NORMAN — The blistering words that spewed from Barry Switzer’s lips 25 years ago are probably well-decayed in a landfill somewhere, or, in their recycled second life, helping hold some unsuspecting Texas fan’s coffee.
Brigham Young and Oklahoma will have only crossed paths twice before Saturday’s season opener, once on the field and once in a one-sided war of words. All Oklahoma has to show for those run-ins are a pair of bowl losses, a squandered national title and a now-inactive sewage treatment plant in Utah named for Barry Switzer. In 1984, Switzer’s No. 2 Oklahoma team was preparing to face No. 4 Washington in an Orange Bowl on NBC that Switzer spent a month telling America was the only game that should matter in the national title race. Standing in their way? An undefeated Brigham Young team that had risen to No. 1 in the season’s 12th week, and came from behind to beat a 6-5 Michigan team in the Holiday Bowl with a late touchdown pass. Once BYU’s victory in what Switzer equated to a JV game was over, the Sooners took center stage. They might have been better off leaving the curtain closed. The week of the game, 23 Oklahoma players were trapped in an elevator in their hotel for more than an hour. During the game, the Sooner Schooner broke down, costing the Sooners a crucial 15 yards and three points after a field goal on the next play was blocked. After the game, a 28-17 loss, Switzer changed his tune, but kept the anti-BYU sentiment. "I know one thing, Washington is No. 1,” Switzer said after the Orange Bowl loss. Today, his words offer a bit more perspective. "I never took it seriously, it was all just show business to me,” Switzer said. "Obviously (what I said) upset a lot of them, but I never worried about LaVell Edwards, because he understands. He would have been promoting and if he were in my position, he would have been doing the same thing.” LaVell Edwards, BYU’s coach from 1972 until 2000, remembers one particular sentiment that came his way via Switzer. After the season was completed and the Cougars crowned, he remembered receiving a card that read, "Congratulations on doing what only five other teams could do this season: beat Michigan.” Asked about the card, Switzer denied ever sending the underhanded compliment. "I didn’t ever send him a letter like that; I would have never done something like that,” Switzer said. Confronted with Switzer’s denial, Edwards admitted his 78-year old memory might have been fuzzy looking back on a quarter century ago.
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