NORMAN — The University of Oklahoma mourns the passing of John Blake, OU's head football coach from the 1996 through 1998 seasons and the school's first Black head coach in any sport. He was 59.
Blake was hired at age 34 on Dec. 31, 1995. His three Sooner teams combined for a 12-22 record, going 3-8 in 1996, 4-8 in 1997 and 5-6 in 1998. Many of the players he recruited to OU won a national championship with the Sooners in 2000 under head coach Bob Stoops.
From Sand Springs, Okla., Blake was an OU nose guard from the 1979 through 1982 seasons under head coach Barry Switzer, helping the Sooners to a 36-11-1 record during that span.
He began his coaching career at OU in 1985 as a student assistant for the Sooners' national championship team and was a graduate assistant in 1986. After a two-year stint as a full-time assistant coach at Tulsa, Blake returned to Norman as OU's defensive line coach in 1989 under head coach Gary Gibbs, and as linebackers coach from 1990 to '92.
Blake made the jump to the NFL in 1993, serving as the Dallas Cowboys' defensive line coach and helping them to Super Bowl titles that season under head coach Jimmie Johnson and in 1995 under Switzer.
After his term as OU head coach, Blake held assistant coach positions at Mississippi State, Nebraska, North Carolina and with the Buffalo Bills.
Blake earned his bachelor's degree in public relations and recreation from OU in 1986.
Statement from OU President Joseph Harroz Jr.:
"I join the entire Sooner Nation in mourning Coach Blake's passing. His years of service to our University and Sooner football were critical building blocks to our program's success and the impact he had on our student-athletes is indelible. My sincerest sympathies and prayers are with the Blake family."
Statement from OU Vice President and Director of Athletics Joe Castiglione:
"We are stunned and saddened by the news of Coach Blake's passing. He was never hesitant in displaying love for his family, his players or how much he valued the honor of being a Sooner. His legacy as OU's first Black head coach in any sport is incredibly meaningful and will live on forever. We offer our heartfelt thoughts and our prayers to his family. He was a Sooner through and through."
Statement from OU Head Football Coach Lincoln Riley:
"The thing I've always heard about Coach Blake is how much he loved and cared for his players and how those feelings were reciprocal. That's such a profound element of the coaching profession -- developing bonds with players that extend beyond the field. Our program is very saddened to learn of Coach Blake's passing and we extend our deepest condolences to his family. Everything I know about him is that he loved being a Sooner."