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January 1, 2014

Oklahoma suffered losses in 2013

OKLAHOMA CITY — The college football coach who agreed to install the wishbone at the University of Oklahoma, the OU quarterback who led the Sooners to back-to-back national titles, an Oklahoma State basketball legend, and one of America’s first great ballerinas were among those with ties to Oklahoma who died during 2013.

At his offensive coordinator’s suggestion, Chuck Fairbanks agreed to install the wishbone in 1970. Although OU lost 41-9 to Texas in the wishbone’s debut, the offense became a juggernaut that helped the Sooners to national titles in 1974-75 after Fairbanks had left for the NFL. By that time, the offensive coordinator, Barry Switzer, had become the head coach.

Fairbanks, 79, died in April.

“He was a special coach, he was a special friend,” said Steve Owens, the running back who won the Heisman Trophy in 1969 playing for Fairbanks.

Steve Davis, 60, quarterbacked those back-to-back championship teams while compiling a 32-1-1 record in three years as the starting quarterback. He was killed in a March airplane crash in Indiana.

Davis had once recalled how he wrote “WHEN?” on a photo of his idol, former OU quarterback Bobby Warmack, wondering when he would become the starting quarterback. Davis told The Oklahoman that when Davis made his first start in the 1973 season opener his mother took the photo and wrote on it: “TONIGHT.”

Bob Kurland, the 7-foot center who led what was then Oklahoma A&M, now Oklahoma State, to national basketball championships in 1945 and 1946 and was a member of the 1948 and 1952 U.S. gold medal winning Olympic teams, died in September at age 88.

Maria Tallchief, the Oklahoma native who became one of America’s first great prima ballerinas and starred in such works as “The Nutcracker” and other masterpieces, died in Chicago in April at age 88.

“She was the perfect representative of the American ballerina,” said Jacques d”Amboise, who partnered with Tallchief in several performances.

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