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Emails in on Switzer, realignment, OU hoops

Nick Tankersley Published: May 23, 2010

The new emails are in, and the talk is about Barry Switzer, conference realignment and the OU basketball mess.

Tony: “I’m sure others have told you this, but I hope you’re considering writing a book about the Switzer years. Your recent blog series was fantastic, yet something tells me it barely scratched the surface.”

By my last count, there were 34 books already about OU. Maybe there’s another Switzer book out there that can steer clear of Bootlegger’s Boy, but I’m hard-pressed to see it. Switzer’s got a story, literally, about every player who ever played for him, but that seems like a limited market on readership. Maybe I’m wrong.

Correna: “Just now getting back to you regarding your very touching story of Switzer’s Gang together again. I am a 73-year-old, two-time cancer survivor, trying to take care of my garden, praying all those nasty storms pass on by. You always try to bring out the good in other people’s lives. We all remember Barry Switzer when he fought his alcohol demons, but he was blessed with being a leader and inspiration for all the boys that needed a big chance in life.”

Well, I guess this offsets those letters that claim I never write anything positive. Like most everything, the truth is somewhere in the middle.

Kent: “I’ve enjoyed the old Switzer stories, a lot of funny things that wouldn’t happen today. Do you think Bob Stoops knows how important it is to beat Texas? Think about this. Royal ran Bud out, Barry ran out Darrell. I thought Bob would run Mack out, but it may be the other way!”

I have to believe that Stoops knows exactly how important it is to beat Texas. And sure, Brown could run Stoops off, same as Stoops could have run off Brown. But I see Stoops and Brown more like Switzer and Osborne, or Royal and Broyles. Long-time rivals who push each other.

Bill: “Loved the Switzer stories. My family has many fond memories of the 1980s traveling to away games, staying at the team hotel. Barry, his coaching staff and his players were very engaging, willing to sit down and regale the fans with stories. And unfortunately, I think your comment on Bob Stoops in the blog post was directly on point. Bob’s not a bad guy, albeit nowhere near as personable as Switzer, but he treats interacting with the public — fans, media, I suspect everyone who doesn’t have a checkbook lined with zeros – like a prostate exam. It’s a shame, because his growing aloofness will taint what has been an era of football almost on a par with Switzer. I’d be curious to read your ruminations one of these days about the football program and its growing detachment from the public. Naïve fool that I am, I’ve always operated under the assumption that the program belonged to the public. One of these days, though, I’m growing more convinced King Robert will lock the public out of a game. It’s interesting to see this ‘Year of the Fan’ nonsense from the OU athletic department, on the heels of the Thunder’s success.

I’m not so sure it’s just a Switzer/Stoops deal. I think it’s just as much a then/now phenomenon. Times have changed. Coaches are distrustful of most everybody.

Michael: “You should write an article on expansion. The former writer for your paper who is now with ESPN thinks Texas to the SEC is a done deal. They would want to retain their rivals of OU and A&M. If the expansion happens and the SEC grows and decides to add from the Big 12 and not the ACC, do you think that they will go after Texas, Texas A&M, OU and OSU or Texas, Texas A&M, OU and Kansas? Kansas would be basically a mirror school to Kentucky (great basketball, adequate football) but with a better academic reputation. On the Kansas side, the SEC would add three American Association of Universities schools and then have a ratio of 5/16 AAU schools and not 2/12. Kansas would add the Kansas City and Wichita markets as well. They would have two major powers in basketball. OSU has a better football reputation and easier travel.”

Only trouble is, I don’t think OU can go without OSU. So if the SEC wants OU, it has to take OSU. You can certainly make the argument that Kansas is more valuable to a league than OSU would be, but you can’t make the argument that Kansas is more valuable than OU.

Roy: “True, in college football money talks loudest, but I think most commentators have missed something about Texas’ values. UT prides itself on being a great university and progressive and would not want to be associated with the ‘Old South’ in the west division of the SEC with the likes of Ole Miss and Mississippi State. They already don’t much like being in the semi-rural Big 12, I would say. So, I see the Horns headed to the Pac 10 (11), maybe or maybe not taking along A&M, OU, Kansas, Colorado to form an East division along with the Arizona schools. Texas would like to be thought of like Stanford in various ways, not like Tech and the “State” colleges of the Big 12. And they’re right. One of the things that made Notre Dame great and a national university (and rich), was and is their scheduling of games against great institutions in high-visibility venues, such as L.A., San Francisco (Berkley and Palo Alto), Seattle, Phoenix. And now Portland and Eugene are becoming ‘in’ places, more like Austin than, say, Ames. That’s why the Irish play Navy (Philadelphia or Baltimore or Washington), Rice (Houston), Boston College, Miami, and, oh yeah, USC, Stanford, Washington. OU had better play its cards right, or be left with the distinction of being the ‘Harvard’ of Hicksville.”

I don’t disagree with the general thesis that Texas would rather be aligned with the Pac-10 than the SEC. Not that UT wouldn’t go to the SEC. But I think there’s something to the cultural talk that Roy is talking about. I think Texas most of all would like to remain in a vibrant Big 12, because then the ‘Horns would be calling the shots. That wouldn’t happen in the SEC or the Pac-10. Texas turned down a Pac-10 invitation in 1994 to form the Big 12, and the Big 12 has been very, very good to UT. I don’t think Texas thinks it’s thought of like Tech and the ‘States.’

Kirby: “If only Texas would leave the Big 12, what nobody has said, it certainly would raise OU’s chances to go undefeated every year and be in the national championship game. But I don’t know how that would figure into a financial analysis.”

By that line of thinking, if OU would just join Conference USA, the Sooners would be golden. But in truth, you are defined by your opponents, Texas pushes OU the same way that OU pushes Texas, and the last thing OU wants is to be split off from the Longhorns.

Mike wrote about the OU basketball mess: “If folks cheat and the school can’t do much about it, why is it the school that gets punished the most – except in cases like Sampson? Isn’t that what ‘lack of institutional control’ is all about? Just as companies have internal auditors to review and recommend better controls, that should be part of the compliance job as well.”

Schools are hard-pressed to police outside influences (agents, etc.) or boosters or even employees. That’s why schools should be held most accountable on who they hire. Jeff Capel hired Oronde Taliaferro, so Taliaferro’s crimes are on Capel.

Larry wrote about those who think OU hoops will get off lightly: “I’m pretty sure they are way overconfident that the worst thing that will happen is the loss of scholarships. The NCAA stopped just short of Lack of Institutional Control with Sampson, and I don’t think we’ve yet heard the worst of the money and email trail between a sports agent, an OU coach, and at least one player we know of. All of this while OU is still on probation. I don’t think that the NCAA is concerned about whether Capel knew about any of it or not, is kept or fired. But I do think they are quite interested in sending a strong, painful message to OU, along with all the other schools, that NCAA institutions are responsible to keep this mess from happening over and over again.” 

That’s the problem. OU’s repeat offender status is what’s going to make any trip to Indianapolis very harrowing.

Cecil: “Interesting that your article on the OU basketball situation is coupled with an article in the same issue on the USC/Reggie Bush situation (actually more a cesspool). You and I have had polite and gentlemanly disagreements on the NCAA, but I know we both want integrity and a good environment in which to operate college athletics. Here’s where I’m fed up, and I keeping hoping the media will pursue this direction. The NCAA has a myriad of rules that unfortunately stem from lack of integrity and good environments. The unfortunate part of the NCAA system is that most of their rules carry no statutory authority; e.g. the majority of infractions are not illegal and carry no legal consequences. Generally, by the time the NCAA catches the problem, the guilty party (or parties) are long gone, and the only sanction available is to slam non-involved, innocent parties and fans. That sucks and we shouldn’t be content to let it be the status quo. As an athletic donor, I’m supposed to honor NCAA rules that preclude me from giving money, tangible goods, etc., to student athletes. But the NCAA and schools have absolutely no recourse if I do so other than refuse to sell me tickets and return my donation BECAUSE what I have done is perfectly legal. So, if I do these things, why should the university, fans, athletic employees, etc, suffer? Makes no sense at all and it isn’t the American way to punish innocent people. There must be a better way, and I’ll NEVER be an NCAA fan until they start trying to address this problem. I understand how difficult the situation is, but punishing innocent people is not right and cannot be tolerated.”

First off, USC and Reggie Bush are not a bigger cesspool than a coach involved in paying players. As far as we know on the USC deal, Bush was paid by an agent, and the charge against USC is that the Trojans should have known. In the Tiny Gallon deal, OU now DOES know and still can’t get to the bottom of it. And I still don’t buy this NCAA-bashing. The rule is solid; don’t pay players. The rule apparently was violated, by a player recruited by OU and perhaps by a coach hired by OU. How in the world should OU not be held accountable?

Charles: “It’s management’s fault. It’s always management’s fault. Capel either knew or should have known; that’s his job. It’s amazing how little money it takes to bring down a program.”

It is amazing, isn’t it? Just $3,000. Sort of like guys who hold up a liquor store.