Long wait ends Tuesday for Switzer

Monday, December 10th 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

When Barry Switzer's long wait to enter the College Football Hall of Fame ends Tuesday night, he'll have plenty of family and friends along to savor the moment with him.

Switzer figures it's going to cost him about $20,000, since hotel rooms at the Waldorf-Astoria in New York go for close to $400 and banquet tickets cost $450 each.

Besides his wife, Switzer is bringing his daughter, Kathy Miller, and her husband; son Greg and his wife; brother Donnie and his wife; and longtime friend from Crossett, Ark., Billy Holder and his wife.

Switzer's close friend Bobby Bell of Norman will attend, as will Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones, who is flying Switzer's other son Doug to the ceremony.

``Dad is paying about 20 people's way there,'' Miller said. ``He did the same thing at the Super Bowl. He's always been overly generous. Some people say that's what got him in trouble for taking care of his players when they needed it. But that's his makeup.''

Switzer won three national titles and a dozen Big Eight championships in his 16 seasons as Oklahoma's coach. He had a record of 157-29-4, the fourth-best all-time winning percentage in Division I-A.

Switzer quit under pressure in June 1989, after five players were arrested on felony charges and the Sooners were placed on probation by the NCAA.

He had been passed over for induction to the Hall of Fame several times since his name first went on the ballot in 1991, three years after his final season at Oklahoma.

His eligibility was put off from 1994-97 when he served as coach of the Dallas Cowboys. To be eligible for the Hall, coaches must be retired at least three seasons, have coached a minimum of 10 years and 100 games, and won at least 60 percent of their games.

``It was naive expecting to go in on the first ballot,'' Switzer said. ``My record deserves it, but it doesn't work that way. It was a political situation as most things are. I'm relieved it's behind me. I was tired of hearing all the Oklahomans ridicule the foundation and finding myself having to defend them.

``What's important about this is it is a reflection of what our players and assistant coaches accomplished and their success.''

One of the players being inducted is former Oklahoma tight end Keith Jackson, who played four years for Switzer. Jackson grew up in Little Rock, Ark., as a big Arkansas fan, but was quickly won over when Switzer came calling.

``Switzer came in, started talking about Oklahoma and the Orange Bowl, playing as a freshman,'' Jackson said.

Jackson visited other schools, but said he heard grumbles at every campus but Oklahoma.

``Everybody on the team talked so highly of Barry Switzer,'' he said. ``You said, 'Man, this must be a magical place to be.' ''

Switzer dismisses the claim that he wasn't tough enough on his players, that the trouble of 1989 would not have happened if he had been more stern. If anything, he said, he was sometimes too quick to discipline players.

He recalled dismissing running back Horace Ivory in 1975. Ivory had exchanged words with an assistant coach after having a girlfriend in the dorm room after 10:30 p.m.

``That's stupid. Hurt the kid, hurt us, hurt the team over something like that,'' he said. ``I wouldn't do that again. Ain't like going out and robbin' a 7-11.''