Chuck Fairbanks, who led the University of Oklahoma to three Big Eight championships but was better known for his six seasons coaching the New England Patriots, died Tuesday of brain cancer.
He was 79.
Fairbanks coached the once-hapless Patriots to two playoff berths and compiled a 46-40 record in New England, including two 11-victory seasons.
He coached the Patriots from 1973-78. The team was 3-11 prior to his arrival and went 11-3, 9-5 and 11-5 over his final three seasons.
Current Patriots coach Bill Belichick said Fairbanks turned the Patriots into a winning organization as well as introducing ground-breaking ideas to the NFL.
“Chuck has been a good friend for a long time and he’s meant a lot to this organization,” current Patriots coach Bill Belichick told ESPN.com last September. “At the time he came here, he did a great job turning the Patriots around and making them into one of the top teams in the AFC.
“… They were things that stood the test of time and have been a big principle of this league for many, many years, (with) the disciples and people with him — 3-4 defense, the way he organized the draft, personnel meetings.”
Prior to joining the Patriots, Fairbanks had carved out success with the Sooners. He had a 52-15-1 record after taking over following the death of coach Jim McKenzie. He went 3-2 in bowl games, including victories in 1971 and ’72 Orange Bowl games.
After he left for the Patriots, the Sooners were declared ineligible for bowls the next two seasons for infractions Fairbanks denied knowledge.
Fairbanks returned to the Big Eight in 1979 when he left the Patriots for the University Colorado. However, before he could join the Buffaloes he was suspended by the Patriots for trying to leave for Colorado in the middle of a contract.
Fairbanks went 7-26 in three seasons in Colorado before he left to coach the USFL New Jersey Generals in 1983. He was fired after one season, going 6-12.
He did not coach again and had since been involved in real estate and developments in California and Arizona.