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|Chairman of the President's Council on Physical Fitness and Sports|
|President||John F. Kennedy|
|Preceded by||Richard Nixon|
|Succeeded by||James A. Lovell|
April 23, 1916|
|Died||February 9, 1994
St. Louis, Missouri
|Awards||AFCA Coach of the Year (1949)
Amos Alonzo Stagg Award (1984)
Charles Burnham "Bud" Wilkinson (April 23, 1916 – February 9, 1994) was an American football player, coach, broadcaster, and politician. He served as the head football coach at the University of Oklahoma from 1947 to 1963, compiling a record of 145–29–4. His Oklahoma Sooners won three national championships (1950, 1955, and 1956) and 14 conference titles. Between 1953 and 1957, Wilkinson's Oklahoma squads won 47 straight games, a record that still stands at the highest level of college football. After retiring from coaching following the 1963 season, Wilkinson entered into politics and, in 1965, became a broadcaster with ABC Sports. He returned to coaching in 1978, helming the St. Louis Cardinals of the National Football League for two seasons. Wilkinson was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame as a coach in 1969.
Early life and playing career
Wilkinson's mother died when he was seven, and his father sent him to the Shattuck School in Faribault, Minnesota, where he excelled in five sports and graduated in 1933. He enrolled at the University of Minnesota, where, as a guard and quarterback for head coach Bernie Bierman, Wilkinson helped lead the Golden Gophers to three consecutive national championships from 1934 to 1936. He also played ice hockey for the University of Minnesota. Following his graduation in 1937 with a degree in English, he led the College All-Stars to a 6–0 victory over the defending NFL champion Green Bay Packers in Chicago on August 31.
Wilkinson briefly worked for his father's mortgage company, then became an assistant coach at Syracuse University and later back at his alma mater, Minnesota. In 1943, he joined the U.S. Navy, where he was an assistant to Don Faurot with the Iowa Pre-Flight Seahawks football team and served as a hangar deck officer on the USS Enterprise. Following World War II, Jim Tatum, the new head coach at the University of Oklahoma, persuaded Wilkinson to join his staff in 1946. After one season in Norman, Tatum left the Sooners for the University of Maryland. The 31-year-old Wilkinson was named head football coach and athletic director of the Sooners.
Head coach at Oklahoma
In his first season as head coach in 1947, Wilkinson led Oklahoma to a 7–2–1 record and a share of the conference championship, the first of 13 consecutive Big Six/Seven/Eight Conference titles. Ultimately, Wilkinson would become one of the most celebrated college coaches of all time. His teams captured national championships in 1950, 1955, and 1956, and amassed a 145–29–4 (.826) overall record.
The centerpiece of his time in Norman was a 47-game winning streak from 1953 to 1957, an NCAA Division I record that still stands today and has only been moderately threatened three times: by Toledo (35 wins, 1969–1971), Miami (FL) (34 wins, 2000–2003), and USC (34 wins, 2003–2005). Earlier, the Sooners ran off 31 consecutive wins from 1948 to 1950. Except for two losses in 1951, the Wilkinson-coached Sooners did not lose more than one game per season for 11 years between 1948 and 1958, going 107–8–2 over that period. His teams also went 12 consecutive seasons totaling 74 games (1947–1958) without a loss in conference play, a streak which has never been seriously threatened. Wilkinson did not suffer his first conference loss until 1959 against Nebraska, his 79th conference game.
Following the 1963 season, his 17th at Oklahoma, Wilkinson retired from coaching at the age of 47. Along with Bennie Owen, Barry Switzer and Bob Stoops, he is one of four football coaches to win over 100 games at the University of Oklahoma. No other college football program has had more than three coaches to accomplish the feat.
While at Oklahoma, Wilkinson served on the President's Council on Physical Fitness from 1961 to 1964. He designed 11 floor exercises for schoolchildren that were incorporated into the song "Chicken Fat", the theme song for President John F. Kennedy's youth fitness program, which was widely used in school gymnasiums across the country in the 1960s and 1970s.
Later life and return to coaching
Wilkinson ran as a Republican for the U.S. Senate in 1964, at which point he legally changed his first name to Bud, but narrowly lost to Democrat Fred R. Harris during the same election in which Republican presidential nominee, Senator Barry Goldwater lost to incumbent President Lyndon Baines Johnson 55-45 percent in Oklahoma. Through 2012, Johnson is the last Democrat to carry Oklahoma in a presidential election. Wilkinson served as Republican National Committeeman from Oklahoma, and was considered for the position of committeeman chairman by Richard Nixon but was not selected. Wilkinson entertained seeking the other Oklahoma U.S. Senate seat in 1968, but he did not run, and the position went to former Governor Henry Bellmon, also a Republican.
In 1965, Wilkinson joined ABC Sports as their lead color commentator on college football telecasts, teaming with Chris Schenkel and, later, Keith Jackson. Wilkinson was the color analyst for three of the greatest games in college football history, each commonly referred to as a "Game of the Century": Notre Dame vs. Michigan State in 1966, Texas vs. Arkansas in 1969, and Nebraska vs. Oklahoma in 1971.
Wilkinson was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 1969. In 1978, Wilkinson returned to coaching with the St. Louis Cardinals of the NFL. After less than two disappointing seasons, he was fired and returned to broadcasting with ESPN.
Wilkinson was married to the former Mary Schifflet in 1938, with whom he had two sons, Pat and Jay. They divorced in 1975. A year later, he married Donna O'Donnahue, 33 years his junior, who survived him in death.
Head coaching record
|Oklahoma Sooners (Big Six / Big Seven / Big Eight Conference) (1947–1963)|
|National championship Conference title Conference division title|
|#Rankings from final Coaches Poll.
°Rankings from final AP Poll.
|St. Louis Cardinals|
- Yagoda, Ben (13 June 2014). "The Strange 1960s Gym-Class Anthem in Apple's New iPhone Commercial". Slate. Retrieved 23 June 2014.
- "The Federal Government Takes on Physical Fitness". John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum. p. 2. Retrieved 19 June 2014.
- Riis, Richard (9 June 2014). "Apple's "Chicken Fat" Ad Harks Back to a Political Era Long Gone". Daily Kos. Retrieved 19 June 2014.
- "Fred R. Harris: His political career". Carl Albert Center Archives at the University of Oklahoma. 2009-04-03. Retrieved 2011-11-20.