Friday, August 09, 2002

Delay aside, Switzer happy to enter Hall

AP Sports Writer

        SOUTH BEND, Ind. — Barry Switzer isn't sure why it took so long for him to get into the College Football Hall of Fame. He's just glad he finally was invited.

        Despite having the fourth-highest winning percentage among major college football coaches, Switzer was passed over five times before being voted in last year. He's among 25 past coaches and players who will be enshrined Saturday.

    College Football Hall of Fame:
        Switzer's image might have been tarnished by a series of scandals at Oklahoma. The 64-year-old Switzer acknowledged he was “naive” in assuming he would have been honored sooner.

        “I'm in the hall. I think it's a great honor,” he said. “Why it took so long? I can't answer that. It's not important. It's something my family wanted while I was alive, so I'm glad that it's happening.”

        Others being inducted Saturday include Brigham Young quarterback Steve Young, Michigan receiver Anthony Carter, Clemson safety Terry Kinard, Michigan State safety Brad Van Pelt and Oklahoma tight end Keith Jackson, who played for Switzer.

        Switzer went 157-29-4 at Oklahoma, leading the Sooners to three national championships in his 16 seasons as head coach. But he resigned under pressure in June 1989, after the school was placed on NCAA probation. Also, several Sooners were charged with crimes, including rape, drug dealing and a campus shooting.

        “If that hadn't have happened, I might still be coaching at Oklahoma,” Switzer said.

        He was passed over for the College Football Hall of Fame three straight years, starting in 1991, when he became eligible. He wasn't up for consideration while he coached the Dallas Cowboys, from 1994-97, and he was overlooked again in 1998 and 1999.

        Switzer's .837 winning percentage trails only Knute Rockne (.881), Frank Leahy (.864) and George Woodruff (.846). Indeed, Switzer's mark is better than those of some of the game's greatest coaches, including Tom Osborne (.836), Bear Bryant (.780) and Bo Schembechler (.775).

        Schembechler, who serves on the Hall of Fame's selection committee, was asked whether Switzer's image worked against him.

        “I'm sure that played a role in it,” Schembechler said.

        “I don't know all the reasons, but when I joined the (committee) I saw he wasn't in the Hall of Fame and was puzzled why he wasn't. His record was phenomenal and he had tremendously well-coached teams. I voted for him.”

        Osborne, who had the three-year waiting period to enter the Hall of Fame waived after he retired in 1997, said he had no doubt that Switzer deserved to be a member.

        “He was a great coach,” said Osborne, whose Cornhuskers went 5-12 against Switzer's Sooners. “I think playing Oklahoma made us a better team because we knew we had to get better to beat them.”

        Switzer said there are two things that made him a great coach: the wishbone offense and his colorblind recruiting.

        “I recruited the best athletes. I didn't care whether he was black or white. It just so happened that most of the skill players we recruited were black,” he said. “I told my coaches when I became head coach, 'We aren't going to have a quota system here.”'

        Switzer joined the Oklahoma staff in 1966, became offensive coordinator in 1967, persuaded coach Chuck Fairbanks to switch to the wishbone offense in 1970, and became head coach in 1973.

        Switzer's teams won 12 Big Eight championships.

        He remembers the losses more than the victories. Most vivid was a 17-14 defeat to Nebraska, when the top-ranked Sooners fumbled the ball away six times and lost a shot at another national title.

        “I've relived that game many times,” he said.


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