Respect is due
Switzer deserves praise for his actions on and off field
Posted: Thursday March 29, 2007 1:50PM; Updated: Thursday March 29, 2007 3:34PM
NORMAN, Okla. -- Rolling up to the fabulous football facility on the OU campus in a Capri blue Mercedes SL550 on Tuesday afternoon, there wasn't a parking spot to be found. Signs stressed that the few marked spaces near the entrance were reserved for cars bearing special permits, yet the smiling man in the driver's seat continued past all of them, cruising onto the adjacent walkway before shutting off the engine.
Before he'd even exited the vehicle, the surprise visitor was given a royal welcome by two massive Oklahoma Sooners, fresh off a weight-lifting session.
"How you doing, coach!" a 6-foot-9 offensive lineman yelled to a man he'd never met, one who didn't look overly concerned about a possible meter-maid sighting.
Hey, when your name is Barry Switzer and you're visiting the Barry Switzer Center, you park wherever you damned well please.
That's the same Barry Switzer who won three national titles (and a scary 83.7 percent of his games) at OU and, whether you like it or not, has more Super Bowl victories than Marty Schottenheimer, Marv Levy, Bud Grant, Dan Reeves, Andy Reid, Jeff Fisher and Lovie Smith -- combined.
Now, if you're rolling your eyes while reading this, chances are we're going to have a problem. I come here not to bury Switzer but to praise him -- and if that bothers you, I'm guessing you've never met the man.
In the interest of partial disclosure, I've never had more fun with an NFL coach than I did with Switzer, especially while spending much of the week leading up to Super Bowl XXX with him, and several raucous hours after the game with the victorious coach and his devoted and abundant inner circle.
More than 11 years later, I was reminded again why I love him during a six-hour visit in Norman that included some of the funniest moments I've experienced in a long time. But before I share Switzer's earnest suggestion of a scatological-themed single to a major country music star while standing on the slopes of Vail, let's begin with our trip to the Switzer Center, where a wide-eyed sportswriter from California had the ultimate tour guide.
Less than 30 seconds after Switzer and I got out of that Mercedes, Sooners coach Bob Stoops emerged to greet the man whose legacy he smartly embraced after taking the OU job late in 1998, nearly a decade after Switzer ended a 16-year run that included 12 Big Eight titles and a 157-29-4 record. The two men went over the current team's spring drills, discussed a Switzer-initiated plan to line the adjacent Anderson All-American Plaza with statues of former OU greats and seemed as relaxed and comfortable together as any two men in their respective positions possibly could.
"Anything y'all need, anywhere you want to go, make yourselves at home," Stoops said jovially before heading off. Inside the building there was nothing but love for Switzer, who got backslaps from former associates and autographed a football for some current players in the locker room.
Though Switzer's 1989 resignation was tinged with scandalous overtones, including criminal behavior by some of his high-profile players, he routinely inspires wide smiles in Norman, where he and his wife, Becky, regularly host parties before and after Sooners games at the lovely home they built in the shadow of Oklahoma Memorial Stadium.
This is the way it should be for Switzer, an unfailingly upbeat, non-judgmental man with a stunningly small ego -- and perhaps the least appreciated coaching great of the last 50 years.
1 of 4