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Barry Switzer, Hall of Famer or not?

Updated:
RICHARD ROSENBLATT/AP Football Writer


While Oklahoma is enjoying its greatest success since the wild and woolly days of Barry Switzer, the former Sooners' coach is still waiting to be elected to college football's Hall of Fame.

Yes, his three national championships, 12 conference crowns, 12-5 record against rival Nebraska and the fourth-best winning percentage among major college coaches would seem to be enough to put him in the Hall.

But the Hall has a ``good citizen'' clause that states: ``His post football record as a citizen is weighed.'' And because of all the problems that occurred under Switzer's watch _ NCAA probation for recruiting violations, players convicted of rape and drug dealing and the perception of an out-of-control program, it's been thumbs down from the National Football Foundation and Hall of Fame Honors Court committee.

``There's a feeling that because of some of the problems that were present in the program near the end of his time, they are reluctant to elect him at this time,'' said Tom Hansen, Pac-10 commissioner and honors court member. ``But he's so richly deserving ... it's only a matter of time.''

Mickey Herskowitz, a sports writer for the Houston Chronicle, is also a member of the honors court, a 12-person group that conducts the final balloting. He believes Switzer should be in the Hall, and predicts it will happen within three years.

``Barry is not a Pete Rose case for sure,'' Herskowitz said. ``There's no prevailing argument against him. It's just a matter of opinion. You factor in his reputation with the great records he had and it's a year-to-year debate.''

Even though Switzer has been out of college coaching since 1989, he's only been eligible for the Hall of Fame on and off. For a coach to be nominated, he has to be retired for three years, meaning he was eligible in 1992, but not while he coached the Dallas Cowboys from 1994-97.

Switzer, who had a 157-29-4 record from 1973-88, has been eligible the past three years. This year, he lost out to Terry Donahue of UCLA and Forest Evashevski of Iowa. In '99, Jerry Claiborne, Jim Young, Muddy Waters, Ron Schipper and Darrell Mudra were selected.

Switzer understands the voters' reluctance to put him in the Hall of Fame, but says, ``No program is immune to what happened to me my last few years.''

About being elected, he said, ``If it happens, it happens. It's a dilemma for the people who vote, I guess. The longer it goes, the more ridiculous it seems.''

And then there's this:

The Hall of Fame committee waived the three-year rule when it came to Switzer's rival, Nebraska coach Tom Osborne. Dr. Tom, with a 255-49-3 record and three national titles (one was shared with Michigan), was whisked right into the Hall of Fame in 1998, the first year of his retirement. The Cornhuskers also were plagued with problems in Osborne's final years.

``Osborne got out at a time when everything hadn't quite yet hit the fan,'' Herskowitz said. ``If everything had circulated faster, it would have tarnished him. But his timing was excellent.''

Voting for the class of 2001 is scheduled for February, with the results to be announced in March.

Gene Corrigan, former Atlantic Coast Conference commissioner, is the chairman of the Honors Court, which also includes current Wake Forest coach Jim Caldwell and retired coaches Bo Schembechler (Michigan) and Vince Dooley (Georgia). Besides Hansen, the rest of the panel is made up of former and current athletic directors and sports writers.

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QUOTING: ``I grew up hating the Gators. During Florida-Georgia weekend, we always had a big Georgia blanket hanging outside our house. We had the Georgia flag. My dad had a hat he used to wear. It was crazy. But it's changed now.'' _ Florida kicker Jeff Chandler, from Jacksonville, Fla., before the Gators played the Bulldogs on Saturday.

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HACKETT WATCH: USC won its first three games, but took a four-game losing streak into Saturday's game against California.

And while coach Paul Hackett is under fire for the collapse, he says he still has the support of AD Mike Garrett.

``We talk every week and he has been on the same page with me, saying let's find a way to turn it around, what can he do to help,'' Hackett said. ``He's in the locker room after every game, asking what can we do, how can we do it. We're recruiting our brains out; we're not slowing down. ... Everybody here at the university has been supportive and it will continue to be that way, I'm sure.''

Then he added: ``Now when the season's over, that's a whole other issue.''

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PLAYING WELL, DRAWING POORLY: Pittsburgh isn't exactly attracting a crowd in its first season of sharing a stadium with the Steelers.

The Panthers, 5-1 before Saturday's game at No. 2 Virginia Tech, averaged 38,692 for their first four home games at Three Rivers Stadium, despite drawing a sellout crowd of 61,221 against Penn State. Against Kent State, Rutgers and Boston College, the Panthers averaged 31,182. Last year, they averaged 41,138 in their final season in now-demolished Pitt Stadium.

Last Saturday's game against Boston College drew an announced crowd of 31,567, or about half the stadium capacity of 59,600. The attendance represented all tickets sold, and the actual turnout was smaller.

``Honestly, that's not my real concern,'' coach Walt Harris said. ``I have great trust in our athletic director (Steve Pederson) that he's doing everything possible, and I think we've got to do a better job, too. We've got to play better, with more excitement, and I believe people will come.''

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EXTRA POINTS: Notre Dame, 5-2 before Saturday's game against Air Force, finishes the season against Boston College (4-3), Rutgers (3-4) and USC (3-4). If the Irish win out, think Sugar or Fiesta bowls. ... When Virginia Tech visits Miami next Saturday, the Hokies will be trying to make it six in a row over the Hurricanes. ... North Dakota's 73-year old Memorial Stadium played host to its last game Saturday when the Fighting Sioux met Augustana. Next year, North Dakota moves indoors to the 13,500-seat Alerus Center in Grand Forks. ... In 2001, Arkansas will play five games in Fayetteville for the first time since 1933. Two other games will be played in Little Rock, giving the Hogs seven in-state games.


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