Switzer was an
Oklahoma assistant for seven years before being promoted 16 years ago. The calm
and courtly Bud Wilkinson, who coached the Sooners from 1947 through '63, made
Oklahoma a team of great expectations, and his success imposed a heavy burden
on those who followed him. "Bud Wilkinson created this monster,"
Switzer has said. "I just have to keep feeding it. I like feeding it. It is
exciting. It is a challenge. It is never monotonous." And, indeed, Switzer,
who has put together a 157-29-4 record and won three national championships,
has been the equal of Wilkinson, who had a 145-29-4 mark and won three national
The Sooners are a
reflection of their coach's personality. The son of a bootlegger, Switzer was
raised dirt-poor in tiny Crossett, Ark., and he learned early, as he has said,
that "there were different sets of laws" for different sets of people.
He developed a seemingly carefree—some would say undisciplined—approach to life
and admits that, when it comes to his team, he "runs a loose ship."
When it comes to
his own behavior, he has trouble battening down all the hatches. In 1984
Switzer pleaded guilty to driving while impaired. The year before, the
Securities and Exchange Commission filed suit against him in an alleged
insider-trading case. An Oklahoma City federal court dismissed the suit for
lack of evidence in 1984.
element in Switzer's success as a coach and recruiter is that he has always
gotten along well with blacks. "My black players look at me as honest and
open," he has said. "They're not suspicious of me. I'm their
Indeed, he's a
friend to all his players. But he's not a disciplinarian. "We don't
inhibit, muzzle or restrict our players," Switzer has said. "You can't
manage kids that way. I don't want to be managed that way."
You reap what you
sow, and the epitome of the be-ond-the-bounds college player arrived at
Oklahoma in the person of punk linebacker Brian Bosworth. The Boz wore a
bizarre hairdo and earrings. He spat on opponents and spouted whatever thoughts
came into his head. "Do hairdos bother you?" Switzer asked a writer who
had wondered why Switzer didn't discipline Bosworth. "They don't bother
But before the
1987 Orange Bowl game, an NCAA-mandated drug test revealed that Bosworth had
been using anabolic steroids, and he was banned from the game. As he stood on
the Sooner sideline, Bosworth wore a T-shirt bearing a crude slur on the NCAA,
and that bit of arrogance was apparently more than even Switzer could tolerate.
He booted the Boz from the team in a rare—and certainly tardy—show of
Bosworth, who's now with the Seattle Seahawks, released his autobiography. The
Boz (written with SI's Rick Reilly). It describes wanton drug use,
off-the-field violence, gunplay in the dorm and other manifestations of berserk
behavior by football players during his years as a Sooner. In Norman, Bosworth
was derided as a vengeful muckraker—from Texas, no less. The book, said
defenders of the Sooners, was full of exaggerations, if not outright lies.
Three months later the NCAA released its findings, which contained, in less
lively prose, some of the same things Bosworth had recounted. Then came 1989
and the horrors.
On the night of
Jan. 13, several players were lining up to get their hair cut in an upstairs
room of Bud Hall, as the Wilkinson dorm is known. The police and published
reports gave the following account.
reportedly had been drinking, barged in and angrily confronted Peters about a
cassette tape that he claimed Peters had borrowed. Peters told Parks he didn't
know what he was talking about. The two had gone to high school together in
Houston, and Peters knew of Parks's volatile temper. But Peters was much
bigger—240 pounds to Parks's 176—and once the shouting turned to shoving, Parks
was on the floor.