Former Oklahoma coach Barry Switzer: Not offering Leslie O'Neal a scholarship 'one of the biggest mistakes we ever made'

Barry Switzer said he asked an assistant to check out Leslie O'Neal, but it didn't wind up getting done. O'Neal went on to star at Oklahoma State, where he became a two-time All-American.
by Jenni Carlson Modified: January 16, 2014 at 7:09 pm •  Published: January 16, 2014

Leslie O'Neal wanted to go to Oklahoma.

Wrote a letter to that effect to then-Sooner coach Barry Switzer and everything.

Asked about his recruitment from Hall High School in Little Rock, Ark., and eventual signing with Oklahoma State during Thursday's announcement of this year's Oklahoma Sports Hall of Fame class, O'Neal shrugged as to why the Sooners weren't more interested.

“I was an afterthought,” he said.

Switzer, who was in attendance, sprung out of his chair like a jack-in-the-box upon hearing O'Neal say that.

“But I'll let him tell that story,” O'Neal said, looking at Switzer and smiling.

Once someone got a microphone to Switzer, he explained.

“I don't know anything about this athlete at Hall High School. I call a coach in — I'm not going to mention his name — but I call this coach in, and I say, ‘I want you to go check this kid out.' Obviously, (the assistant) went to the racetrack or wherever he went. He didn't check this kid out. We didn't offer him.”

Switzer paused.

“I had to play against his (derrière) for three years.”

O'Neal became a three-time All-Big Eight selection and a two-time All-American playing for the Cowboys.

“One of the biggest mistakes we ever made,” Switzer said of not offering a scholarship to O'Neal.

by Jenni Carlson
Columnist
Jenni Carlson, a sports columnist at The Oklahoman since 1999, came by her love of sports honestly. She grew up in a sports-loving family in Kansas. Her dad coached baseball and did color commentary on the radio for the high school football...
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