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Oklahoma Sooners Football: Former coach John Blake passes away at 59

The former OU team captain helmed the program during a tumultuous three years from 1996 to 1998.

John Blake

Former Oklahoma Sooners head football coach John Blake has died, according to multiple media reports.

News9 sports anchor Dean Blevins first reported the story.

A native of Sand Springs, Oklahoma, Blake oversaw OU’s football program during a tumultuous period following the one-year tenure of Howard Schnellenberger in 1995. He compiled an overall record of 12-22 as head coach from 1996 to 1998.

Blake rose to prominence in the Sooner community as an all-conference nose guard and team captain during his time as a player at OU from 1979 to 1982. He climbed the coaching ranks after starting as a student assistant at OU in 1985. OU hired Blake as its head coach in ‘96 after he completed a successful stint as defensive line coach of the Dallas Cowboys from 1993 to 1995.

As he pursued OU’s head coaching vacancy, Blake enjoyed strong support from legendary OU coach Barry Switzer. His reputation as a dynamic recruiter brought hope that he could awaken the slumbering Sooners with an infusion of talent. However, his chaotic tenure capped off what is widely viewed as a lost decade in OU football with the program struggling to overcome crippling NCAA sanctions.

Although Blake left OU under acrimonious circumstances, he did stockpile prospects such as star safety Roy Williams and Butkus winner Rocky Calmus. Successor Bob Stoops won a national championship in 2000 with a number of holdovers from the Blake era on the roster.

Once he returned to coaching in the college ranks as an assistant at Mississippi State in 2003, Blake’s skill for developing defensive linemen and reeling in top-notch recruits made him a coveted assistant around the country. He left for Nebraska in 2004, where he was defensive line coach for three seasons. From 2007 to 2010, he was an assistant at North Carolina, where he landed in hot water with the NCAA over his relationship with an agent. He spent his final season in coaching with the Buffalo Bills in 2016.

Blake, who reportedly died of a heart attack while on a walk, was 59.