Switzer not mad about delay in selection for College Football Hall of Fame

Friday, August 9th 2002, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

SOUTH BEND, Ind. (AP) _ Barry Switzer doesn't want to talk about why it took so long to get into the College Football Hall of Fame despite having the fourth-best coaching record in Division I-A football history.

Switzer's record of 157-29-4 at Oklahoma, an .837 winning percentage, is better than that of ex-Nebraska coach Tom Osborne (by 1 percentage point), better than former Oklahoma coach Bud Wilkinson and better than Alabama's Bear Bryant, Michigan's Bo Schembechler and Florida State's Bobby Bowden.

``I was naive enough to think I would have gone in sooner, but that isn't the case. But I think it's still in a timely basis. I'm happy it's behind me now,'' he said.

Switzer is among 25 former college coaches and players, including tight end Keith Jackson, who played for Switzer at Oklahoma, who will be enshrined into the hall on Saturday.

Others being enshrined include Brigham Young quarterback Steve Young, Michigan receiver Anthony Carter, Notre Dame quarterback Ralph Guglielmi, Clemson safety Terry Kinard and Michigan State safety Brad Van Pelt.

Switzer became eligible for the hall in 1991, three years after he coached his last game at Oklahoma. He resigned under pressure in June 1989 after the school had been placed on NCAA probation and after five Sooners were charged with rape, drug dealing and a campus shooting.

``If that hadn't have happened, I might still be coaching at Oklahoma,'' said Switzer, who was ineligible for the hall while he coached the Dallas Cowboys from 1994 to 1997.

Schembechler, who serves on the hall's selection committee, said Switzer's bad-boy image was probably a factor in why it took him so long to make it into to the Hall of Fame.

``I don't know all the reasons, but when I joined the Honor's Court (selection committee) I saw he wasn't in the Hall of Fame and was puzzled why he wasn't,'' Schembechler said. ``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 waived after he retired in 1997 with a winning percentage of .836, said he had no doubt that Switzer deserved to be in the hall.

``He was a great coach,'' said Osborne, whose Cornhusker teams 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 willingness to recruit blacks to play any position, including quarterback, when many other coaches would not.

``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, was named offensive coordinator in 1967, persuaded coach Chuck Fairbanks to switch to the wishbone offense in 1970 and became head coach in 1973. His teams won three national championships and 12 Big Eight championships in his 16 seasons as head coach.

Despite having the fourth-best winning percentage, Switzer said it's the losses he remembers most. The game he best remembers is a 17-14 loss to Nebraska in 1978, when the top-ranked Sooners fumbled the ball away six times to cost themselves a shot at another national championship.

``Those are the games you remember. I've relived that game many times,'' he said.

The Sooners faced the Cornhuskers again in the Orange Bowl after that season and beat them 31-24.

While Switzer, 64, still agonizes over the losses, he said he doesn't worry about why it took so long for him to get into the hall.

``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.''