Was that a picture of former vice president Dan Quayle or current Oklahoma coach Gary Gibbs on the front page of The Oklahoma Daily, the school's student newspaper, last week? Tough to tell, since the two do look alike and since last week both felt the need to defend their records to Oklahoma audiences. Turns out the story was about Quayle, but the comments quoted in the paper could just as easily have been made by Gibbs.
"I've never shied away from controversy."
Gibbs has certainly found plenty of it. In August he dubbed this year's Oklahoma team "our best since '87," referring to a bunch that went 11-1. Last week, his team having lost to Texas A&M and Texas, Gibbs was given the opportunity to alter his assessment. Did he regret it? "No. I want to be honest and truthful," he said. "Isn't that what you want?"
"It always comes down to education."
Gibbs may believe in the validity of this pronouncement, but do his employers? When Gibbs took over in 1989, the Sooners were on probation and perceived nationally as a cadre of thugs. Now the graduation rate for the most recent class for which figures are available is 57%, tops in the Big Eight. If only Gibbs had won 57% of his duels with Colorado, Nebraska and Texas. Instead. Gibbs is 2-14-1 against that troika, including last Saturday's 45-7 spanking by the Buffaloes in Boulder. Had the Sooners not scored a late touchdown, the loss would have been the worst they have ever suffered to any of those schools—the schools that a coach at Oklahoma must beat to remain a coach at Oklahoma.
"It is in the best interest of the children that the family stay intact."
Gibbs enrolled at Oklahoma in 1970, one year alter Sooner running back Steve Owens won the Heisman. He has been in Norman ever since, and Owens resides there, too, but last week on a local radio show. Owens wasn't very neighborly. "We should have a better team," Owens said. "Hey, [ Gibbs has) had six years. Maybe we need to make some changes."
Oklahoma fans came to expect success under Gibbs's predecessor. Barry Switzer. But for better (in the classroom) or worse (on the field), Gibbs is no Switzer. Senior linebacker Tremayne Green offers this contrast between the two: "When I first got here, I lived across the street from Switzer on Imhoff Road. I wanted to meet him, so I brought over a copy of his book to have him sign it. Before I could knock on his door, Switzer spots me and says, 'How ya doin', Tremayne? Get your big ass in here and let me sign that book.'
" Coach Gibbs knows the game, but he's so businesslike. Nobody questions his commitment. It's just that a lot of players have a hard time giving their all for a coach like that."
Last Friday, Owens told The Daily Oklahoman, "I'm certainly not an enemy of Gary Gibbs. But I don't want us to get into a situation where mediocrity is O.K."