By John Shinn
The Norman Transcript
NORMAN — Oklahoma confirmed the passing of former All-American offensive lineman and athletic director Wade Walker on Thursday at the age of 90 in California.
Walker was one of three players in the program’s history to earn all-conference honors four straight years (1946-49). He was an essential element of the early teams during legendary coach Bud Wilkinson’s run of success.
Walker’s coaching career began in 1950 as an assistant at North Carolina State. He eventually joined the staff of former teammate Darryl Royal at Mississippi in 1954 and succeeded him as the Bulldogs’ head coach and athletic director in 1956.
It was his career as an athletic director that marked his greatest impact at OU and elsewhere.
“Wade’s many contributions to the University of Oklahoma will long be appreciated by Sooners everywhere,” OU athletic director Joe Castiglione said Thursday. “As an All-American player, he served as a team captain for Bud Wilkinson as he built the football program into a national powerhouse.
“More importantly, Wade’s legacy as OU’s longtime director of athletics ushered in an era of opportunities for women to represent the University of Oklahoma on officially sanctioned intercollegiate athletics teams.
“In addition to a litany of championship teams fielded many numerous sports, his vision for developing new facilities and improving existing OU venues is a thumbprint that still remains very visible on our campus to this day.”
During Walker’s tenure as athletic director from 1970-86, the Sooners won six national championships: football (three), men’s gymnastics (two) and wrestling (one). OU also claimed 43 conference titles during that time frame, led by 12 Big Eight football crowns.
Walker’s tenure also included OU’s initial women’s intercollegiate athletics programs during the 1974-75 academic year.
OU women’s programs claimed 10 conference championships under his guidance: women’s tennis (four), women’s gymnastics (three), women’s golf (two) and women’s basketball (one).
Walker was responsible for hiring former football coach Barry Switzer and men’s basketball coach Billy Tubbs. It was under his watch that virtually every sport OU offers enjoyed major facility improvements.
Lloyd Noble Center was built, and the west-side upper deck and permanent south end zone seats at Owen Field were constructed early in Walker’s tenure. Baseball’s L. Dale Mitchell Park and the Viersen Gymnastics Center also were built under his watch, as was as the Mosier Indoor Facility and the Wilkinson House residence hall.
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