Oklahoma football: Sooner coaching legend Chuck Fairbanks dies at age 79

by Berry Tramel Modified: April 2, 2013 at 1:35 pm •  Published: April 2, 2013

After a 2-1 start to the 1970 season, Switzer convinced Fairbanks to install the wishbone during an off week. The Sooners were rolled 41-9 by Texas in the wishbone debut, but eventually, OU got its bearings with the offense and by 1971 became one of the greatest offenses in college football history.

Fairbanks shocked everyone – including Switzer – when he left in January 1973 to join the Patriots. Fairbanks coached New England six seasons, going 46-39, with two playoff appearances for the previously woebegone Patriots.

Fairbanks left New England after the 1978 to become the head coach at Colorado, but that was a disaster. The Buffaloes won just seven games in three seasons, including an historic 82-42 loss to Switzer and the Sooners. In 1982, Fairbanks resigned to become coach and general manager of the New Jersey Generals of the fledgling United States Football League. He was fired after one season.

For the last 30 years, Fairbanks has worked in real estate and golf-course development, though he has dabbled in football. He periodically worked for NFL teams in training camp as a consultant, including with the Dallas Cowboys when Bill Parcells was the coach.

Fairbanks was one of the pioneers of the NFL 3-4 defense – it was called the 5-2 at OU – and current Patriots coach Bill Belichick said in a 2007 press conference, “I think Chuck has had a tremendous influence on the league as well as this organization in terms of nomenclature and terminology and those kinds of things. I'm sure Chuck could walk in and look at our playbook and probably 80 percent of the plays are the same terminology that he used -- whether it be formations or coverages or pass protections.

“We were sitting there talking yesterday and he was saying, ‘How much 60 protection are you guys using? How much 80 are you using?’ All of the stuff that was really the fundamentals of his system are still in place here even, again, to the way we call formations and plays and coverages and some of our individual calls within a call.”

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by Berry Tramel
Columnist
Berry Tramel, a lifelong Oklahoman, sports fan and newspaper reader, joined The Oklahoman in 1991 and has served as beat writer, assistant sports editor, sports editor and columnist. Tramel grew up reading four daily newspapers — The Oklahoman,...
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