Former Oklahoma coach Blake dies at 59
Former Oklahoma coach John Blake died on Thursday, the university confirmed. He was 59.
Former Sooners quarterback Dean Blevins, the sports director for KWTV in Oklahoma City, reported that Blake suffered a heart attack while he was out for a walk. Blevins cited former Oklahoma coach Barry Switzer as the source of that information.
Blake went 12-22 as Oklahoma’s coach from 1996-98. He never had a winning record, going 3-8 in his first season, 4-8 in 1997 and 5-6 in his final season before being fired.
When Blake became head coach at age 34, he was the first Black person to be head coach of any sport at Oklahoma.
“We are stunned and saddened by the news of Coach Blake’s passing,” Oklahoma athletic director Joe Castiglione said in a statement. “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.”
Current Sooners coach Lincoln Riley also paid tribute to Blake.
“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,” Riley said in a statement. “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.”
Blake was replaced by Bob Stoops after the 1998 campaign, and Blake later received credit for his recruiting efforts, as the bulk of the school’s 2000 national championship squad joined the program during his tenure.
Blake was a nose guard at Oklahoma from 1979-82 and later became a coach. He was an assistant at Tulsa from 1987-88 before joining the Sooners’ staff, serving four seasons prior to leaving after the 1992 season to become defensive line coach of the NFL’s Dallas Cowboys for three seasons. Switzer became the Dallas head coach after Blake’s first season.
The Cowboys won two Super Bowls during Blake’s three seasons before he accepted the Sooners’ head coaching job.
After being fired by Oklahoma, Blake later had college assistant stints at Mississippi State (2003), Nebraska (2004-06) and North Carolina (2007-10). He also was the defensive line coach of the Buffalo Bills in 2016.
–Field Level Media