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The Undefeated: The Oklahoma Sooners and the Greatest Winning Streak in College Football Hardcover – September 11, 2001

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Thomas Dunne Books; 1st edition (September 11, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0312266561
  • ISBN-13: 978-0312266561
  • Product Dimensions: 6.3 x 1.1 x 9.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (20 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,738,795 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews Review

In The Undefeated: The Oklahoma Sooners and the Greatest Winning Streak in College Football, The Junction Boys author Jim Dent chronicles how Charles "Bud" Wilkinson helped the dust-bowl-depressed state of Oklahoma regain self-respect by building a program that became one of the most dominant in college sports history. From 1948 to 1957, an era when players played both sides of the ball--170-pounders played tackle, and some players smoked three packs a day--the Oklahoma Sooners dominated college football in incredible fashion: they tied twice and lost four times, and amid their 94 wins they compiled winning streaks of 31 and 47 games.

Dent has an eye for detail, and the book is equally the story of coach Wilkinson and his eccentricities, with halftime speeches and an innovative coaching style that implemented schemes not found in the NFL for decades. Also of interest are the plight of Prentice Gautt, the first black OU player during a time of racial intolerance; the hardscrabble backgrounds of the tough-as-nails players; and how preparation for big games included espionage and decoy playbooks. Most of all, Dent retells game highlights in dramatic fashion, including how an opposing receiver, after potentially ending one of OU's streaks by scoring in the final seconds, confessed he had trapped, not caught, the ball. The refs discussed the matter, and "[w]hile the man in the gray flannel suit waited, watched and paced, a crowd of 50,878 held its collective breath, and prayed."

As the wins accumulated, it became increasingly difficult for Wilkinson to motivate players and fend off all comers. In like fashion, Dent loses steam, but not before making the heartfelt case that Wilkinson's Sooners fielded some of the greatest teams in history. --Michael Ferch

From Publishers Weekly

The 1954-1956 University of Oklahoma Sooners played heroic, near-perfect football under the Patton-like command of Bud Wilkinson, leaving a towering legacy of college football records: 47 consecutive wins in Division I. It remains, almost 50 years later, "the greatest winning streak in college football history." The characters and the high (and sometimes low, and comic) moments of "the streak" bear recounting in this era of evanescent sports records. Dent (The Junction Boys) conveys different aspects of his story unevenly, but his earnest documentation of the players on their own heartland turf will make the book of interest to nonfans. The Sooners' three seasons unwind in a leisurely haze, a game-film of an America, a brand of college life, and a kind of player that no longer exist. The complex, handsome and stoic Wilkinson, who makes Tom Landry seem like a chorus line director, was known (without irony) by the players and campus officials as "Great White Father," ostensibly because of his regal head of silver hair. Perhaps the backroom reverence for Wilkinson, handed down across the High Plains generations, stops Dent from criticizing Wilkinson's womanizing and blatant recruiting corruption. For Dent and the Sooners, what matters is that Wilkinson's winning teams drew the entire region out of its dust-bowl Okie funk into the bright orbit of national sports respectability. His own booster instincts working against his terse style, Dent barely avoids falling into overwrought nostalgia peddling, and offers college football purists a look straight back at an astounding moment in a bygone era and a good primary-source record of "the streak." 16 pages b&w photos not seen by PW.

Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

Customer Reviews

Although historical, this is written in the style of a novel.
Craig H. Rabb
Some of the things that occurred later in Bud's life (like dumping his wife for a much younger woman) would make this portrayal seem not so far-fetched.
Tom Hinkle
A great book especially if you're an OKLAHOMA SOONER'S football fan.
Bobby Merrill

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

9 of 10 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on August 27, 2001
Format: Hardcover
Jim Dent's Junction Boys was one of the greatest sports books I ever read, so I couldn't wait for his next one. It's a different kind of story, but this book is wonderful too. Dent knows how to make his characters come alive, from the great coach, Bud Wilkinson, to all those great players, and there were quite a few during the Streak. No, Wilkinson isn't portrayed as a saint here, because he wasn't--he was a human being, and that's how Dent shows him, warts and all. I'd rather read the truth, and if John Herman Bell says "this book is as true as true can be" (that's what he told the Daily Oklahoman), that's good enough for me. The best part of the book is getting to know all those great players, and reading about all those great games they played--and there were some great games. Also, getting behind the scenes is really cool, to see how the players and the coaches prepared (or didn't). There are a lot of funny stories, too. All in all, a great follow-up to the great Junction Boys.
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12 of 15 people found the following review helpful By Tom Hinkle on November 6, 2001
Format: Hardcover
This is a difficult book to review for me. On one hand, being a rabid Oklahoma Sooner fan, I found this book a totally fascinating account of the 47-game winning streak of Bud Wilkinson's Sooners in the mid-50's. On the other hand, being in contact with many other Sooner fans, some who personally know players from that era, they say this book is a crock. For example, Tommy McDonald is portrayed in this book as a selfish player who was not well-liked by his teammates. But talk to those who know Tommy and they'll tell you just the opposite is true: he was a total team player who brought a huge dose of infectious enthusiasm toward the game.
For the first time anywhere, Bud Wilkinson, perhaps the greatest college football coach in history, is portrayed as a split personality: conservative and aloof in public, and a hard-drinking, womanizing party animal in private. Only someone from outside the family (the Sooner family and the Wilkinson family) would have the guts to show Bud in this rather dubious light. This is quite entertaining to the reader, but is it accurate? Some of the things that occurred later in Bud's life (like dumping his wife for a much younger woman) would make this portrayal seem not so far-fetched.
The inaccuracies of this book have been documented elsewhere (repeat after me Mr. Dent: Kansas U. is in Lawrence, Kansas State is in Manhattan!) But beyond the minor inaccuracies lies the question: how much of this is actually true? Barry Switzer has been quoted as saying he never would have written the Foreword for this book if he had read it first. Although "The Undefeated" has great entertainment value, it's sort of like an Oliver Stone film. It leaves you wondering, "Is this the way it really was?"
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8 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Robert Reid on January 28, 2002
Format: Hardcover
A great great football story, but disappointingly written. For starters, Jim Dent misses his audience. Recreated quotes reminisce made-for-grade school stories, yet hollow and stereotypical characters go on big-time drinking binges and grow 'harder than Chinese arithmetic' over the ladies. More disappointing is that one must read between the lines to discover what's most fascinating about 1940s/50s-era football - that the national champion was chosen BEFORE the bowl games (imagine THAT before BCS), that players played on both sides of the ball, that there were no designated field goal kickers, and heaps of other subtleties that have faded away as college football has 'grown.' Perhaps there was a rush to get this out while the 2000 Sooners team was STILL undefeated and national champions. It takes time to make a winner, I guess.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Cousin Ron of ... on January 9, 2002
Format: Hardcover
As a fan of the history of college football I found Dent's book to be a breath of fresh air in a genre that is often peppered with statistics, numbers and facts & figures. Dent goes beyond the numbers to present a living work about the Golden Program of the Golden Era of college football.
Many books about the history of a team give just that, a history of the team but overlook the individuals that comprise the whole. Not Dent. He relishes in crawling in the dirt or sailing into the clouds with the players, coaches, supporters and fans who made the story of the OU 47-game winning streak possible.
For all the glory and fame, it is well remembered that the Sooners, perhaps the greatest college football team of all-time, was made up of the same stuff as the worst college football team of all-time...a coaching staff of chain-smoking, hard drinking, middle aged coaches and stiff-legged college boys often more interested in getting laid than getting playing time.
From desk drawers full of cash, to skirt-chasing, to fist-a-cuffs, to race relations, to sweaty lockerrooms to game day, Dent captures the aura of the greatest winning streak of all-time and the crushing pressure of winning and gut-wrenching fear of losing like few sports writers can.
Careful in his details and persistent with his research Dent writes a classic tale of college football while weaving a great yarn of story-telling.
Combine this book with Dent's "The Junction Boys", gift wrap them both and you will have the perfect gift for not only the football fan on your gift list but the overall sports fan as well.
Hell, my wife actually read and liked the book and she doesn't know squat about football...
Great job, Mr. Dent.
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More About the Author

Jim Dent is a New York Times bestselling author who has written nine books.
His latest, "Courage Beyond The Game: The Freddie Steinmark Story,'' was selected as one of the best nonfiction books of 2011 by Kirkus Reviews. It was also named one of the top eight biographies of the year. The book focuses on the life of Freddie Steinmark, who started nineteen straight winning games at the University of Texas and was an All-Southwest Conference performer on the 1969 national championship team. He played that year with an excruciatingly painful osteosarcoma in his left thighbone. Still, Steinmark left the field only once in the final regular season game against Arkansas. Texas defeated Arkansas 15-14 in the "Game Of The Century'' and went on to defeat Notre Dame in the Cotton Bowl. Steinmark's story has been compared to "Brian's Song'' and is expected to reach the big screen in 2012. Another one of Dent's bestselling books, "Twelve Mighty Orphans,'' is also slated for movie theaters before the end of the year. For more information on Dent, check out Facebook, along with his "Courage Beyond The Game'' page that includes two video documentaries on Steinmark's life. You might also want to read "The Junction Boys,'' that was adapted into an ESPN movie in 2002. Dent is currently working on his tenth book, along with producing the movie on Steinmark.