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Barry Switzer became Oklahoma’s head football coach on this day 40 years ago

by Jason Kersey Published: January 29, 2013
Barry Switzer became Oklahoma's head football coach 40 years ago today, on Jan. 29, 1973. AP PHOTO
Barry Switzer became Oklahoma's head football coach 40 years ago today, on Jan. 29, 1973. AP PHOTO
NORMAN — On Jan. 29, 1973 — 40 years ago today — Barry Switzer was named head football coach at Oklahoma.

Switzer was the Sooners’ offensive coordinator, and replaced Chuck Fairbanks, who had departed to become coach of the New England Patriots.

Switzer went on to win three national championships and compile a career record of 157-29-4 with the Sooners. He also led the Dallas Cowboys to a win over the Pittsburgh Steelers in the 1996 Super Bowl.

Here is one Daily Oklahoman story from Jan. 30, 1973, the day after Switzer was named head coach. Below the article is the newspaper page from our archives.

Soonerland Now Switzer-land

By Frank Boggs

NORMAN — Barry Switzer trotted down the marble steps inside the north end of Oklahoma’s Student Union. The press conference that had stamped him as the Sooners’ new football coach had ended a few minutes before and now — for the first time — it all was beginning to soak in.

He stopped to purchase a candy bar.

“Young lady,” he said to the young lady in charge, “do you have a candy bar that tastes like steak?”

He said he hadn’t eaten quite normally since last Thursday, when his name was thrust into the spotlight as soon as word was out that Chuck Fairbanks might be leaving for the New England Patriots.

Once outside he walked brisky toward his car, parked about two blocks away. He was smiling to himself and had not walked far when a man on the sidewalk said, “I just sent a letter to the coach telling him about a boy in Colorado who’s a fine kicker.”

“Thank you,” said Switzer, the man who had been a head coach for less than an hour, “thank you very much, sir.”

We walked together to his car.

“How’s a head coach supposed to feel?” he asked several times. “I don’t feel any differently. Am I supposed to?”

Switzer pulled away from the parking space and flipped on the car radio.

“I might be on here,” he said. “You catch it coming and you catch it going,” he said while fiddling with the dial, “and I want to catch it coming.”

He didn’t. The newscast was talking about the death of the Katy railroad.

Fate plays key roles in what a man does, where he works, how he lives.

Switzer came here in 1966 when Jim Mackenzie was named. Both were assistants at Arkansas and longtime friends.

“I was with Jim Mackenzie for nine years,” said Switzer. “I loved that man. I didn’t just like him. I loved him. And I had tremendous respect for him.”

Mackenzie coached here only that one season. He suffered a fatal heart attack that next spring and Fairbanks was eleveated to the job Switzer moved to Monday.

Had Mackenzie never come here, then Switzer probably wouldn’t have, either.

Even so, he did some deep thinking before leaving his native Arkansas to come here with Mackenzie. “There’s always some indecision anytime you change jobs,” he said. “My gosh, there’s some indecision when a guy gets married. But I knew I had to move from Arkansas because I had been a player there.”

 He pointed out that it’s difficult to rise from player to head coach at the same school because too many in authority remember a person as being a player — too young to be a head coach.

HE said he had derived his coaching philosophy from three men — Frank Broyles, the man he played and coached for at Arkansas; Jim Mackenzie and Chuck Fairbanks.

Switzer parked his car near the Soonres’ sports publicity office in the ancient fieldhouse. Then he telephoned his wife, Kay, to give her the big news.

She is from Stuttgart, Ark. Barry is from Crossett, Ark. They have three children.

Has anyone else from Crossett, Ark., ever made such a name for himself?

“Yeah,” said Barry. “A guy from there got sent up to the state pen once. That made the headlines.”

1/30/1973

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by Jason Kersey
OU Sports Reporter
Jason Kersey became The Oklahoman's OU football beat writer in May 2012 after a year covering high school sports and OSU recruiting. Before joining the newspaper in November 2006 as a part-time results clerk, he covered high school football for...
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