Oklahoma Sooners

How Oklahoma Coaches Faired in Their Inaugural Season

NCAA Football: Oklahoma at Ohio State

Brent Venables begins his career as Oklahoma’s 23rd head football coach this fall. Let’s journey back through the annals of time to look at how Sooner coaches fared in their first seasons.

I have included their first season, record, and a marquee win or two that highlighted each coach’s inaugural season.

Not included are Jack Harts, who did not win the only game the University of Oklahoma played in 1895, and Oklahoma also did have a head coach in 1896.


Vernon L. Parrington

First Season: 1897

Record: 2-0

Marquee Win: 17-8 vs. Kingfisher College, which was Oklahoma’s first-ever game against a college team.

Fred Roberts

First Season: 1901

Record: 3-2

Marquee Win: 17-0 vs. Baylor two days after playing a game in Austin. The Rough Riders, as OU was known back then, stopped off in Waco on their return trip from Austin to help pay for expenses.

Mark McMahon

First Season: 1902

Record: 6-3

Marquee Win: 17-0 vs. Kingfisher College. This was the first time the Oklahoma football team had an identity. Players purchased red sweaters (used before jerseys in early days) with white “Okla” lettering across the chest.

Fred Ewing

First Season: 1904

Record: 4-3-1

Marquee Win: 75-0 vs. Oklahoma A&M (now Oklahoma State). First meeting between the two schools.


Bennie Owen

First Season: 1905

Record: 7-2

Marquee Win: 2-0 vs. Texas. OU’s first victory over the Longhorns.

Adrian Lindsey

First Season: 1927

Record: 3-3-2.

Marquee Win: 23-7 vs. University of Washington-St, Louis. Snapped a three-game winless streak in the season.

Lewie Hardage

First Season: 1932

Record: 4-4-1

Marquee Win: 21-6 vs. Kansas. Adrian Lindsey was in his first year as the Jayhawks’ coach.

Lawrence “Biff” Jones

First Season: 1935

Record: 6-3.

Marquee Win: 20-6 vs. Missouri. Spoiled the Tigers’ homecoming.

Tom Stidham

First Season: 1937

Record: 5-2-2

Marquee Win: 19-0 vs. Kansas State. Sooner QB Jack Baer returned to the lineup after missing three games with a broken jaw. OU tied Texas and Nebraska and lost to Kansas in Baer’s absence. Sooners were 5-1 with Baer in the lineup.


Dewey “Snorter” Luster

First Season: 1941

Record: 6-3.

Marquee Win: 16-6 vs. Santa Clara. Broncos came to Norman undefeated and ranked No. 8 in the AP poll.

Jim Tatum

First Time: 1946

Record: 8-3

Marquee Wins: 10-7 vs. Texas A&M. Late field goal wins it for the Sooners. 34-13 vs. North Carolina State at the Gator Bowl. Oklahoma’s first bowl victory in its second appearance.

Bud Wilkinson

First Season: 1947

Record: 7-2-1

Marquee Win: 24-20 vs. Detroit. Late interception foils Detroit’s comeback attempt.

Gomer Jones

First Season: 1964

Record: 6-4-1

Marquee Win: 17-7 vs. Nebraska. Undefeated Cornhuskers arrived in Norman ranked No. 4 and riding a 16-game winning streak.

Jim Mackenzie

First Season: 1966

Record: 6-4

Marquee Wins: 18-9 vs. Texas. Snapped Longhorns’ eight-game winning streak in the series. 10-9 vs. Nebraska. Cornhuskers again came Norman undefeated and ranked No. 4.

Chuck Fairbanks

First Season: 1967

Record: 10-1

Marquee Wins: 23-0 vs. Colorado. Unranked Sooners knock off No. 9 Colorado. 26-24 vs. Tennessee. Underdog Sooners (ranked No. 3) get Orange Bowl victory over No. 2 Volunteers.

Barry Switzer

First Season: 1973

Record: 10-0-1

Marquee Wins: 52-13 vs. No. 13 Texas. Most points scored on the Longhorns in the series (which has since been broken). 27-0 vs. No. 10 Nebraska. Cornhuskers held scoreless for the first time since OU shut them out 47-0 in 1968.

Gary Gibbs

First Season: 1989

Record: 7-4

Marquee Win: 43-40 vs. Iowa State. Sooners took an onside kick after Cyclones’ fourth-quarter touchdown and returned it for a TD. ISU scored again, but OU secured the second onside kick to seal the victory.

Howard Schnellenberger

First Season: 1995

Record: 5-5-1

Marquee Win: 13-9 vs. Missouri. A touchdown midway through the fourth quarter lifted Sooners to victory.

John Blake

First Season: 1996

Record: 3-8

Marquee Win: 30-27 vs. Texas. OU got its first win of the season after 0-4 start. Sooners first overtime victory.

Bob Stoops

First Season: 1999

Record: 7-5

Marquee Win: 51-6 vs. Texas A&M. Aggies ranked No. 13 in loss to unranked Sooners.

Lincoln Riley

First Season: 2017

Record: 12-2

Marquee Wins: 31-16 vs. Ohio State. No. 5 Sooners upset No.2 Buckeyes in Columbus, Ohio. 41-17 vs. TCU. No. 2 Oklahoma claims third-straight Big 12 Championship by walloping No. 10 Horned Frogs.


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