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Barry Switzer
Barry Switzer.jpg
Switzer in 2006
Biographical details
Born (1937-10-05) October 5, 1937 (age 86)
Crossett, Arkansas, U.S.
Playing career
1956–1960 Arkansas
Position(s) Center, linebacker
Coaching career (HC unless noted)
1961–1965 Arkansas (RB)
1966–1972 Oklahoma (OC)
1973–1988 Oklahoma
1994–1997 Dallas Cowboys
Head coaching record
Overall 157–29–4 (college)
40–24 (NFL regular season)
5–2 (NFL playoffs)
Bowls 8–5
Accomplishments and honors
Super Bowl champion (XXX)
3 National (1974, 1975, 1985)
12 Big 8 (1973–1980, 1984–1987)
Sporting News College Football COY (1973)
Walter Camp Coach of the Year (1974)
College Football Hall of Fame
Inducted in 2001 (profile)

Barry Layne Switzer (born October 5, 1937) is a former American football coach and player. He served for 16 years as head football coach at the University of Oklahoma and four years as head coach of the Dallas Cowboys of the National Football League (NFL). He won three national championships at Oklahoma, and led the Cowboys to win Super Bowl XXX against the Pittsburgh Steelers. He has one of the highest winning percentages of any college football coach in history, and is one of only three head coaches to win both a college football national championship and a Super Bowl, the others being Jimmy Johnson and Pete Carroll.

Early life and career

Switzer was born on October 5, 1937, in Crossett, Arkansas, to parents Frank Mays Switzer and Mary Louise Switzer.

On November 16, 1972, after Barry and his brother had each commenced their professional careers, their father was murdered.

Barry accepted an athletic scholarship and played football at the University of Arkansas, where he joined Pi Kappa Alpha. During his senior season of 1959, he was one of the Razorbacks' "Tri-Captains", leading Arkansas to a 9–2 record, a share of the Southwest Conference championship, a victory over Georgia Tech in the 1960 Gator Bowl, and a No. 9 final ranking in the polls, all in Frank Broyles second season as head coach. After graduation, he did a brief stint in the U.S. Army and then returned to Arkansas as an assistant coach under Broyles.

University of Oklahoma

Following the 1966 season, Switzer moved to the University of Oklahoma as an assistant coach under new head coach and good friend, Jim Mackenzie. After Mackenzie died of a heart attack following spring practice of 1967, Switzer continued as an assistant under former University of Houston assistant and new Oklahoma head coach Chuck Fairbanks.

Switzer made a name for himself when he was OU's offensive coordinator by perfecting the wishbone offense and developing it into the most prolific rushing offense in college football history. Under Switzer, the Sooners set an NCAA rushing record of 472 yards per game in 1971 and scored over 500 points in two different seasons, 1971 and 1986. When Fairbanks accepted the position of head coach of the New England Patriots following the 1972 season, Switzer was the obvious choice to succeed him.

Switzer became head coach at Oklahoma in 1973. Prior to Fairbanks' departure, he interviewed for the vacant head coaching positions at Michigan State and SMU. He was so successful that by his seventh season in 1979, the St. Petersburg Times wrote that Switzer was the high priest of what Billy Sims, who won the Heisman Trophy in 1978, described as the church of OU football. Switzer led the team to undefeated seasons in 1973 and 1974. Oklahoma won national championships in 1974, 1975 and 1985 under Switzer's leadership. The team won or shared in the Big Eight Conference championship every year from 1973 to 1980. During his sixteen years as head coach at Oklahoma, his teams won eight of the thirteen post-season bowl games they played in, and 54 of his players were selected as All-Americans.

In 1983, Switzer was sued by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) for an alleged civil violation of the laws prohibiting insider trading of securities. He defended himself as having innocently overheard the information while lounging on the bleacher behind some corporate insiders—at a stadium where Switzer was watching his elder son compete in a track meet. The case was tried in Oklahoma City United States District Court (before a special U.S. District Judge appointed from Kansas). The case was dismissed at the conclusion of the Government's case for its failure to demonstrate that there had been any purposeful disclosure to Switzer.

In 1989, Oklahoma was placed on probation by the NCAA amidst several scandals involving Oklahoma players. One of the players Switzer and his staff illegally paid money to was Hart Lee Dykes. OU booster, Bill Lambert, illegally paid between 100 and 150 OU football players. OU recruiting coordinator, Shirley Vaughan, illegally paid dozens of OU football players through a ticket scalping scheme. OU 1985 national championship members Keith Jackson, Jamelle Holieway and Brian Bosworth all openly admitted to accepting illegal payments during their time at OU. [5][6] In 1989, after sixteen years as Oklahoma's head coach, Switzer chose to resign. Switzer succeeded in getting the better of several famous contemporaries, including a 12–5 mark against Tom Osborne, 5–3 against Jimmy Johnson, 3–0 against Bobby Bowden, 3-0-1 against Darrell Royal and 1–0 against Joe Paterno, Bo Schembechler, and Woody Hayes. Along with Bennie Owen, Bud Wilkinson, and Bob Stoops, he is one of four coaches to win over 100 games at the University of Oklahoma. No other college football program has had more than three coaches accomplish such a feat.

Switzer was known as an outstanding recruiter of high school talent, particularly in the neighboring state of Texas. His record against Texas in his sixteen seasons as Oklahoma's head coach is 9–5–2 (Switzer did this against three head coaches, as he went 3–0–1 against Darrell Royal, 4–5–1 against Fred Akers, and 2–0 against David McWilliams). The 1984 game between these two universities ended in a 15–15 tie by virtue of a field goal by Texas on the last play of the game. On the next to last play of the game, however, there had been an apparent interception of a Texas pass thrown into the end zone by Oklahoma's Keith Stansberry. The pass was, however, ruled incomplete by a Southwest Conference official and the interception waved off. Bruce Finlayson, Supervisor of Officials for the 1984 game later admitted, as reported in the Daily Oklahoman newspaper the following Monday, October 15, 1984, that the officiating crew had made an error in not confirming Oklahoma's interception. The correct call would have preserved a 15–12 Oklahoma victory and therefore would've meant a record of 10–5–1.

Dallas Cowboys

Switzer had seemed content with not being a head coach within the college ranks, once stating, “Every year the coach gets a year older but the product stays the same age. I looked in the mirror one day and said to myself, ‘Hey, Switzer, what is a fifty-year-old man doing chasing eighteen-year-old boys around the country?” On March 30, 1994, he was hired by the Dallas Cowboys. Switzer resurfaced in coaching in 1994 with the Dallas Cowboys. Switzer was hired the day after Jimmy Johnson, who had won the last two Super Bowls with Dallas), announced his departure from the team. Many felt that owner Jerry Jones, who had clashed with Johnson, hired Switzer due to wanting a coach who would be more apt to go along with Jones' ideas. He stated that Switzer had the qualities needed in "leadership, charisma, motivation, and a proven winner" to serve as coach; he also once stated that "500 coaches who could win with the talent assembled in Dallas." Incidentally, Switzer had been an assistant coach on the 1964 Arkansas Razorback team that had both Jones and Johnson on the roster. It was reported that one of the first things Switzer did was to ask each of his assistant coaches to name him any jerks that were on the team, which apparently was given a response of not having one on the team.

Switzer did not get to hire his own staff, as the assistant coaches from the previous season were retained. His first season was successful with the Cowboys, going 12–4 in his first season in 1994. They advanced all the way to the NFC Championship Game for the third straight year and played the San Francisco 49ers. However, the game did not turn out well for the Cowboys, which saw them down 21-0 after two turnovers in the first five minutes of play. While the Cowboys did narrow the score to 24-14 (after a missed field goal from 29 yards) with a minute to play before halftime, Switzer elected to try reach for more points with passes on the suggestion of offensive coordinator Ernie Zampese rather than his idea to run the ball. The result was three incompletions that saw Dallas punt the ball away with enough time and favorable field position that saw San Francisco score a touchdown pass to lead 31-14 into halftime. With less than seven minutes remaining, the Cowboys were down 38-28 and driving past midfield when Switzer committed a costly error. When a pass intended for Michael Irvin saw him bumped by Deion Sanders for incompletion, Switzer was livid at a no-call for pass interference and made his plea to the officials. However, when he made the plea, his demonstration of the bump caused a 15-yard penalty due to him bumping the official that made the Cowboys deal with a 3rd and 25 that eventually led to a loss of downs. The Cowboys failed to score on their next (and last) drive and lost 38-28.

The 1995 season saw a revolving door of free agents coming and going from Dallas, such as the recruitment of Sanders to play in Dallas. The Cowboys won seven of their first eight games. The only ignominious loss came against the Philadelphia Eagles, where Switzer elected to try and convert a 4th and 1 situation from his own 29 with two minutes remaining. Despite seeing the run play fall short only to have the officials give them a do-over due to the two-minute warning having been applied before the snap, Switzer elected to run the ball again anyway. The play failed and the Eagles subsequently kicked the field goal to win. The Cowboys did not lose from that point on and finished 12-4 while clinching home field advantage for the whole playoffs. The Cowboys trounced their playoff competition in the NFC bracket, which included scoring 24 unanswered points against Philadelphia before beating the Green Bay Packers 38-24 in the NFC Championship Game, the third NFC title for the team in four seasons. They would face the Pittsburgh Steelers in Super Bowl XXX. Despite being limited to just 209 yards passing and less than sixty yards on the ground, the Cowboys never trailed while turning three interceptions (all by Larry Brown) into 14 points in a subsequent 27–17 victory. The win made Switzer the second coach to win a college national championship and a Super Bowl, the others being Johnson; Pete Carroll joined them in 2014. Switzer thought about retiring after the victory, but he was talked out of it by one of his friends in view of what Jones had done for him.

The 1996 season saw high hopes for the defending Super Bowl champions, but the resulting season was a rollercoaster. Michael Irvin was suspended for the first five games of the season. Emmitt Smith ran for over a thousand yards again but had his first season under four yards a carry since his rookie season while scoring only 12 touchdowns, while key defensive end Charles Haley missed the whole year due to injury. The Cowboys lost three of the first five games of the season, but they finished 5-3 in the final eight games (which included two wins where all of their points were field goals) to clinch the division with a week to play before finishing with an overall 10-6 season. This time, however, their record was not enough to be a top-2 seed, so they would play in the Wild Card round against the Minnesota Vikings. They had no problem against Minnesota, winning in a 40-15 blowout. They then traveled to play the second-year Carolina Panthers in Charlotte. The Cowboys lost both Irvin and Sanders to injury as the Panthers shocked the Cowboys with a 26-17 victory to essentially end the Cowboys dynasty (the loss was the first of several to follow before the next Cowboy playoff victory in 2009).

In August 1997, Switzer was arrested after a loaded .38-caliber revolver was found in his luggage at the Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport. Switzer, who was returning to the team's training camp facility in Austin, said there were children at his Dallas home and he put the gun in his bag to hide it from them. He said he accidentally forgot to remove the gun from the bag before heading to the airport. Switzer pleaded guilty, was fined $3,500, and was given one year deferred adjudication. Two days later, he was fined $75,000 by Jones (equivalent to $136,723 in 2022). Switzer's penchant for being a players coach came to haunt him later with disagreements over quarterback Troy Aikman, who felt the team had a lack of discipline along with poor practice habits. Each reflected upon their disagreements in Troy Aikman: A Football Life, where Aikman felt that Switzer was not the same hard driving coach that he had seen at Oklahoma while saying the team was "kind of hanging on" in the post-Johnson era. All of this came to a head with the 1997 season, complete with Aikman delivering a heated rant on the sideline during the preseason about not wanting to be the "bad cop" in the routine all the time. The Cowboys started off well, winning three of their first four games, but a sign of trouble brewed with their one loss, which came against the Arizona Cardinals after they blew a 22-7 lead and lost in overtime. They then lost two straight games against division rivals New York and Washington before a late victory against Jacksonville got them to 4-3. They then traded back-to-back losses with back-to-back wins to reach 6-5 before the wheels fell off with five straight losses. On January 9, 1998, Switzer resigned as head coach of the Cowboys with a 40–24 career NFL coaching record.

After coaching

In late 2000, Switzer was initiated as an honorary member of the Oklahoma Kappa chapter of Sigma Alpha Epsilon. Switzer was elected to the College Football Hall of Fame in 2002. In 2004, he received the Jim Thorpe Lifetime Achievement Award. Switzer still resides in Norman, Oklahoma with his wife Becky. In August 2007, XMSN added Switzer as a part of the channel's expanded college sports coverage. On September 9, 2007, Switzer joined the Fox NFL Pregame show. Switzer got into acting after coaching, playing the part of the head coach of the Prattville Pirates in the 1998 movie Possums. Switzer also guest-starred in an episode of TNT's Saving Grace titled "Do You Love Him?", which first aired August 11, 2008. In 2006, Switzer and Toby Keith helped found First Liberty Bank in Oklahoma City. He owns Switzer's Locker Room, Switzer's Vineyards, and a number of other small businesses in the Norman area.

Head coaching record


Year Team Overall Conference Standing Bowl/playoffs Coaches# AP°
Oklahoma Sooners (Big Eight Conference) (1973–1988)
1973 Oklahoma 10–0–1 7–0 1st 2 3
1974 Oklahoma 11–0 7–0 1st 1
1975 Oklahoma 11–1 6–1 T–1st W Orange 1 1
1976 Oklahoma 9–2–1 5–2 T–1st W Fiesta 6 5
1977 Oklahoma 10–2 7–0 1st L Orange 6 7
1978 Oklahoma 11–1 6–1 T–1st W Orange 3 3
1979 Oklahoma 11–1 7–0 1st W Orange 3 3
1980 Oklahoma 10–2 7–0 1st W Orange 3 3
1981 Oklahoma 7–4–1 4–2–1 2nd W Sun 14 20
1982 Oklahoma 8–4 6–1 2nd L Fiesta 16 16
1983 Oklahoma 8–4 5–2 T–2nd
1984 Oklahoma 9–2–1 6–1 T–1st L Orange 6 6
1985 Oklahoma 11–1 7–0 1st W Orange 1 1
1986 Oklahoma 11–1 7–0 1st W Orange 3 3
1987 Oklahoma 11–1 7–0 1st L Orange 3 3
1988 Oklahoma 9–3 6–1 2nd L Florida Citrus 14 14
Oklahoma: 157–29–4 100–11–1
Total: 157–29–4
      National championship         Conference title         Conference division title or championship game berth
  • #Rankings from final Coaches Poll.
  • °Rankings from final AP Poll.

National Football League

Team Year Regular Season Post Season
Won Lost Ties Win % Finish Won Lost Win % Result
DAL 1994 12 4 0 .750 1st in NFC East 1 1 .500 Lost to San Francisco 49ers in NFC Championship Game
DAL 1995 12 4 0 .750 1st in NFC East 3 0 1.000 Super Bowl XXX champions
DAL 1996 10 6 0 .625 1st in NFC East 1 1 .500 Lost to Carolina Panthers in NFC Divisional Game
DAL 1997 6 10 0 .375 4th in NFC East
Total 40 24 0 .625 5 2 .714

Coaching tree

Head coaches under whom Switzer served:

  • Frank Broyles: Arkansas (1961–1965)
  • Jim Mackenzie: Oklahoma (1966)
  • Chuck Fairbanks: Oklahoma (1967–1972)

Assistant coaches under Barry Switzer who became NCAA or NFL head coaches:

  • Tim Billings: Southeast Missouri State (2000–2005), Southern Mississippi (2020)
  • John Blake: Oklahoma (1996–1998)
  • Mack Brown: Appalachian State (1983), Tulane (1985–1987), North Carolina (1988–1997, 2019–), Texas (1998–2013)
  • Dave Campo: Dallas Cowboys (2000–2002)
  • Jim Donnan: Marshall (1990–1995), Georgia (1996–2000)
  • Donnie Duncan: Iowa State (1979–1982)
  • Gary Gibbs: Oklahoma (1989–1994)
  • Galen Hall: Florida (1984–1989)
  • Larry Lacewell: Arkansas State (1979–1989)
  • Brad Lambert: Charlotte (2011–2018)
  • Wendell Mosley: Texas Southern (1976–1978)
  • Jerry Pettibone: Northern Illinois (1985–1990), Oregon State (1991–1996)
  • Charlie Sadler: Northern Illinois (1991–1995)
  • Mike Shanahan: Los Angeles Raiders (1988–1989), Denver Broncos (1995–2008), Washington Redskins (2010–2013)
  • Mike Zimmer: Minnesota Vikings (2014–2021)
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