Thursday, May 31, 2012

WHAT A DICK! Bootlegger's Boy Edition.

"The top man of any organization sets the moral tone for his associates.... Switzer has never set the best of examples in his personal life for the young men on the Sooner football team.... Perhaps, it's time for him to move on." -- Article from a 1982 issue of the Daily Oklahoman calling for Switzer's resignation... 7 years before he actually did.

For those of you painfully unfamiliar with college football history, the man pictured above might only leap out to you as Barry Switzer, the world's best worst NFL Super Bowl winning coach of all time.  But before Barry was banging stewardesses midair alongside the Double J and running up a $100,000 bar tab during Super Bowl week, he was carving out a cozy place for himself in hell as the most successful Coach not named Bud Wilkinson to roam the sidelines in Norman, Oklahoma.  Like a lot of you, I was aware that Switzer is widely considered one of the most rogue, slimy coaches of all time, but until I took a trip down memory lane via this Sports Illustrated article, I didn't have a full understanding of just how outlandish the man's tactics really were.  On the surface, Barry Switzer was a hell of a coach, but beneath the surface was hidden a serpent that would cut any corner and ignore even the most basic tenets of human nature in order to gain a the almighty W.  Shall we begin?

Barry Switzer was the HBC at Oklahoma from 1973-1989.  In that time he would win 157 games, three national titles, eight bowl games, 12 Big 8 titles and produce one Heisman winner in Billy Sims.  He would also, despite these accomplishments, be run out of town after enacting a scorched earth policy against the NCAA rulebook and the laws of the State of Oklahoma.  Oklahoma has real, actual laws?  Who knew?!  But seriously - three national titles and 12 Conference championships in 16 years and he would be forced to RESIGN?  In OKLAHOMA?  Mystifying.

Switzer's downfall initially began in 1983, the year he was busted by the SEC for insider trading, a case which was ultimately dismissed.  Switzer's defense? He "accidentally" overheard the information he was being prosecuted for while innocently lounging on some bleacher's near a group of industry insiders, the official, "My dog ate my homework" defense for such a crime.  Perhaps I spoke too soon about that whole, "Oklahoma has laws," thing?  But no matter how much ill will Switzer's federal gaffe generated, that was all erased when he won his final National Title the following season.  Funny how that stuff works.  But the cracks were clearly beginning to form in Switzer's facade.

Let's skip ahead to 1987.  That year Oklahoma featured a tight end by the name of Bernard Hall.  Unfortunately, Hall caught a case of the sticky fingers, stole from a few of his teammates and was voted off the team by his peers, missing the entirety of the 1987 season.  The following off-season, though, after a bout of unfortunate injuries and a defection at the tight end position, Switzer faced a dilemma:  His team - who had themselves voted off Hall not one year earlier - wanted Hall reinstated to fill the void on the strong side.  But did Switzer, a man who is supposed to be responsible for shaping the lives of the charges placed under his command, want to set the example that any player is expendable, unless of course that player is needed to start?  Of COURSE he did!  It's Barry Switzer!  So a vote was taken and Switzer signed off on Hall's being reinstated.  Keep this fact in mind for a few paragraphs later.

Flash forward to 1989.  OU is on probation and one nose hair away from being the second team ever to receive the Death Penalty.  Keep in mind, at the time the after effects the DP had on SMU were being felt supremely hard to the point that it was widely accepted that the costs to the program were too great for the NCAA to ever take such harsh measures against another program. So OU had to be REALLY screwing up for such a thing to even be whispered in passing.  I won't go into everything here, but one prominent example is the case of William Lambert, an OU booster who claims he suspiciously employed 100-150 OU players and COACHES during Switzer's tenure, paying them for work that was never performed. The best part about it? All of Lambert's nefarious activities took place AFTER he had served a four year stint in the federal pen for stealing stock certificates.  Pretty sure the NCAA rulebook has stipulations regarding known felons cavorting with student athletes, but I could be wrong.  At least that excuses Rhett Bomar's partaking of the same benefits decades later - it's just the Oklahoma way!

So now Switzer has cheated the fair market system, made it known that it's ok to steal from your teammates as long as the situation dictates that your absence won't cost the team any wins and had dalliances with boosters with known criminal records.  But surely Barry wouldn't harbor out and out criminals, would he?  Keep in mind, we're still in 1989, the year that OU went under probation.  Perhaps we should take this chronologically:
  • In January when OU was playing in the Florida Citrus Bowl, an assistant Coach was "horsing around" - not in the Sandusky way, fortunately - ran up a bar tab at a local resort and injured a bowl representative.  Did OU take care of the expenses?  Of course not!  
  • During the same bowl week, a local newspaper reported that a handful of OU players decided to be rock stars and trash their hotel rooms.  In this situation, a normal coach would likely publicly apologize for his players actions and privately punish them for their ignorance.  Switzer's response?  He went on the defensive and blamed the newspapers for reporting the incident.  Class-y.
  • In mid-January, several Oklahoma players were getting their hairs cut in the athletic dorm when an argument broke out.  The end result?  One OU player shot another, all over a missing cassette tape.  When asked about the incident later, Switzer copped to having familiarity with the player's volatile attitude.  So why did he recruit him?  "Because everybody else did."  Nice one, Barry.
  • In late January, starting QB Charles Thompson, thought to be an out and out good kid, sold 17 grams of cocaine to an undercover police officer.  He would serve two years in prison.  This incident would occur after Thompson had privately spent time in a drug rehab facility, so you'd think OU would be offering him all the help they had at their disposal to help keep him on the straight and narrow.  Guess again.
  • And then, the big one, came in February when three OU players were arrested for allegedly raping an OU coed.  One of the accused?  Bernard Hall, the same Bernard Hall who had been kicked off the team and then reinstated for stealing from his teammates.  Wow.  Just, wow.  
Even the most ardent of Switzer Era OU apologists would have a hard time defending the coach in hindsight, but let's suppose someone wanted to make the argument that these events all occurred in a tightly compact window of 1989 and that they were an aberration.  Let's have another history lesson. For ease of reading, I'll just copy/paste the direct passage from the article:

•On Feb. 10, Jimbo Elrod, an All-America defensive end in 1975, was ordered to stand trial in Muskogee, Okla., on a charge of stealing a pickup truck. He also faces marijuana and cocaine possession charges.
•Greg Roberts, an offensive guard who was the Out-land Trophy winner in 1978, is charged in Tampa with racketeering and drug-related offenses. Authorities allege that Roberts is "the principal operator...of a distribution ring that brought drugs from Miami for sale in the Tampa area." In 1982 Roberts and former teammate David Overstreet, who was killed in 1984 while driving drunk, were charged with raping an Oklahoma coed. The woman dropped her complaint shortly after.
•John Truitt, a defensive end from 1980 to '83, was arrested in Oklahoma City last April for possession of cocaine. Truitt, who was in town to see the annual Red-White intrasquad game, pleaded guilty to possession with intent to distribute. He was sentenced to probation.
•Stanley Wilson, a running back for the Sooners from 1979 to '82 and a member of the Cincinnati Bengals for the past six seasons, has a history of drug abuse that culminated in his suspension from this year's Super Bowl. He was discovered apparently strung out in his Miami hotel room the day before the game.

And that's without even mentioning perhaps Switzer's greatest error in judgment, Brian Bosworth!  He could be an entire article unto himself.  So it's fair to say that, for all of Barry's self proclamations that he's a good man and program leader, perhaps he's a teence misguided.  As one player, referring to the rapes, put it:  "What happened was not an isolated kind of thing. The attitude is, We're Sooners. This is the way we party."  Who do you think is responsible for cultivating that sort of mentality?  Shit, it rolls downhill.

Had Barry Switzer's complete bastardizing of the rules been limited only to football, the situation may have not been QUITE so amplified.  But of course they weren't, and once the regents started turning a blind eye to Switzer, they transferred that mentality to other areas, the most famous incident being the case of wrestler Joe Brett Reynolds who was caught having another student take a test for him.  In most instances, blatant cheating like that on a college campus results in an immediate expulsion for the student, no matter the case. Which is pretty much what happened - Reynolds was suspended but with the caveat that he could reapply for reinstatement after 2 years, a VERY generous offer considering most students are just outcast altogether.  But Reynolds was a star who generated esteem and money for the school, and much like Bernard Hall, he was NEEDED for the athletic department.  So Reynolds lawyered up, took his case to the board and after it was surmised that perhaps his professor had "entrapped him," his suspension was reduced to 11 months.  You can imagine how this decision went over with the academics.  The staff revolted, as did the student body, who circulated a petition to appeal the decision in front of the board, a petition that was outright ignored.   Frank Horton, the President of the University was one of the most of the vocal opponents of the decision.  At the time of the article, Reynolds was the 5th ranked wrestler in the country, competing for a national title;  Horton, after being deemed unsympathetic to the athletic department, had resigned.

This is what happens when you let a soulless man like Switzer become a god at your school.  That's not to say that Gary Patterson isn't god at TCU;  He is.  OH, he is.  But Patterson also has a conscience, not to mention at least a tenuous grasp of right and wrong.  Seriously, the events of this offseason are CHILDS PLAY compared to the things that OU was getting away with under Switzer's watch, the difference being his guys were rarely kicked off the the team. Things had gotten so bad at OU by 1989 that former OU players were publicly bashing the coach and asking for his resignation.  Heck, as referenced in the opening paragraph, folks were calling for his head as far back as 1982!  And, after the opening months of 89, surely Switzer realized that he, to use the current terminology, had a lack of institutional control and needed to change his lackadaisical stance towards punishment, right?  In reference to the dorm shooting, the drug arrest, and the rape arrest, Switzer had this to say: "Isolated incidents."  He would resign that June.

Seriously, Barry Switzer, What a Dick!


general125 said...

After the "pot bust" this spring, I told people, "I grew up in Oklahoma in the 80s. Do you seriously think I give a shit about a little pot? Barry Switzer is laughing about this coverage."

I'd like to add to your well written and well documented article. Barry Switzer has never seen plans for a restaurant or self-storage facility in Oklahoma that he isn't willing to put his name on for a fee. The man is the second biggest naming whore I've ever seen.

The thing I do love using Switzer for is reminding Dallas Cowboys fans who are also Longhorn fans that Switzer was the last coach to win a super bowl with the Cowboys. It always elicits a response.

Lyle Lanley said...

The last time I heard Switzer on The Hardline, which was pure radio gold, I had the thought that he would be the world's best uncle...and the world's worst father.