In the early ’70s, I was a student manager for the Sooner football team. I worked for Larry Lacewell and Jimmy Johnson and the defensive tackles. In 1970 when we played Texas (the famous game in which the Sooners switched to the wishbone), we did our pregame warmup in our regular formation. When we went back in the locker room before kickoff, I and one of the other managers pulled Greg Pruitt aside and changed his jersey. We moved him from receiver to running back and started the wishbone. Not many know that we had to change Greg’s jersey. Just a little history.”
Here’s what’s interesting about that. The Sooner staff felt confident enough in the wisbhone to think the surprise element could make a difference. It was silly, of course. Texas routed OU 41-9, though the Sooners moved the ball. But the idea that OU could shock the Longhorns clearly was on the minds of Fairbanks’ staff.
The other story came from long-time reader Truett Guthrie of Hobart, an old pal of Bill Hancock, who now runs the BCS but worked at OU as a student and after graduation, in the early ’70s.
“Bill says that when he was at OU, he and others would be walking down the halls of the football offices, and Chuck would come along,” Guthrie said. “They`d say, ‘Hi, coach,’ and Chuck would say ‘Hi, men’ every time. One day Bill was by himself, said ‘Hi, coach,’ and Chuck said, ‘Hi, men.’ He never looked up.”
That fits with most people’s stories about Fairbanks. Quiet. Reserved. Whatever the opposite of gregarious, that was Chuck Fairbanks.