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Berry Tramel


Emails in on Barry Switzer & conference realignment

by Berry Tramel Modified: March 27, 2013 at 3:20 pm •  Published: May 17, 2010

Check out more of Barry Switzer’s Tales from the Recruiting Trail here.


The new emails are in, and lots of talk about Barry Switzer and realignment.

Some blog readers have enjoyed the Barry Switzer series. Todd: “I, for one, will never get bored reading a daily Switzer story. Good stuff.”

Here’s the tragedy for OU fans. Thirty years from now, these kinds of stories won’t be available about the Stoops era. Different personality.

Ron: “I was born in OKC in 1969 and lived here and in Norman my entire life and graduated with my B.A. in 1992. I am passionate about OU football and have always loved Barry Switzer. For so many years, media people focused on negative aspects of his career, and it is so nice to read these wonderful stories about a uniquely wonderful man.”

Is that a true statement? That the media has focused negatively on Switzer? I’d vote no. Oh sure, some people have ripped Switzer, and he’s deserved some ripping. But I think Switzer generally has received a solid hand from the press.

"OU (college football) coaches Barry Switzer (kneeling), Wendell Mosley (left) and Bob Jones find the scene in the Cotton Bowl sometimes inspiring, sometimes depressing, and always engrossing." Staff photo by Paul B. Southerland taken 10-11-80; photo ran in the 10-12-80 Daily Oklahoman.
"OU (college football) coaches Barry Switzer (kneeling), Wendell Mosley (left) and Bob Jones find the scene in the Cotton Bowl sometimes inspiring, sometimes depressing, and always engrossing." Staff photo by Paul B. Southerland taken 10-11-80; photo ran in the 10-12-80 Daily Oklahoman.

Fred: “I have just found your treasure trove of columns on Barry Switzer. And I have to say that it brings back memories, painful at the time, but wonderful under the shades of time to this Husker fan. How well I remember the names – and the pain they brought in the 1970s -but always with the attached respect that found me (and most other Nebraskans) cheering them in the Red River rivalry, bowl games and subsequent careers in pro football. For all the differences between Barry Switzer and Tom Osborne, each have three of the greatest and most desirable traits among men of any era and profession. They are great leaders who inspire loyalty and trust, each fully returns that loyalty and trust, and there is no artifice in either man. Barry and Tom are who they are and always have been, making no apologies. Bravo for a great article and the wonderful memories of the best of times in college football.”

Here we go again. More OU-Nebraska lovefest, which is as good a reason as any to discuss the ramifications if the Huskers jump to the Big Ten. You know what? It could enhance the Big Red rivalry. Nebraska probably would want to play the Sooners every year. OU might have to be talked into it, but those wanting OU-NU to return to annual status, one of them leaving the conference might be the best answer.

DK: “Do you see any scenario that would get Texas and my beloved Sooners to join a 16-team Pac-10/Big 12 conference. Kind of like the eight existing coastal schools in one division and Arizona, Arizona State, Colorado, Utah, Texas A&M, Texas, Oklahoma and maybe Oklahoma State? The championship game would be the two division winners probably held in Dallas, Arizona, Rose Bowl, San Francisco or maybe even Salt Lake City? Does this seem workable and viable? That 16 school league would have bite! You’re looking at the winner of Oklahoma-Texas playing USC, UCLA or maybe Oregon in a conference championship game in Jerry World, Phoenix, Rose Bowl, San Francisco or maybe Seattle or Salt Lake City. It sure beats freezing at Arrowhead in December. Sooner Nation needs to think big! Eventually, Texas is going to. Let’s not get left behind.”

You know, I don’t think it’s a crazy idea. I don’t think it’s close to fruition, but I don’t think it’s a crazy idea. I don’t know which six teams might work best, but let’s say OU, OSU, A&M, Texas, Kansas and either Tech or Kansas State teams with Arizona and Arizona State for the eastern division of the Pac-16. Before you get caught up on geography, remember that the Oklahoma City RedHawks play in the Pacific Coast League. The first move for such a league would be some kind of television agreement, which I don’t think is too far in the distance. If Missouri and/or Nebraska should bolt the Big 12, which I don’t think is going to happen but is possible, then this idea has some legs.

Scott: “I’m a lifelong Husker fan who grew up in Lincoln. I also spent four years in Bartlesville, so I know your work well. Today I stumbled across a link to one of your Switzer Tales and was excited to see more. Huskers have always been fascinated with Barry and the lovefest increased after both he and Dr. Tom retired. I can still recall the years OU would come to Lincoln from the mid-70s to the early ’80s. At any rate, great stuff and so glad you’re pulling out these stories to share. It’s not just OU fans that enjoy the history, and this has also given great insight into how great college football was in those days.”

Stuff likes this gets me to thinking. Is college football better now, or was it better then? I can argue pretty passionately about that question concerning baseball (better in the ’70s), the NBA (better now), the NFL (better now, but it’s close) and college basketball (better now, but not as good as the ’80s). But college football? I don’t know. I’m going to think about it. It would make a great study.

OU head college football coach Barry Switzer in a corner of Owen Field in Norman OK.  Staff photo by Don Tullous taken 8-29-79; photo ran in the 8-30-79 Daily Oklahoman.
OU head college football coach Barry Switzer in a corner of Owen Field in Norman OK. Staff photo by Don Tullous taken 8-29-79; photo ran in the 8-30-79 Daily Oklahoman.

Toni: “You have written a fantastic article! Switzer is a great guy and you only proved it so. My husband and I were just a young married couple back in those glory days. We had just moved to Oklahoma. How could you not fall under the spell of OU football back then? Well, we’ve been under that spell ever since. Thanks for the wonderful memories!”

It’s like I said in the column. It’s all about memories. Our most prized possessions are our memories. Without them, we have nothing.

David: “That article certainly catches the essence of why players and fans love OU football. I remember watching Thomas Lott in the Stanford game at Stanford (when I lived in San Jose). He didn’t throw often but he threw one that my memory tells me went 80 yards. Admittedly not as accurate as Bradford, but I will swear that he could throw that ball out of the stadium. Back in those days, I taught statistics at night school through USC in San Jose. On the first exam I used to ask, ‘Which of the following players were running backs at the University of Oklahoma?’ a) Elvis Peacock, b) David Overstreet, c) Horace Ivory, or d) Joe Washington.’ It was sort of a warmup question that would get everyone a correct answer to start the exam.”

Good thing you didn’t ask which OU quarterback could throw the ball 80 yards and include Thomas Lott as one of the answers. I loved Lott as a ballplayer, but he couldn’t throw the ball 80 yards if he was standing on a cliff. That’s the thing you’ve got to be careful about memory. It can play tricks.

Joshua: “Recently, President Obama, along with all the former living presidents (Bush I & II, Clinton and Carter), got together for a photo op in the Oval Office. I got to thinking, wouldn’t it be cool to see all of the former OU football coaches along with Stoops get together at midfield for a photo op at halftime of a future game (Stoops, Blake, Schnelly, Gibbs, Switzer, & Fairbanks). Sure these men’s egos are probably on par with the past American presidents, and they aren’t running for office, but wouldn’t it be a pretty awesome scene if these guys could put that aside for five minutes for a picture together. Thoughts on how this can happen?”

1. Hell freezes over. 2. OU schedules Florida Atlantic and doesn’t tell Schnellenberger it’s happening. Just have him wander out there with some old guys and snap the picture quickly.

Josh wrote about conference realignment: “How much revenue is really produced by the conference football championship game? If the Big 12 loses Nebraska and Missouri, I am beginning to believe the conference would be better off standing pat than expanding back to 12. Of course this would only be true if the Pac-10 alliance comes to fruition. Could the TV revenue produced from an alliance offset the loss of revenue from a championship game?”

I think you’re on to something. I can’t remember if I’ve said this before, but I think the Big 12 might be better off contracting than expanding. I’m not talking about a Pac-10 alliance. I’m talking about replacing a Missouri or Nebraska with a TCU or New Mexico. The Big 12 is better off at 10 than a weakened 12. The title game revenue is not small. But the real cash cow could be that Pac-10 TV deal.

Tom: “With all of the talk about the Big 12′s demise, it was interesting that the last Big 12 Softball Tournament was finished today. For all the talking heads in the Big 12, it seems that the administrators are really worried about costs by cancelling events. You have the location of the Women’s College World Series and you cancel the future of your conference tourney. All the while, we have the SEC Softball Tourney Championship being played on ESPN. (I am aware that the Big 10 and Pac 10 don’t play tourneys, however, the SEC, ACC and Big East do.) What is next? Maybe cancelling the Big 12 Baseball Tourney.”

I don’t think the Big 12 softball tournament cost much of anything. The league coaches didn’t want to play the thing.

David wrote about my Tiger Woods column: “Get real. Who’s he intimidating (and the notion of an intimidating golfer is slightly ludicrous to begin with)? To the extent there was any intimidation, it was against a bunch of panty-waist sissy boys whose every whim was catered to on the country club circuit once their golf talent was recognized. The biggest challenge these wimps have had in life is a flat tire on their customized golf carts when they were kids. Let’s face it, these pampered snots who didn’t crawl their way up from the streets of North Philly. Any intimidation emanating from Tiger was bogus to begin with, as he has revealed himself to be a total wuss. A little scandal breaks over his extra-curricular activities, and what does the tough guy do? He runs off to pout on his yacht for a few months, and then seeks the last refuge of all scoundrels: rehab for the non-existent malady known as ‘sex addiction.’ Name one other top flight athlete who ran and hid over something like this. I don’t recall Kobe Bryant crawling into a cave and taking time off when he was charged with rape. And Big Ben Roethlisberger seems to be clicking right along despite his indiscretions, or near crimes. Just admit it: these PGA jokers aren’t athletes. They’re barely men, as Woods himself has proved with his abject cowardice in the face of adversity. When something went slightly wrong in his perfect little life, he collapsed like a cheap card table.”

You said “get real,” but what you really meant was, man, Berry, you nailed it. Tiger’s not intimidating anymore. But here’s a better question. From where does all this anger come? I mean, if you don’t like golf, fine. If you think golfers are pampered, OK. But explain the venom in this email. I mean, I understand the passion sports fans have. Sooner fans, Cowboy fans, even the Thunder fans are starting to embrace their newfound franchise like a childhood blanket. Someone picks on those guys, them’s fightin’ words. Someone writes about a college football issue, step aside Lincoln and Douglas and let the debating begin. But golf? A sport you apparently don’t have any use for? How does a person get so worked about something they obviously don’t care about, to the point of writing a mean-spirited and obviously-well-considered dispatch? I don’t get it.

Golfer Tiger Woods answers a question during a news conference at Aronimink Golf Club, Monday, May 10, 2010, in Newtown Square, Pa. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum) ORG XMIT: PAMS104
Golfer Tiger Woods answers a question during a news conference at Aronimink Golf Club, Monday, May 10, 2010, in Newtown Square, Pa. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum) ORG XMIT: PAMS104

Dan was less emotional about the issue: “Tiger’s talent alone will carry him past Nicklaus, but the bloom is off the rose and he will struggle to overcome the mental issues he faces. For me, it’s the image of the perfect father/husband he tried to portray that bugs me the most. If this were John Daly, it wouldn’t even be news. Maybe not fair, but that’s the way it is.

That’s all I was saying. Tiger’s opponents thought he was one thing. Turns out he was another. So they also thought he was unbeatable. No reason why that can’t be a facade, too.

Jayne: “Really liked the Tiger article. Comparisons clever and right on. He’ll probably still catch or pass Nicklaus in majors, but it suddenly become a much more difficult goal after Thanksgiving. Maybe Elin took another club to that upper back.”

Wonder when the full Thanksgiving story will come out? You know it’s coming. We just don’t know when.

Let’s turn to some NBA talk. Tyler: “You may jump on me with the same hostility that my friends did when I proposed it to them, but I am willing to risk that in order to pick your brain. One of the main points that I constantly hear brought up in any conversation about NBA coaches is how Jerry Sloan is so underrated and how it is just crazy how he has never won the Coach of the Year award. I would argue that Jerry Sloan gets just about the right amount of credit for the job he has done. I would say that he is a very good coach, but I am not ready to consider Sloan a great coach. Heck, kudos to anyone who coaches in the same NBA city for 21 years straight. I would also argue that he is one of the classiest coaches in the NBA. But I have trouble throwing him into the discussion of the greats; 21 years in Utah, many of those with one of the best duos in the league, and no championships. Not one. Shoot, he only won two conference championships in those 21 seasons. It seems to me that year in and year out the Jazz are one of those good teams. Not really in the championship discussion, but dangerous on any night. I think that is very reflective of their coach. Good, and often dangerous, but definitely not great. When discussing players, no matter the sport, you always hear the debate over guys who never won a ring being ‘great’ or not. I think you can apply that same debate to Sloan’s career.”

I generally think that championships are way too much of a barometer over greatness. I’m not saying that Sloan is underrated or that he deserved some coach of the year awards. But I am saying I think he’s a great coach. You don’t stay this good this long without some level of greatness. This comes down to a great debate. Would you rather be a Miami Heat fan or a Phoenix Suns fan? Who has had the better ride the last 20 years? Miami fans got a title, but Phoenix fans get contention virtually every year. You can toss in Utah or Dallas or whoever in place of Phoenix if you want. I wouldn’t take Miami. Up, down, terrible, promising. Some great years. And some years when the season is over in December. Jerry Sloan gives Jazz fans compelling basketball virtually every day the gym is open. Fans can’t ask for much more than that.

Joe: “In the midst of the playoffs, I thought about how the NBA has had several player/coaches through the years. I think Bill Russell may have been a player/coach. I think there were others. Just thought that would be an interesting story.”

Here’s what would be interesting. How those guys did it. How does someone who is playing 35-40 minutes a game make substitutions and adjustments? The truth is, those player/coaches – Bill Russell, Lenny Wilkens, Dave Cowens – had on-the-bench help. Assistant coaches who in reality ran things, except they gave way to the desires of the player/coach. Which means they weren’t all that different from today’s superstars. LeBron James, Kobe, whoever else. They sort of run their own game. Kobe himself admitted he checks himself in, and he’s playing for one of the game’s greatest coaches ever. Player/coaches? We might have them now.

Josh, our resident college football monitor: “The 2011 BCS National Championship game will be played on Jan. 10! In 13 seasons, we have gone from a Jan. 1 game to this. To make things worse, the Bowl is being played on Jan. 8. In reality, conference championships and bowl games take up a third of the actual season. By 2020, the national championship will be played on a Monday, and the Super Bowl will follow the next Sunday. Thoughts?”

I think needs better marketing. I’m not sure if that’s the pizza company or not. What else is there to think about? I mean, so the Big Bowl is Jan. 10. That’s all that much worse than Jan. 4? What’s the difference between a team being off 33 days and 39 days. It’s still an unnatural break.

Greg wrote about my Mother’s Day column: “Great story on Nona Cornett. I grew up a couple of blocks from the Cornetts and was a couple years behind in school from Mayor Mick. It took some time for me to think of the Mayor as ‘Mick;’ I had always thought of him as Mickey from our days as Coronado Heights Elementary Cougars. Knowing his dad, I just assumed that he was named after Mickey Mantle. A few years back, Nona entertained me with the story of how Michael evolved into Mickey. Perhaps one of my life’s greatest regrets involves his dad. When I was a high school senior at Putnam City, Mr. Cornett had retired from the Post Office and was working at a local sporting goods store. As our football game with rival Putnam City West approached, I persuaded Mr. Cornett to print up some T-shirts that our principal found objectionable and threatened those who wore them with disciplinary action. Mr. Cornett was an honest, decent human being, who would have never agreed to print those shirts under normal circumstances. Under pressure from our principal, I wilted and gave up Mr. Cornett’s name with little in the way of resistance. Kind of makes me wonder what I might give up if someone threatened to waterboard me. I’m not aware that Mr. Cornett ever suffered any repercussions over the incident, but I remain miffed at myself for giving up his name as easily as I did; especially since I had made a tidy profit selling those T-shirts to my classmates.”

And there you have it. The reason Mick Cornett never can be president of the United States. This sordid piece of his past will come to the surface.

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by Berry Tramel
Berry Tramel, a lifelong Oklahoman, sports fan and newspaper reader, joined The Oklahoman in 1991 and has served as beat writer, assistant sports editor, sports editor and columnist. Tramel grew up reading four daily newspapers — The Oklahoman,...
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