NORMAN — The first five years that Barry Switzer no longer was the Oklahoma football coach seemed longer than the next 20.
“The older you get, the faster it goes,” Switzer said Thursday, the 25th anniversary of the day he resigned. The Switzer era ended June 19, 1989.
Twenty-five years since the bombshell dropped in the Santee Lounge above OU’s Memorial Stadium. A quarter century that was much kinder to Switzer than it was to the Sooners.
Oh, sure, OU has restored the tradition under Bob Stoops. But it took awhile to get to Stoops. Nine years wandering in the wilderness. Only three bowl games. Five straight non-winning seasons for a school unaccustomed to a single-digit victory totals.
Meanwhile, there was Switzer, coaching the Dallas Cowboys to a Super Bowl victory, acting in Hollywood movies, joining with old foe Jimmy Johnson on the FOX NFL set, dabbling in businesses galore, talking all the way, unfiltered, with that Arkie/Okie charm.
“It’s been a packed 25 years,” Switzer said. “I’ve enjoyed it. I had a friend tell me one time, there’s a life outside of football, and you’re going to like it. He was right.”
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That friend was Donnie Duncan, who 25 years ago was the OU athletic director and not the administrator who sought Switzer’s ouster. That came from higher up, and 25 years later, Switzer still bristles at the events that led to leaving the job for which he was made.
The scandals of late 1988/early 1989, Switzer can accept. The NCAA probation, and the lawless antics of several players. But the threats and accusations he remembers from the fateful meeting in the OU president’s office, of gambling on football games and manipulating OU’s drug-testing program, still anger Switzer.
Switzer retells the story of looking at interim president David Swank, outside legal counsel Andy Coats and regents chairman Ron White and declaring, “Let me tell you something; if this bull---- was true, the FBI would have knocked on my door a long time ago.”
Twenty-five years later, Switzer still doesn’t know if he did the right thing. Still isn’t sure whether he should have resigned or fought for his job.
“I did the right thing for the university,” he says. “I had run out of gas.”
But a few moments later, he turns wistful. “I’ve often thought about it; I shouldn’t have ever resigned,” Switzer said. “I believe in myself, I believe in our staff. I believe we would have continued to win. We’ll never know.”
All these years later, he still feels sorry for leaving Steve Collins, an option quarterback recruited to run the wishbone. “He never got to play in the system we recruited him for,” Switzer said. “He was in the wrong system, the wrong time, the wrong location.
“I think of the players I left. I’ve often thought of that. We would have been successful.”