Barry Switzer was Oklahoma’s head coach for 190 games. Bob Stoops’ 190th game as head coach of the Sooners comes Saturday. And Switzer’s not going to miss it.
Of course, the game is at Notre Dame.
“I’m coming up,” Switzer said. “The athletic department asked me to, so I’m going.”
Switzer is into coincidences. Bud Wilkinson coached 178 games; Switzer’s 178th game was the 1987 national title game against Miami, in the Orange Bowl.
And as always with Switzer, any subject at all is the chance to rekindle a story.
He’s been to Notre Dame before – as OU’s offensive coordinator in 1968, the Sooners played in South Bend and lost 45-21.
Switzer recalls two things. Seeing Touchdown Jesus, and Bobby Warmack hitting Eddie Hinton for a 78-yard touchdown pass on the game’s first play, a slant pattern off a three-step drop.
But I told him I had just returned from interviewing Ara Parseghian – you can read my Friday Oklahoman column on Parseghian here – and that ignited another set of stories from Switzer.
Switzer said he saw Parseghian at the College Football Awards in Orlando a year ago. “He was walking down the damn boardwalk by himself, not a person knew who he was,” Switzer said. “I yelled, ‘Coach, Coach, Barry Switzer. Coach, I can’t pass this up.”
So Switzer had someone take a photo of him standing with Parseghian. “He looked pretty good,” Switzer said of the now-90-year-old former Notre Dame coach. “I really enjoyed that, having a chance to visit with him.”
Switzer’s first introduction to Parseghian was a little different.
Switzer and Larry Lacewell attended the 1965 National Football Coaches Convention in Chicago. Switzer was a young coach at Arkansas; Lacewell, Switzer’s pal from boyhood, was about to join the KilgoreJunior College staff.
Lacewell and Switzer were at the bar in the Hilton Hotel, and Switzer says Lacewell started bragging about knowing Bear Bryant. They were from the same hometown, Fordyce, Ark., and Lacewell had served as an Alabama graduate assistant in 1959, Bryant’s second year in Tuscaloosa.
So Switzer said they ought to go find Bryant. Switzer marched across the street to the swanky Blackstone Hotel, where the prominent coaches were staying, and easily was given Bryant’s suite number. “There was no secrecy back then,” Switzer said.
So Switzer went back to Lacewell and said, come on.
They returned to the Blackstone, found Bryant’s room and “Lacewell vapor locked,” Switzer said. Lacewell wouldn’t knock on the door.
About that time, the door swung open. There stood Michigan State coach Duffy Daugherty, who in 1965 was about to have a team for the ages. Daugherty held two empty ice buckets.
“Here,” he told the young men suddenly at his door. “Go fill these ice buckets.”
So Switzer and Lacewell filled the buckets, returned to the suite and placed the ice on a big bar with whisky bottles sitting on them.
“I’ll have bourbon and water,” some coach said to them. Switzer whispered to Lacewell, “They think we’re hotel staff.”
So for three hours, Switzer and Lacewell mixed drinks for the likes of Bear Bryant, Bud Wilkinson, Woody Hayes, John McKay and Ara Parseghian.
“We laughed our ass off,” Switzer said. “We were like little mice on the wall, listening to them bull—-.”
Switzer says he never told Wilkinson that was the first time he ever saw the legendary Oklahoma coach whose exploits in Soonerville he would approach or surpass.
And now Switzer is back in Chicago, preparing to ride the train down to South Bend, where Parseghian still lives. If they pass on campus, expect Switzer to ask for a picture.