Barry Switzer rides in a Norman Public Library sponsored float in the Norman 89er Day parade in downtown Norman, Oklahoma on Saturday, April 19, 2008. BY STEVE SISNEY, THE OKLAHOMAN
Paterno is 82. Bowden is 79. Switzer is 71.
Switzer was dubbed "The King" while at OU. Had he remained as coach, his career record likely would have made him the undisputed king of college football in total victories and national titles.
This very subject was discussed Thursday during Switzer's visit to Arkansas alongside Tinker Owens and longtime friend and assistant coach Larry Lacewell.
"I had a good start at it," Switzer said of his 157-29-4 record, three national titles and 12 conference championships in 16 seasons as the Sooners' head man.
Switzer admitted 1989-94 was his toughest time after leaving OU.
He was offered some unnamed coaching opportunities at lesser places, all of which he turned down.
Switzer replaced Jimmy Johnson as coach of the Dallas Cowboys, and in his second season became arguably the most maligned championship coach in sports history.
Switzer inherited a great team, he knew it, and he didn't mess up a good thing.
Sometimes there is brilliance in not blowing it.
"What was I supposed to do, lose with those players?" Switzer said with a laugh.
Switzer's departure from OU quickly resulted in the darkest decade of the program.
Rock bottom came during coaching stints by former player John Blake and Howard Schnellenberger.
"I hated to see that, especially for John, the mistakes he made," Switzer said, before adding, "I didn't feel that way for Schnellenberger, though."
The Sooners are back among college football's elite under coach Bob Stoops.
"He'll stay there the rest of his life," Switzer said of Stoops. "He'll win 300 games, if he wants to."
Switzer essentially is the same man he was at 31, as he was at 51, as he is now at 71.
Perhaps he could have been more strict, more of a disciplinarian, but that's what made Switzer Switzer.
Most coaches leave in exile after an NCAA investigation. Switzer instead stayed in Norman and his popularity has never waned.
Asked to explain how this happened, you could almost see Switzer shrug on the other end of the phone.
"People seem to know me wherever I go," Switzer said. "People treat me nice and I return the same. Hell, I just go on about my life."
Yes, it's still good to be King.
John Rohde: 475-3099. John Rohde can be heard Monday-Friday from 6-7 p.m. on The Sports Animal Network, including AM-640 and FM-98.1.