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Oklahoma football: Can Bob Stoops be Barry Switzer?

While the current OU coach doesn't have the flair of the legendary bootlegger's boy, both men will go down as huge figures in Sooner history.
by Jason Kersey Modified: November 6, 2013 at 3:00 pm •  Published: November 5, 2013

/articleid/3901518/1/pictures/2259634">Photo - Former head coach Barry Switzer and current head coach Bob Stoops watch before the University of Oklahoma football team scrimages at Gaylord Family Oklahoma Memorial Stadium in Norman, Okla., Saturday, April 5, 2008 

Former head coach Barry Switzer and current head coach Bob Stoops watch before the University of Oklahoma football team scrimages at Gaylord Family Oklahoma Memorial Stadium in Norman, Okla., Saturday, April 5, 2008 BY STEVE SISNEY

Still, the eras in which they coached made things different. Stoops operates under scholarship limits Switzer never dealt with.

“In my era, it was a free-for-all,” Switzer said.

And while Stoops' highs might not match Switzer's, his lows — both on and off the field — don't approach Switzer's.

Switzer lost four games in three consecutive seasons from 1981-83, causing some to call for his firing. And the off-the-field problems that ultimately ended Switzer's career at Oklahoma far exceed Stoops' incidents involving Rhett Bomar and Josh Jarboe.

Bomar was kicked off the team during the 2006 preseason after it was discovered that he was paid for work he didn't do at a Norman car dealership. Stoops booted Jarboe — who already brought significant baggage — after a rap video full of violent, offensive language surfaced online before Jarboe had even played a down in Norman.

Time and his natural charm have drastically dimmed the bootlegger's boy from Arkansas' bad times and shined the light on his glory.

“People have always felt like they can come up to me, and I'm ‘Barry' to them,” Switzer said. “I'm approachable. They've always felt comfortable. I'm extroverted. I'm kinda nuts.”

Where Switzer can often be seen pressing the flesh and happily interacting with fans and media, Stoops sometimes appears reluctant and combative in public settings.

Switzer's coaches' show was must-see TV in the 1980s; Stoops stopped taking fan calls during his weekly radio show last year.

“Bob's more private,” Switzer said. “He's a family man. But there's nothing wrong with that. … You can get it done different ways.”

Those who know Stoops best say his public image and his personality among friends, family and his players are nothing alike.

“Most of the public only sees Bob in one of two ways: He's either at his weekly press conference, or they see him on the sideline, wearing a visor and coaching the Sooners,” said Jim Ross, the former WWE announcer and die-hard OU fan who is as close to the program as any outsider.

“But they don't see that other side, what kids see when they're recruiting or what guys who are friends with him see when we're off camera, just being friends.”

A common denominator connecting the two coaches, though, is their big hearts and generosity. Stoops frequents the Children's Hospital in Oklahoma City, doing so without any interest in publicity.

He quietly rolled up his sleeves and went to work in Moore last spring after the devastating tornado that ripped through town.

Switzer hasn't missed the Special Olympics state games in more than 40 years, serving as an honorary coach

“Both are very, very giving,” OU athletic director Joe Castiglione said. “They do so much more for others away from the spotlight, and almost intentionally try to avoid people knowing about it. It's not because they're hiding it.

“It'd be almost impossible for me to quantify all the things that both have done through their careers for others.”


So how will history ultimately view Oklahoma's Bob Stoops era? How long will it last?

It's impossible to know for sure, but Switzer wants to see Stoops break bigger wins records than his own.

“All he's gotta do is stay here long enough and he's gonna win enough ballgames,” Switzer said. “He's obviously built a house out here. He isn't going anywhere.

“Now he's young enough, and he's talented enough, and he's healthy enough, that he oughta set a goal to win 300, 400 ballgames. Go for a national record.”

Records and achievements aside, though, will Bob someday be as beloved as Barry?

“Their approach is obviously viewed differently, and rightfully so,” Ross said. “They're two different men.

“He may not deliver the sizzle of Barry Switzer, but who does? But they both cook a great steak.”

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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