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University of Missouri

Don Faurot’s Xs and Os

Mizzou’s legendary coach started an offensive revolution.

s Mizzou football’s all‐time leader in coaching victories (101), Don Faurot’s imprint is evident throughout the MU athletics complex — from the field that bears his name to the larger‐than‐life statue that greets fans at Memorial Stadium’s north entrance. However, his most important football legacy might be in the less tangible realm of football strategy.

Faurot’s Tigers introduced the split T formation in 1941 as a variant of the Bears’ T, popularized by famed Chicago Coach George Halas. The split T relied on “splitting the line,” or leaving space between the offensive linemen to spread out the opposing defense.

It also leaned heavily on “the keep play,” in which the quarterback would run off tackle, through the middle of the line. The tactic set up other handoffs and end runs. The Tigers executed the offense with such precision that Faurot, BS Ag ’25, MA ’27, wrote the book Football: Secrets of the “Split T” Formation (Prentice‐Hall, 1950).

Don Faurot

During his final season as Mizzou’s head coach in 1956, Don Faurot’s players carried him off the field after defeating Kansas 15–13. Faurot developed the groundbreaking split T offense 15 years earlier. Photo from the 1957 Savitar.

Faurot didn’t mince words in explaining why he employed the offense at Missouri: It requires only average personnel. “Therefore, remembering that most football players are ordinary boys of ordinary talents, … successful use of the split T is not contingent upon having an excellent passer,” Faurot wrote in Chapter 1. “Neither does it depend on having exceptional break‐away runners.”

Mizzou took back‐to‐back Big Six titles in 1941 and 1942, winning eight games each season before Faurot left during World War II from 1943–45. During that time, Missouri was surpassed by Oklahoma, ultimately coached by former Faurot assistant, Bud Wilkinson. The OU legend won 13 consecutive conference titles from 1947–59.

Wilkinson, who wrote the introduction to Secrets of the “Split T,” called the system “the most significant contribution to offensive football in the past 10 years.”