OKLAHOMA CITY -- Prentice Gautt, who in 1956 became the first black football player at Oklahoma and went on to play in the NFL, died yesterday. He was 67.
Mr. Gautt died in Lawrence, Kan., after being hospitalized for several days with flulike symptoms, his wife, Sandra Gautt, said from her home in Lawrence.
Mr. Gautt, a running back, played for the Cleveland Browns in 1960 and the St. Louis Cardinals from 1961 to 1967. He was working as a special assistant to the commissioner of the Big 12 Conference.
''Prentice Gautt was truly a great person and he will be remembered as one of the most outstanding graduates in the history of the University of Oklahoma," university president David Boren said. ''His moral courage helped to bring racial justice, not only to our state and to intercollegiate athletics, but also to our entire nation."
Mr. Gautt ushered in an era for Oklahoma football when he landed a spot on the 1956 team. Former Sooners coach Bud Wilkinson was pressured against giving Mr. Gautt a scholarship. A group of black doctors and pharmacists gave money for Mr. Gautt to attend the school. Within a year, he was given a scholarship and the donated amounts were given to another black student.
Mr. Gautt, considered Oklahoma's best player in 1958, was a two-time All-Big Eight player and 1959 Orange Bowl MVP. During his senior year, Gautt was named to the academic All-American team and eventually earned master's and doctorate degrees in psychology.
He was an assistant coach, instructor, and an academic counseling psychologist at Missouri. He joined the Big Eight as assistant commissioner in 1979. He developed a program helping athletes adjust to life after sports.
In 1987, Oklahoma awarded him the Distinguished Service Citation, then the university's highest honor.
In 1999, the Dr. Prentice Gautt Academic Center was dedicated in his honor.
''I will never forget the ovation he received from a home football crowd the day after the official naming ceremony at the academic center," athletic director Joe Castiglione said. ''It was one of the warmest expressions of love and appreciation I have ever witnessed.
Black undergraduates began attending Oklahoma on a nonsegregated basis in 1950, with final restrictions on enrollment dropped in 1955.