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OU football: 1972 Street & Smith's yearbook is a jewel

My friend Lance Kelly was cleaning out some stuff the other day and found three items he thought I might like. A 1950 Time magazine issue, which was quite interesting. A September 28, 1975, Oklahoman sports section, which was a hoot to flip through. And the 1972 Street and Smith’s College Football preview, which was gold.

Before the internet and ESPN, and even before newspapers spent the off-seasons with frequent coverage of your favorite teams, fans relied on magazines and periodicals to get their fix. The Sporting News and Baseball Digest were good examples. And each summer, a bevy of college football magazines were the ticket to keep the gridiron blood flowing.

And Street and Smith’s was considered the best of the bunch. Not by me. I liked GamePlan the best. But Street and Smith’s clearly was rock solid. It featured in-depth previews of every major-college team and a ton of small-college teams. Rankings, schedules, photos. All the things we’ve got at our fingertips with the world wide web, but which were not quite as accessible in the 1970s.

The 1972 Street and Smith’s book featured on the cover Michigan State safety Brad Van Pelt, who was a worthy choice. Van Pelt eventually won the ’72 Maxwell Award as the nation’s best player. Van Pelt was shown in full uniform, but sans facemask. Don’t jump to conclusions, youngn’s. Players wore facemasks in 1972, they just sometimes were removed for photo shoots.

Anyway, I thumbed through the magazine and was delighted by the memories they stirred and the news they delivered and the insights available only via 48 years of perspective.

Like this. The magazine featured 127 non-action photos – individual pictures of players without their helmets. Of those 127, 98 were white players. Only 29 were black. Think about that. In the Deep South section, the ratio was 24/5. In the Southwest section, it was 10/1. By far the most equitable ratio was in the Big Eight/Missouri Valley section – 6/4. Which might explain why, in the 1971 season, Nebraska, OU and Colorado finished 1-2-3 in the national polls.

The magazine cost 75 cents, which probably wasn’t chump change 48 years ago. It was filled with vintage ads that make you smile. Ads for fitness equipment (knee-thigh machine, $54.95) and weighted jackets. Ads for betting sheets and body-building secrets and recruiting companies that claim to help athletes land scholarships. Ads for table football games – APBA, Sports Illustrated and Strat-O-Matic. My brothers and I played Sports Illustrated games by the hundreds of hours. We never had APBA, though I was intrigued, and we never had Strat-o-Matic, though I heard about it a bunch.

Strat-o-Matic’s ad said it’s “actually two games in one. An elementary game for 11 to 16-year-olds and an advanced game for adults.” Again, crazy. The idea that a 15-year-old would not be able to grasp what adults could grasp on a table-top football game? Quite silly knowing what we know today.

A couple of other things I noticed – the only color besides the front and back covers came in a tearout ad for Sports Illustrated, and Bo Schembechler notebooks (not playbooks, apparently) were offered for $4.50. One for offense, one for defense. Buy them both for $8.50.

There are plenty of errors. The national preview talks about the Sooners and their star, flashy “Eric” Pruitt. The OU preview lists a sophomore linebacker named “Bob” Shoate; Rod Shoate, of course, would go on to be a three-time all-American. New Mexico State is called “New Mexico” in one spot, which I assume is fighting words even in the Land of Enchantment. A photo caption of potential Texas starting quarterback Alan Lowry identifies him as “Allan Lowrey.”

Street and Smith’s predictions weren’t great, though that happens to the best of us every year. Arkansas was the preseason No. 1 team in America; the Razorbacks finished 6-5 and out of the top 20. Oklahoma State was picked last in the Big Eight; the Cowboys finished tied for third. Southern Cal was the preseason No. 10 team; the Trojans finished No. 1. OU was preseason No. 15; the Sooners finished No. 2.

The trip through the Big Eight and Missouri Valley was especially fun. It was written by the Kansas City Star’s Del Black, a name I don’t remember.

The Valley that year included Tulsa, Louisville, Memphis State, New Mexico State, Drake, North Texas State, Wichita State and West Texas State. Also previewed was the old North Central Conference, with North Dakota, South Dakota State, North Dakota State, South Dakota, Mankato State, Northern Iowa, Augustana and Morningside.

Among the things that stood out:

* Nebraska coach Bob Devaney already had announced that 1972 would be his final season. I had forgotten that he announced the decision in the spring. Forgive me; I was 11.

* Black refers to the departed OU quarterback as “the great Jack Mildren.” That’s cool. I always wondered if Mildren got the proper respect at the time for his phenomenal 1971 season. My sense was that Mildren’s stock went up and up and up as the years went on, but I wasn’t sure where it was right after his career.

* On OU finishing No. 2 in the 1971 AP poll, coach Chuck Fairbanks said, “Bet you can’t tell me who the guy was that flew the airplane after the Wright brothers.” Great quote.

* Kansas State coach Vince Gibson on being in a conference in which Nebraska, OU and Colorado had finished 1-2-3 nationally in 1971: “I know they can’t get any better and I know the rest of us will be improved.”

* The OU preview said “Dave Robertson, with James Stokely as his backup, will strive to stabilize the wishbone attack as heir to Jack Mildren … should Robertson and Stokely falter, sophs Gary Vorphal, Steve Davis and Paul Krause are waiting in the wings.” No mention of true freshman Kerry Jackson, who eventually became the backup quarterback and played a bunch as a changeup to Robertson. Full disclosure – while everyone knows Davis and I remember Vorphal, I have no recollection of Stokely or Krause. I thought Paul Krause was a Minnesota Vikings safety of 50 years ago. But give Black credit; he had this line – “sophomore Randy Hughes … could supply the spark the O.U. secondary needs.” Hughes indeed became quite the player.

* The OSU preview was among the shortest of any major-conference team. It mostly featured Brent Blackman, “who as a much-used sophomore in ’71 was the last of seven starters felled with injuries, is the quarterback around whom the Pokes will attempt to negotiate an option-type offense from the I and split backfield alignments.” Blackman was listed at 5-foot-11, 155 pounds. No wonder he was injured. The preview touted some excellent OSU players – tight end Reuben Gant, nose guard Barry Price and linebacker Cleveland Vann, who had just moved from fullback. Made me wonder if OU and OSU might ought to try that sometime – move some of those blue-collar fullbacks to defense. The OSU preview struck out on running backs – it failed to mention four of what proved to be the Cowboys’ five leading runners for ’72, George Palmer (937 yards), Fountain Smith (610), Alton Gerard (283) and Alfred Nelms (238).

But I loved scouring the rest of the Big Eight for names I had long forgotten.

Nebraska: tailback Bill Olds, fullback Maury Damkroger, center Doug Dumler, kicker Rich Sanger, safety Joe Blahak.

Colorado: Quarterback Ken Johnson, tailback Charlie Davis, wingback Jon Keyworth, tight end J.V. Cain, cornerback Cullen Bryant.

Kansas State: Quarterback Dennis Morrison, tight end Henry Childs, tailback Isaac Jackson.

Iowa State: Quarterback George Amundson, who played tailback in 1971 (do that, somebody in modern-day football). Receiver Ike Harris. Tight end Keith Krepfle. Monster man Matt Blair.

Kansas: Quarterback David Jaynes, tight end John Schroll, tailback Delvin Williams.

Missouri: Defensive back Mike Fink, quarterback John Cherry, tailback Tommy Reamon, whose name I saw earlier as Michael Vick’s high school. I never knew.

Tulsa had transfer tailback Ray Rhodes (yes, the NFL head coach) and receiver Drew Pearson. Louisville was coached by Lee Corso. New Mexico State was quarterbacked by Joe Piscarik of New York Giants infamy.

I tell you, I felt young again, reading all those names.

The West Coast section had Washington quarterback Sonny Sixkiller, Oregon quarterback Dan Fouts, Southern Cal tailback Manfred Moore.

The USC preview noted “three highly-rated sophs (at tailback), Allen Carter, Anthony Davis and Bill Fudge.” Davis became an SC legend.

USC quarterback Mike Rae also was the Trojans’ kicker. Stanford QB Mike Boryla was the son of Utah Stars general manager Vince Boryla. New Oregon coach Dick Enright “will use All America candidate Dan Fouts not just as a passer but as an option runner.” Hey; don’t knock it. Barry Switzer did the same with Troy Aikman.

1972 was the return of freshmen eligibility, but not until Page 131, with Washington State coach Jim Sweeney, was it even mentioned in the magazine.

In the Pacific Coast Conference preview, San Diego State coach Don Coryell touted quarterback Jesse Freitas and Isaac Curtis. “Coryell apparently will use Curtis, a running back at Cal, at wide receiver,” the magazine said, somewhat incredulously, not knowing what Coryell knew. That wide receivers would become a huge weapon, and Curtis was for many years in the NFL.

The Mid-West previews was written by Paul Hornung of the Columbus Post-Dispatch, who covered 341 straight Ohio State football games. As a kid, I always wondered, did the Packers’ Paul Hornung become a sportswriter? No. Two Paul Hornungs, both about the same age. The Mid-West included previews of the Ohio Conference -- Baldwin-Wallace, Heidelberg, Wooster, Mount Union, etc. – and I remember thinking as a kid why the Oklahoma small colleges couldn’t get covered.

Independents were covered extensively. Dozens and dozens of independents. From Notre Dame to Xavier (I never knew the Musketeers played football) in the Mid-West, from Penn State to Colgate in the East, from West Virginia to Virginia Tech to South Carolina in the Atlantic Coast, from Georgia Tech to Florida State to Miami to Southern Miss in the Deep South. How times have changed.

The Southwest – written by another writer I don’t remember, the Fort Worth Star-Telegram’s Jim Trinkle – included the Lone Star Conference preview. The Lone Star in those days included Southwest Texas State, Texas A&I, Angelo State, Howard Payne, East Texas, Stephen F. Austin, Sam Houston State, Sul Ross, Tarleton State and Abilene Christian. And that was a seminal year in the Southwest Conference – four new head coaches. Grant Teaff at Baylor, Emory Bellard at Texas A&M, Billy Tohill at TCU and Al Conover at Rice.

Out West, quite striking is how many schools no longer play football. Long Beach State, Cal State-Fullerton, Cal State-Los Angeles, Santa Clara, U.S. International, Loyola Marymount, St. Mary’s, San Fernando, Cal Poly-Pomona, Cal-Riverside, Chico State, Cal State-Hayward, San Francisco State. All have dropped football. All were featured in the 1972 Street and Smith’s yearbook.

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Berry Tramel

Berry Tramel, a lifelong Oklahoman, sports fan and newspaper reader, joined The Oklahoman in 1991 and has served as beat writer, assistant sports editor, sports editor and columnist. Tramel grew up reading four daily newspapers — The Oklahoman,... Read more ›

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