How The Mighty Fall: Barry Switzer

A blow by blow account of the final year of the Barry Switzer era at OU.

Wednesday, June 17th 2009, 3:50 pm

By: News On 6

By Kyle Dierking,

NORMAN, OK - It's been twenty years since Barry Switzer resigned as head football coach at the University of Oklahoma.

It's an anniversary many people don't care to observe.

He made his announcement official on June 19, 1989.  It was a bittersweet ending for Switzer, leaving the program as its most successful coach with three national championships and twelve Big 8 titles.

His legacy also included a turbulent final year. The program was put on probation for three years and several players were arrested.

This piece is not reflective, but rather the unraveling of events leading up to Switzer's resignation.

It includes the off-the-field troubles that would end up plaguing the Sooners for many years as well as a 1988 season that ended in a disappointing Citrus Bowl loss.

June 16, 1988: OU reveals that there are 18 allegations of NCAA rules violations, including an Oklahoma alumnus allegedly loaning a used car to a player and paying him for a summer job at which he did not work. A Sooner staff member also allegedly offered $1,000 in cash to a prospect if he would sign with Oklahoma. Switzer said of the accused violations, "None of them ever gave Oklahoma a competitive advantage."

July 2, 1988: The Tulsa Tribune quotes an anonymous source, saying that Oklahoma State wide receiver Hart Lee Dykes and UCLA quarterback Troy Aikman were among the athletes who testified to the NCAA over allegations at OU. Athletic Director Donnie Duncan said, "I can't respond to that one way or another because of the agreement we have with our legal counsel."

July 13, 1988: Beverage company Texas Wet, Inc. had options in its endorsement contract with Switzer to pay him $20,000 to have its liquid dumped on him after the Sooners game versus Nebraska and the Orange Bowl. Officials with Texas Wet say they did not exercise those options. Those clauses were detailed in a lawsuit over ad payment between Texas Wet and the "Oklahoma Football" television show.

August 21, 1988: Sooners quarterback Jamelle Hollieway takes snaps in the team's first scrimmage of fall camp. Hollieway is coming off reconstructive knee surgery. "He just picks them up because he's got so much confidence," Switzer said.

September 4, 1988: "The Boz: Confessions of a Modern Anti-Hero" is released. The book is by former Sooner Brian Bosworth and Sports Illustrated writer Rick Reilly. "The stuff we talked about that didn't go in the book could have put away OU for 20 years," Reilly tells The Oklahoman. "We took out the stuff we thought was too bad for OU, too incriminating."

September 10, 1988: Oklahoma wins its season-opener on the road at North Carolina 28-0. It's Hollieway's first game back since injuring his knee against Oklahoma State in 1987. He was a part of three touchdown drives, but only rushed for 47 yards. The Sooners go on to win its first home game the following week against Arizona.

September 24, 1988: OU heads into its game against fifth-ranked USC as a one-point favorite, but loses 23-7 in Los Angeles. A crowd of 86,124 watched quarterback Rodney Peete shred the Oklahoma defense for 198 yards passing and 54 yards rushing. Switzer is now 0-3-1 versus the Trojans.

October 1, 1988: OU begins a seven-game winning streak against Iowa State. They go on to beat Texas, Kansas State, Colorado, Kansas, Oklahoma State and Missouri. The Sooners outscored its opponents 240-114 during that time period.

October 8, 1988: Jamelle Hollieway sprains his right ankle against Texas. Redshirt freshman Charles Thompson takes over as starting quarterback. Hollieway is 31-2 as a starter, dubbed by Switzer as the best wishbone quarterback he has ever coached. "He could never be a Jamelle," Hollieway tells The Oklahoman a few weeks after suffering the injury. "He's gonna be his own person. He's gonna be the Charles Thompson he wants to be."

October 30, 1988: The NCAA Infractions Committee discusses its case against the OU football program for six hours. "We can expect scholarship reductions," Sooners athletic director Donnie Duncan told Dean Blevins in a television interview. "I don't think we'll come out of this without having some type of penalty."

November 13, 1988: The bowl match-ups are almost in place and the winner of the OU-Nebraska game will decide who plays Miami in the Orange Bowl. The loser likely goes to the Citrus Bowl to take on Clemson. "It's a nice place - Orlando," Switzer said in an Oklahoman story. "It would be great for the loser. We intend to send Nebraska there."

November 19, 1988: Oklahoma loses to Nebraska 7-3 and will play Clemson in the Citrus Bowl. OU quarterback Charles Thompson fractured both bones in his lower right leg on the Sooners final offensive play of the game. Jamelle Hollieway is again OU's starting quarterback. "He's a good player," Switzer said. "He doesn't have the speed and quickness that Charles has since his injury."

December 17, 1988: The Sooners receive three years probation that includes no post-season games following the 1989 and 1990 seasons, no live telecasts of games during the 1989 season, only eight fulltime coaches permitted to participate in off-campus recruiting in 1989 and a limit of 18 football scholarships per year for the 1989 and 1990 seasons.

December 20, 1988: Switzer responds to a Tulsa Tribune editorial calling for his resignation by saying, "Why should I? I know I never asked anybody, coach or alumni, to cheat for me. My violations are things out of not knowing the little rules." One of Switzer's violations was

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supplementing former OU offensive coordinator Mack Brown's salary, paying him additional $30,000 out of Prime Time, the production company he owned and that produced his television show. OU attorney Andy Coats said it would have been okay to pay Brown that amount had Switzer not owned the company.

December 26, 1988: The Oklahoman publishes an editorial, quoting Switzer about a player who received free use of a car and was paid $6,400 for work he didn't perform. "The kid drives it for a year, a year and a half, two years, whatever it was, and all of a sudden that becomes a hell of a violation," Switzer said.

December 27, 1988: Switzer instructs players and coaches not to discuss NCAA sanctions, according to a story in The Oklahoman. Running backs coach Scott Hill, who is not allowed to recruit off-campus during the 1989-90 school year, instead decides to discuss the violations, saying "Some kids were upset we didn't tell them exactly what were going to get. But hell, we didn't know either." According to a 1989 Sports Illustrated story, Hill ran up a $475 bar tab with other Oklahoma coaches and was accused of damaging a chair and table at the Lake Nona Golf Club. The article said that Hill slammed Citrus Bowl official Tony Martin into a car, bruising his cheek and chest.

January 2, 1989: The Sooners are upset 13-6 by Clemson in the Citrus Bowl. Oklahoma finishes the season 9-3. A 1989 Sports Illustrated story said that many players trashed their rooms at the Peabody Hotel in Orlando. Prior to the game, Switzer significantly limited access to Sooner practices, only allowing OU officials and Oklahoma media. "There's always some of you (media) out there looking for negatives about this team,'' Switzer says in an Oklahoman article. "I don't want three television cameras stuck into our huddle distracting our preparation. I'm tired of it. I think some of you would follow me into the bathroom if you could. I really do.''

January 13, 1989: Redshirt freshman cornerback Jerry Parks allegedly shoots sophomore offensive lineman Zarak Peters in the chest. According to a 1989 Sports Illustrated story, Parks had been reportedly drinking. The argument rooted from a cassette tape that Parks claimed Peters borrowed. Switzer said two weeks later on, "The Barry Switzer Show," "Obviously the Jerry Parks incident was very unfortunate and a tragic and unlucky situation for us."

January 21, 1989: One week after the shooting and 19 days after the Citrus Bowl loss, sophomore running back Glen Bell, sophomore offensive tackle Nigel Clay and junior tight end Bernard Hall allegedly gang rape a woman in the Bud Wilkinson House. Switzer said on his Oklahoma News Network show, "You can't speak in general terms and say that these players are out of control. That's totally ridiculous."

February 10, 1989: Clay, Bell and Hall are charged with first-degree rape in Cleveland County District Court. Clay and Hall were also charged with two counts of furnishing alcohol to a minor. All three were dismissed from the football program and placed on a two-year academic suspension by the university. "I have a daughter 19-years-old; I know how I would feel about an incident happening like this," Switzer said.

February 13, 1989: Oklahoma quarterback Charles Thompson is arrested by the FBI on charges of selling 17 grams of cocaine to an undercover agent for $1,400 on January 26. The transaction was recorded by an FBI agent. Four hours before the arrest occurred, Switzer announced that he was suspending Thompson and moving him out of the Bud Wilkinson House. Oklahoma interim president David Swank tells The Oklahoman a day later, "The faculty is very concerned. They go to national meetings, as I do, and the first question that is always asked is, ‘what's wrong with your university?'"

February 15, 1989: Switzer tells the Associated Press that he's responsible for Oklahoma's troubled football program because he recruited the players who caused the problems. He still says he intends to remain head coach at OU. "I feel so used by these four or five kids. They've done me wrong. It's not fair what they did to us. They didn't think one thought whether what they did was right or wrong. It's just so selfish."

February 16, 1989: The Oklahoman reminds readers that it had called for Switzer's resignation in 1982. A day earlier, the Tulsa World called for both Switzer and athletic director Donnie Duncan to resign. The Tulsa Tribune, Dallas Morning News and the OU student newspaper all previously called for Switzer's resignation. "I'm tough and thick-skinned. They don't bother me. I'm not going to quit. The only people who can fire me are the regents. The president and the regents are the people I work for - not the newspapers, not the TV station, not the fans," Switzer tells the AP.

February 16, 1989: Switzer admits that a source, "told me definitely, for a fact, that they had (Thompson) tapped, bugged, he was set up." He also went on to tell the Associated Press, "A hell of a note...for them (investigators) to sit back and not let anyone know what's going on. I had to act on what was in the best interest of our program. If they had come to me and one ever contacted me." Norman Police say that the FBI was forced to prematurely arrest Thompson, foiling efforts to reach the top people in a six-month, multi-state drug investigation.

February 17, 1989: A day after calling Charles Thompson's hometown of Lawton, Oklahoma "the biggest drug center in the state," Switzer apologizes, saying "I made a mistake. I shouldn't have said it."

February 27, 1989: Charles Thompson appears on the cover of Sports Illustrated in an orange jump suit and handcuffs. The masthead reads, "OKLAHOMA: A SORDID STORY. HOW BARRY SWITZER'S SOONERS TERRORIZED THEIR CAMPUS." The more than 5,000 word story by Rick Telander and Robert Sullivan details the scandal that seeped through the OU program over the last several years.

March 2, 1989: Switzer says the wishbone offense will only be used in goaline and short yardage situations, citing the lack of experience at the quarterback position. "I don't' think we can ask an inexperienced quarterback to make the same reads and execute the true triple option that we could to with Charles Thompson," Switzer says to The Oklahoman.

March 9, 1989: Switzer injures both knees in a skiing accident. He has surgery on his right knee, while his left knee is in a cast. "Some friends asked me where I was going for spring break, and I said I was going to get away for a few days skiing. They said, ‘As bad a year as you've had, you'll probably tear up a leg.' I not only tore up one, I tore up two," Switzer tells The Oklahoman.

March 20, 1989: OU interim president David Swank tells Texas newspaper executives that Switzer has a year to fix things. "I think actually within the next year we have to see signs of major changes in the program, or changes will have to be made," Swank said in an Associated Press story. "An idol has been toppled from its pedestal."

March 24, 1989: OU assistant Scott Hill resigns at the request of the university, because of the NCAA violations he incurred.

April 26, 1989: Charles Thompson pleads guilty to conspiracy to distribute cocaine. "He's just an athlete who got caught up in the fast lane and got himself in a regrettable situation," Thompson's attorney, Gavin Isaacs, says to the AP.

May 14, 1989: Jerry Parks is ordered to serve two and a half months in jail and five years probation for shooting teammate Zarak Peters in the chest.

June 19, 1989: Switzer resigns his post as head coach at the University of Oklahoma. He said in his farewell news conference, "You haven't lived my six months. Coaching's not fun anymore." Switzer also says he'll never coach in college football again. He leaves OU with a record of 157-29, three national championships and 12 Big 8 Conference titles.

June 20, 1989: OU defensive coordinator and former Sooner linebacker Gary Gibbs replaces Switzer as head football coach. In 1977, Switzer had advised Gibbs, then completing his time as a graduate assistant with OU, to leave coaching and accept a job in the private sector with Arthur Anderson in Dallas.

August 30, 1989: Charles Thompson is sentenced to two years in prison and will have to submit to three years of supervised drug testing after his release. "I will accept my punishment as a man," Thompson said upon receiving the sentencing.

November 22, 1989: Bernard Hall and Nigel Clay are each sentenced to 10 years in prison for raping a woman on January 21. The jury acquits Glen Bell of rape.

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