OKLAHOMA NOT O.K.
Who was to blame for the unsavory incidents that bedeviled Oklahoma's football program under former coach Barry Switzer? Both Switzer and Charles Thompson—the Sooners' starting quarterback in 1987 and '88, the last two seasons of Switzer's 16-year tenure in Norman—would have you believe the answer is, absolutely nobody. They imply that the transgressions committed by Oklahoma, such as gunplay in the athletic dorm, gang rapes and drug peddling by players, and payoffs by boosters, just sort of happened.
Thompson is serving two years in prison for conspiracy to distribute cocaine. In an interview two weeks ago on ESPN, which he used to promote his forthcoming book, he claimed that he and Switzer got drunk together, that Switzer and school boosters gave him cash and that the latter practice continues today under the current Sooner coach, Gary Gibbs. University officials declined to comment, while Switzer brushed off Thompson's comments, saying, "He has no credibility. He is a criminal and a sociopath."
Yet the two were in accord in one sense: Both had trouble ascribing responsibility for the wrongdoings. "I haven't said Barry Switzer is to blame for the mistake I had," Thompson said. "I haven't said that the University of Oklahoma is to blame for the mistake I had. That would have been like saying my mother is to blame...." And Switzer said, "There's nothing at the University of Oklahoma that created or influences criminal acts.... There ain't nothing wrong with this game, but you have a few bad apples every once in a while...."
Well, what of the well-documented climate of permissiveness that pervaded Oklahoma during the Switzer years?
Didn't school officials, coaches and boosters ignore rampant misconduct, leading players to assume they could do whatever they liked so long as they won each Saturday? At another point in his interview, Thompson said, "For a while there, I thought I could do things differently than other people and still get away with it, that I could cut corners in life." He also said, "In sort of a sick way, it was an adventure. I never believed anything could happen to me."
Sounds to us like a lot of people at Oklahoma share the blame.
OFF TO THE RACES
Father Ed Droxler was presiding over Carl Schneider's wake at Hardesty's Funeral Home in Gambrills, Md., last week when his gaze happened to fall upon the open casket. Droxler has been a Roman Catholic priest for 44 years and insofar as the contents of coffins arc concerned, he thought he had seen it all. "I've seen rosaries, flowers, cards, but this is the first time I've ever seen this" was what flashed through Droxler's mind as he spotted a copy of the day's Racing Form tucked snugly into Schneider's breast pocket. Schneider was a machinist who had frequented the nearby Bowie and Laurel racetracks during his 70 years, and the Racing Form was a parting gesture from his wife, Ida.
The sight of the paper in Schneider's pocket reminded Droxler that he had overheard two parishioners before the service praising a 6-1 entry named Millersville who was scheduled to run that day in the fourth race at Laurel. Droxler told Schneider's mourners about Millersville. "I don't know how the horses are running up in heaven," he said. "That's not my thing to say. And I don't know Carl, but I understand by seeing the Racing Form that he was a fan. Wouldn't it be funny if we put a little bet on that horse and it came in?"