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Blake To Be Named Sooner Coach

December 30, 1995

NORMAN, Okla. (AP) _ John Blake, the next football coach at Oklahoma, brings a dynamic personality and a reputation as an outstanding recruiter _ two things sorely needed at a program that has floundered in recent years.

The university planned a news conference for 3 p.m. Sunday to introduce the new coach. Sources confirmed Saturday that the job will go to Blake, who was backed strongly by his current boss, Dallas Cowboys coach Barry Switzer.

Switzer had also recommended Blake when the job came open a year ago, but the school chose Howard Schnellenberger. Schnellenberger resigned under pressure Dec. 18 after leading the Sooners to a 5-5-1 finish, their second straight .500 season.

``As far as personality, they couldn’t have done any better (than Blake),″ one source said Saturday.

Blake, 34, grew up in Sand Springs and played defensive line for the Sooners from 1980-83, when Switzer was head coach. He later was a student assistant under Switzer for two seasons, spent a year on the staff at Tulsa, then was a full-time assistant at Oklahoma from 1989-92. He has been the Cowboys’ defensive line coach since then.

Blake has never been a coordinator, but one search committee member said Blake’s coaching background was clearly sufficient to make him the choice.

``The experience side of it indicate a range there,″ said the source, who spoke only on condition of anonymity. ``Being with the Dallas Cowboys and being to the Super Bowl and being involved in what is sport but also what is business I think gives you a perspective that translates into making hard decisions.″

Blake met at length Friday with university President David Boren, athletic director Donnie Duncan and other members of the search committee, and reportedly impressed them all.

The search committee member said Blake would have a strong player-coach relationship and understand the ``family concept″ of the program, two areas where Schnellenberger failed.

Another source said Blake was ready to hire an outstanding staff of assistants.

Blake would follow a pattern of Oklahoma hiring one of its own. OU has deviated only three times from that since World War II _ Jim Tatum in 1946, Jim Mackenzie in 1966 and Schnellenberger last year.

Gary Gibbs, a former Sooner player and longtime assistant, took over as head coach in 1989 after Switzer resigned. Gibbs went 44-23-2 in his six seasons, but his teams had little success against Texas and Nebraska _ always Oklahoma’s biggest games _ and his guarded personality didn’t do him any favors with fans.

Schnellenberger won the fans over early on. His springtime tour of the state was a big hit, but that backing waned as the Sooners fell apart after a 3-0 start. He also was reportedly having a tough time attracting the top in-state recruits.

Blake was an outstanding recruiter when he was with the Sooners. Switzer, also a great recruiter, has often stressed the importance of that aspect of coaching in college.

The search committee member said increasingly stringent NCAA entrance requirements are shrinking the pool of available players. ``The priority that we be able to recruit successfully is a must,″ the source said.

The Oklahoma program needs a boost. Since 1989, the Sooners have finished no better than third in the Big Eight Conference, a league they once dominated. Schnellenberger’s team went just 2-5 in the conference this year.

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