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Former Oklahoma Football Head Coach Chuck Fairbanks Passes Away

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Former Oklahoma football coach, Chuck Fairbanks (right)
Former Oklahoma football coach, Chuck Fairbanks (right)
AP Photo

Former Oklahoma head football coach Chuck Fairbanks passed away Tuesday morning after a battle with brain cancer. Fairbanks was 79 years old.

Oklahoma was one of several stops for Fairbanks during his extensive coaching career and he is best known in OU circles for being the man to install the wishbone formation. He coached at Oklahoma from 1967 through 1972.

Here is a synopsis on his time in Norman via

As Oklahoma's 16th head coach, Chuck Fairbanks won three Big Eight Conference titles (1967, 1972 and a shared title in 1968). He had 24 players earn all-league honors while nine received All-America accolades. Fairbanks also coached the 1969 Heisman Trophy winner, running back Steve Owens. In bowl games at OU, he posted a 3-1-1 record with the Sooners playing in a pair of Sugar and Astro-Bluebonnet bowls, and one Orange Bowl.

Fairbanks was the first OU coach to use the wishbone formation, a triple option offensive attack that Texas used on its way to the 1969 national title. The wishbone became the backbone of OU's offensive dynasty for the next 20 years.

In 1973, Fairbanks left OU to coach in the NFL for the New England Patriots. During his six-year tenure as the Patriots' head coach, Fairbanks set a club record with 46 wins. The Patriots also won two division titles in the American Football Conference's East division (1978 and shared in 1976). In 1978, Colorado began its battle to get Fairbanks as head coach, despite his four remaining years with the Patriots. After more than three months of legal battles between the Patriots and Buffaloes, the two factions agreed on a settlement that released Fairbanks from his NFL contract and allowed him to take over the helm at Colorado. He remained with the Buffaloes for three years.

Fairbanks began his coaching career at Ishpeming High School in Michigan. From there, he went to Arizona State and Houston before coming to OU as a defensive backfield coach in 1966. As a player at Michigan State, Fairbanks played offensive end on the Spartans' 1952 national championship team. In 1954, he concluded his playing career by earning a berth in the Blue-Gray All-Star game.

Way too many former Oklahoma players and coaches have left us too early as of late. We can only hope they are all in a better place.

Thoughts and prayers from CCM and Sooner Nation are with Fairbanks, his family, and those close to him.