Switzer tales: Signing the 1975 class
Barry Switzer says the best rule college football has instituted was banning head coaches from personally attending the signing of letters of intent. Maybe so. The old days could wear out a coach and create all kinds of political problems. But they sure were wild and fun.
Switzer’s wildest day as a head coach might have been Feb. 19, 1975. National signing day. “A free-for-all,” Switzer said. “My biggest problem is who I had to sign first.”
1975 signing day was a heavy topic last Saturday, when I flew to Waco, Texas, with Switzer, ex-OU halfback Elvis Peacock, ex-Sooner assistant coach Gene Hochevar and current OU regent Tom Clark, whom Switzer has called the “general of my air force.” Clark, who owns a Tulsa aviation company, flew Switzer all over the Southwest during his coaching days.
In Waco, we hooked up with a flight coming in from Houston that included ex-Sooners Daryl Hunt, Jakie Sandifer and Spencer Tillman; a car driving in from Dallas that included ex-Sooners Kenny King, Greg Roberts, Victor Hicks and Billy Sims; and solo drivers George Cumby and Rex Norris. All descended on Waco to help honor Thomas Lott, who that night was inducted into the Texas High School Football Hall of Fame. That means seven members of Switzer’s 1975 recruiting class were gathered together — Hunt, Lott, Cumby and the quartet driving in from Dallas.
1975 was the year OU signed 13 of the 19 players on the Dallas Times-Herald’s blue-chip list, a recruiting haul that is beyond duplication. And signing day took Switzer on a wild ride. He had a tough choice to make initially; start out with King, in the Panhandle town of Clarendon, or Sims, on the side of the state in Hooks.
They were the two best running backs in Texas, though Sims clearly was the bigger catch. He was the Adrian Peterson/Marcus Dupree of the day. So Switzer hatched a plan. He told Sims why not wait a day or two to sign; go into hiding, don’t sign and let everyone wonder about the big mystery. Then after signing day, Sims would become an even bigger story and could get all the headlines to himself. “Coach, that’s a hell of an idea,” Sims said.
Seems like a big gamble, telling the nation’s best high school football player to hold off, but Switzer and Sims have had a 35-year trust. It didn’t start when Sims started scoring touchdowns against Nebraska. It started in the dusty streets of Hooks.
Anyway, Switzer wasn’t really trying to give Sims the solo stage. He wanted to make sure he signed King, so the night before signing day, off to Clarendon went Switzer. These days, coaches can’t recruit the two days before signing day. But then, it was open season, and Switzer went and picked up King and his girlfriend. They went to the pool hall and shot snooker deep into night.
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