They are not answering the telephone in the University of Oklahoma athletic department with that old crispness. Calls are coming in from the Rockies of Colorado and the dusties of West Texas, from concerned parents, gasping alumni and disbelieving dropouts. What, they ask, are you people doing with my son? My money? And what are you doing to my WE'RE NO. 1 bumper sticker? The subject was not roses, nor any other bowl game. It was scandal. The Sooners, No. 2 in the country last year, were accused of football recruiting violations.
Last Wednesday Oklahoma Athletic Director Wade Walker called a press conference. Superficially, it resembled happier gatherings. As one might suspect of a team that finished 11-1 for two consecutive years, Oklahoma generally holds only two kinds of spring press conferences, one for the signing of big linemen, one for the signing of big backs. Yet this was different. Walker spoke slowly, solemnly. Beside him, Football Coach Barry Switzer paused to put his head in his hands. He meant it.
Walker announced that the high school transcripts of Kerry Jackson, first-team quarterback this spring, and Mike Phillips, squad member, both freshmen who had gone to Ball High School in Galveston, Texas, had been altered. He said Oklahoma offensive line coach Bill Michael had admitted knowledge of the changes, but that Michael had not participated in the actual alteration.
"Kerry and Mike are innocent," said Switzer.
Down in Galveston, School Superintendent Eli Douglas said, "None of our people were involved. As far as I'm concerned, this was done entirely by the University of Oklahoma."
So there you have it. Everybody in Oklahoma is pointing at Ball High School, and everybody at Ball High School is pointing at Oklahoma. Regardless of whom you believe or don't believe, several things are obvious. Jackson, called by Switzer "potentially the best quarterback I have ever coached," which means better than Jack Mildren, is ineligible. So is Phillips, a center. Michael, who recruited both players, as well as Greg Pruitt and just about everybody else the Sooners have signed in South Texas, was asked to resign, and he did.
Oklahoma volunteered to forfeit every varsity game in which Jackson, Oklahoma's first black quarterback, participated. He played in nine games, eight of them victories. The Sooners also offered to forfeit all freshman games, because Phillips was a member of the freshman squad. This came as little consolation to some of the losers-turned-winners. Said Darrell Royal of Texas, "We still know who won. They did, 27-0." Joe Paterno of Penn State echoed the statement. "Irrespective of what action Oklahoma or the Sugar Bowl takes in regard to the forfeit, our players and the Oklahoma players know who won."
While Jackson was hardly the decisive factor in any of Oklahoma's victories, he proved what he is capable of in the Utah State game when he gained 109 yards rushing. Fast, with a strong arm, Jackson was recruited by some 50 universities when a senior at Ball High. Those who cared to look, however, would have noticed that his low class rank made him ineligible for a scholarship under the NCAA 1.6 rule.
But Michael recruited Jackson. Hard. So did Texas. So did everybody. Oklahoma reportedly had the inside track from the beginning. Jackson was able to get a scholarship only because his altered transcript revealed a higher class rank than he had actually earned.
School Superintendent Douglas has told the Big Eight that an Oklahoma recruiter came by at the end of the 1971-72 school year and took a photostatic copy of Jackson's transcript. "It was complete except for the fact that his rank in the class had not been posted," says Douglas. "It is my understanding that Oklahoma never, and our records indicate it never, asked for an official transcript. The one they had on file indicated Kerry's standing was a great deal higher than the official transcript shows."