OKLAHOMA CITY -- Chuck Fairbanks, who spent six seasons as coach of the New England Patriots and coached Heisman Trophy winner Steve Owens at Oklahoma, died Tuesday in Arizona after battling brain cancer. He was 79. Oklahoma said in a news release that Fairbanks died in the Phoenix suburb of Scottsdale.
He won 46 games for New England, a franchise record at the time. The Patriots made the playoffs in their fourth season under Fairbanks in 1976 and two years later were on their way to their first outright AFC East title when owner Billy Sullivan angrily suspended him for the final regular-season game because he had agreed to go to Colorado. Fairbanks returned for the playoffs, but New England lost to Houston. He was 0-2 in the playoffs with New England.
Colorado hired Fairbanks away from the Patriots, but he was just 7-26 in three seasons, including an 82-42 loss at home to the Sooners and his replacement, Barry Switzer.
Fairbanks left the Buffs to become coach and general manager of the New Jersey Generals of the USFL. He was fired after one season.
Schein: The true QB assessment
Fairbanks was 52-15-1 in six years with the Sooners, including an Orange Bowl victory his first season and consecutive Sugar Bowls wins in 1971-72 before taking over the Patriots.
The Sooners went 10-1 and beat Tennessee in the Orange Bowl in Fairbanks' first year in 1967. He won 11 games each of last two seasons with OU, beating Auburn and Penn State in the Sugar Bowl.
"His squads won three Big Eight championships and helped lay the foundation for the program's ongoing success with the installation of the wishbone-T offense," current Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops said in a statement.
Fairbanks worked in real estate and golf-course development after his coaching career. He occasionally worked as a consultant for NFL teams in training camp, including with the Dallas Cowboys when Bill Parcells was coach.
Copyright 2013 by The Associated Press