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Barry Switzer went down this road before

BERRY TRAMEL — Former OU football coach had to replace his defensive coordinator in the 1980s. The move took a while to pay off, but it eventually worked out for the best.
by Berry Tramel Published: January 14, 2012
/articleid/3640544/1/pictures/1611321">Photo - Barry Switzer, head football coach at the University of Oklahoma.  11/28/1981
Barry Switzer, head football coach at the University of Oklahoma. 11/28/1981

And after the 1983 season, Norris resigned to become defensive line coach at Arizona State.

“They worked together, they were professionals,” Switzer said of Gibbs and Norris. “They're in a tight room, 16 hours a day. They're working side by side. All have a role to play.”

But Gibbs, Switzer said, “was the one in the defensive meeting rooms who understood the whole scheme of our defense and how to structure it.”

Norris came to OU in 1973 as part of Switzer's first staff. Norris' career eventually spanned almost 40 years, including 13 NFL seasons and college stops at OU, Arizona State, Florida and Tennessee.

Even today, Switzer raves about Norris. Talks about how Larry Lacewell, Norris' predecessor as OU's d-coordinator, called Norris the most organized line coach he's ever been around. Switzer says he tried to hire Norris for the Dallas Cowboys' staff in the '90s, but Norris couldn't get out of his Houston Oilers contract.

After Norris went to Arizona State, Gibbs put together some of the best defenses OU in history, 1984-87.

So who knows how the second Mike Stoops era will unfold? We know this; he's a heck of a defensive mind and motivator.

“Mike is an excellent football coach,” Switzer said. “So is Brent. Both will contribute. Make us better.”

But new coaching blood is not all OU needs.

“We need Mike, plus some players, especially those with their fingers on the ground,” Switzer said, referring to defensive linemen.

“They're not as good of a football team as they've been in the past. The talent level is not there. That's their problem.”

The return of Mike Stoops “just makes the staff stronger,” Switzer said. “But they need to get some more players. That'll help more than anything.”

So we'll see. Can Venables swallow his pride and remain an energetic coach? Probably. Can Mike Stoops be as effective in his second go-round? Probably.

But you never know. The Gibbs/Norris swap took years to pay off.

“It was a tough decision for me to make,” Switzer said. “But it was the right decision.”

Berry Tramel: Berry can be reached at (405) 760-8080 or at He can be heard Monday through Friday from 4:40-5:20 p.m. on The Sports Animal radio network, including AM-640 and FM-98.1. You can also view his personality page at

by Berry Tramel
Berry Tramel, a lifelong Oklahoman, sports fan and newspaper reader, joined The Oklahoman in 1991 and has served as beat writer, assistant sports editor, sports editor and columnist. Tramel grew up reading four daily newspapers — The Oklahoman,...
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