The ESPN.com Interview: Switzer and Stoops

ESPN.COM: Bob, take us back to 1979. You're playing as a defensive back with Iowa against Oklahoma here in Norman. Did you ever envision you'd be a big time coach here at OU?

Stoops: No, it's amazing. I think back and it's ironic. I think it was our second game, I was a redshirt freshman. It's here in Norman. Billy Sims, David Overstreet are in the backfield. Quarterback was J.C. Watts. You know, you think back on that and you just remember ... When I grew up, and I've said this a lot, but I was a long time Oklahoma fan. I always followed them all the way while growing up in Ohio. I was excited to come here, this was my redshirt freshman year of my college career, I get to play in Norman, Oklahoma, and play against these great players. And then to now be the head coach and look back, it's kind of surreal.

ESPN.COM: What do you remember about that game, Barry?

Switzer: I don't remember he played in it. (laughs) I remember it being a very tight game (Oklahoma won 21-6). Bob was in the secondary, but I don't remember him. I read after Bob was hired here as the head coach, he played at Iowa, and we played them, but I didn't know what year it was, I knew (Iowa coach) Hayden Fry well because I had coached with Hayden at Arkansas in the early 1960s. So I read with interest that (Bob) played that day. I knew it was a tough game, we had formed the I formation around Billy (Sims) that year because he had won the Heisman the year before, and we got away from the option a little bit, the wishbone. But it was a tight game, and a well-coached football team we played that day.

ESPN.COM: Take us back to how you brought Coach Switzer in and embraced what he had done for this program.

Stoops: I remember seeing a picture, I still have it, and it's of Coach looking over my shoulder (during the news conference announcing Stoops' hiring). I love the picture because I have so much respect for Coach, what he accomplished. It's a great tool for this program, what it should be, what we should be about, and that's championships.

I remember embracing our championship tradition, telling our players that this is what we should expect to be; this is what Oklahoma is supposed to be. And we're going to do all we can to be that. And if we don't, there will be no excuses. You either do or you don't. And fortunately we've come along and come back that way.

Switzer: I remember that (day) very vividly. In fact I came over to see Bob for the first time, and uh, was as impressed with his wife as I was with him because Carol's a beautiful lady and everybody was pointing that out (laughs) I was standing down there in the crowd and all of a sudden I look down and Bob motions for me to come up to the podium. Well, I'm embarrassed to do this because this is Bob's day; he's on campus in front of the school administration building. So I walk up there and stand behind him, and I'm kind of looking around not paying much attention, and Bob does a great job of accepting the position, looking forward to being part of this great tradition here. It's great ...

Now I've seen that picture that was taken of us. And it looks like I'm an old man, I'll tell you what. I had a grimace on my face, it's a terrible picture of me. But that was a beautiful day, and I felt good about that day, and Bob has proved since that he was the right man at the right time for the University of Oklahoma.

We struggled in the '90s, but ever since Bob got here, he's made those who built this tradition at the University of Oklahoma, and there've been many of them, feel welcome in their own home, and that's usually how I express that. Because there was a point in time for a period of time here that we didn't feel comfortable. And now we do. He embraced us, we're proud of what he's accomplished and what he's added. He's added his own tradition that he has under his tenure here, and through time it's going to do nothing but grow, because without a doubt, Bob Stoops has done the best job of coaching anywhere in college football these past five, six years.

ESPN.COM: What do you think was the real key for you in recruiting, and what was your transition from being an assistant to being a head coach as a recruiter?

Switzer: I always thought that going to the parents, to a student-athlete's home, the first thing you had to do was make them feel comfortable in their own home. And they're always going to make you out to be more than what you are, they've read about you, they've seen you on television, they make you out to be more, really, than what you are.

I've always felt like I never could elevate them, so I had to be able to let them know I'm no more than they are. Home folk like that I can be someone they can relate to, when I walk out the door that evening, they think, 'Hey, he's a lot like us.' And I think that's knowing the situation, knowing who you're dealing with. I've known coaches who always walk into a home with a suit and tie on and a briefcase, and they talk about academics, this, that, ... All those things are important, but what you do is you have to sell yourself, and you have to be yourself, and the only way you can do that is be honest with yourself first, and you go in and be honest with them, and I think that carries a lot of weight in that decision.

Stoops: I would agree totally with Coach. The rules and restrictions are different now. I'm only allowed to be in a home one time, but in the end, it's demonstrating that honesty and sincerity, and while we view what we can do for your son, and what your position and how what your opportunities will be here, and being sincere about it. And in the end, it's being comfortable. Like Coach said, we are no different than you. I always enjoyed getting to know the families and spending time with them. As a head coach, it's busier because as an assistant coach, maybe you recruit eight guys, 10 guys. Well, I've got nine assistants recruiting nine guys, so it adds up. And they all end up being my guys, so whether it's phone calls or visits, you're awfully busy as a head coach trying to get to everybody.

ESPN.COM: Let's delve back into the state of Texas and talk about two great players that both of you guys got out of there. Adrian Peterson, the recruitment of him, and Billy Sims, how Coach Switzer got him out of Hooks, Texas.

Switzer: Well, first of all, the rules. Like Bob said, the rules have changed tremendously. There was a time I had four coaches recruiting full time. They never came to the campus. They weren't on my campus, they weren't at practice, they were on the road as national recruiters. We had 15 coaches, so I had enough coaches to coach. And that was at a point in time where your budget told you what you could do and how many coaches you could hire. Then NCAA legislation came along and they eliminated the number of coaches, the number of recruiters. Well, at the point in time I was recruiting Billy, there was no restriction on the number of coaches or visits. I was able to go see Billy as many times as I wanted. I could see him myself and after every home game, I'd have a plane ready and I'd fly to where Billy was playing. Obviously I had a good relationship early on with Billy. I got to know him and, well, communicated very well with him. It was a tremendous advantage, especially when you go out of state.

When you have to import players into another state, it was, well, that was necessary. Today as Oklahoma, playing in this league, playing in the south division of the Big 12, which is basically the old Southwest Conference, you play down there, you have that exposure on television and in the papers and all. It's not as important as it was to me to have access to players in Texas as I did years ago.

Stoops: Recruiting Adrian was really a lot of fun in that Adrian was always very open, up front and honest with us. You know he wasn't after any extra media attention, didn't want to grandstand although he could have. I mean, he really made his decision quite early and stood by it. And, you know, he comes from a strong family, has strong influences with his father, and his mother and step-dad, so he had great guidance and strength. And that's how he has played here. He just wants to be a great team guy. He's a tremendous player, the rest of the players really respect his toughness and his work ethic, as we do as coaches.

ESPN.COM: Barry, tell us about the time when you were recruiting Tim Worley and he was getting on a school bus to work and you rode around with him.

Switzer: He was a bus driver, so I had to go with him. If I wanted to talk to him, I decided I had better get on that bus and go with him. I told him I'd drive, he could sit. It was in Lumberton, North Carolina. Great player. You know, I told Vince Dooley at Georgia about him. Vince Dooley didn't know how good he was, and Vince backed into him. The kid wanted to come to Oklahoma, and the parents wanted him to go to ...

ESPN.COM: Clemson.

Switzer: Yeah, Clemson. They wanted him to go to Clemson, so at the last second he says, 'Well, you won't let me go where I want to go, I'm not going to go where you want me to go. I'm going to Georgia.' And, I saw Vince after that, and Vince said, 'I haven't seen any tape of the guy.' I said, 'Vince, he is a great back. Trust me. I'm not going to be in North Carolina trying to get a player unless he can play.'

Stoops: We could fill up a whole hour's television show talking about coach's recruiting stories, I love them, they're the best. Freddy Nixon, the wide receiver down in Miami -- his son Laenar Nixon's a player for us -- tells a story about when he's pumping gas (in the mid-1970s) and Coach Switzer went and hung out with him the whole afternoon and pumped gas.

Switzer: I cleaned windshields while he pumped gas. That's back when you got full service when you went into a full service station.

ESPN.COM: Barry, you won three National Championships before the Bowl Championship Series. What's your take on the BCS?

Switzer: Well, I said thank goodness for the BCS this year because if you didn't have it and you're playing for the mythical National Championship as it was in my day, you'd be playing Southern Cal in the Rose Bowl against the Big 10. (Oklahoma) would be playing in the Orange Bowl against whoever they get, and Auburn's in the Sugar Bowl against whoever they can get, and no one would have a chance at being the true No. 1. At least one of us had a chance to play at team that was going to be number one if someone didn't get to play one of the two. So, thank goodness for the BCS this year. It's what we got to play with, it's designed that way, and until something comes along better, it's going to be what we have to deal with.

ESPN.COM: Bob, from your standpoint, three out of the past six years now you've been in the championship game. So obviously the system's working for Oklahoma.

Stoops: The players have worked hard for that. And it isn't so much that the system's been good to us, but winning all your games also helps. I say that really in a humble way. It isn't just the system, it's the work of the players and what they're doing. In the end, I always caution everyone. Number one, this is better than what we used to have. Like Coach Switzer said, we get to play USC. The way it would have been before is we'd be in three different bowl games. So, this is better than that, which is all the BCS was designed to do. It was put together to bring the two best teams to the table.
Now, on different occasions, if there's an odd number of teams available for an even number of spots, there's going to always be that discussion. Whether it's everybody with one loss or everybody with no losses. It's still better than what we had. I always say be careful what you wish for and I know maybe people are tired of hearing it.

I used to be a strong playoff guy, a proponent. I really believed that when I first came here. But, after watching basketball where people have very little interest in the regular season, and everybody just waits for the tournament to get excited about college basketball, you don't want that to happen to football with only 12 or 13 games.
Every game really the last half of the season is a playoff. That's why there are people from coast to coast watching each league, watching each team, because virtually we are in a playoff. We're not playing each other, it means so much, and if that doesn't mean as much , there's not quite as much interest and we have got to be careful of that.
So, in the end, it sounds like (a playoff) would be a great. But I'm very sensitive to a player's time, having a playoff and using their time, all the media attention, the requirements and so on … It's very difficult for players to try and take finals. And, you know, players for a lot of reasons love to go home for their Christmas break, or after the bowl game, when they get a week at home. You take all that away (for a playoff) and I'm not so sure they'd be all that happy.

ESPN.COM: How about the BCS vote now? A lot of people have been talking about the coaches making their votes public. What's your take on that?

Stoops: Well I came out a year ago and said that. I also said I want to take the top 15 of us, who all have something to lose or gain, and throw our votes out. But none of that has happened, and now I think that everyone complained a year ago the computers had so much say. Well, I think in the end we found out that computer has no bias, and it has no agenda, and that may have been the best we ever had it. Now we're into all these debates and I agree with the coaches. We have enough to deal with. Rather than deal with email and phone calls from all over the country, why'd you vote so and so, there's no way to do our jobs. It would never work. So in the end I think is what we did was give it too much weight, because you know coaches … We're all in a situation where it's hard not to be biased.

ESPN.COM: Let's talk about being the head coach at Oklahoma and the public status you have here in the state. The fact that to so many people, you're so recognizable … There's really a lot of demands on your time and you're the people's coach when you're at OU, aren't you?

Switzer: Well, I don't know about that. I coached here long ago and we were able to accomplish a lot while we were here, and Bob's on the same track to do the same thing. We're very fortunate because he's surrounded by good people and those are good people that execute what he's teaching. I had the same thing. We're a small state. We're not a state that's divided with tension or entertainment ,as you have on the west coast with personalities in Hollywood and so many different schools.

There's the University of Oklahoma, then there's Oklahoma State, and while I'm not saying they don't have a great program or a great academic tradition, we have the football tradition. We are the school that has the great tradition of college football. The best since World War II; no team has won as many games as we have and won as many National Championships as we have since World War II, which is the era we call modern football. That's something to be very proud of and Bob's certainly added to it. Bud Wilkinson started it, I tried to help it along the way, and I think what we accomplished has helped (bob) do his job. I think it's kind of neat.

Stoops: When we arrived here in '99, you know, one of the few real positives to really latch onto was our great tradition and history. This is what we're supposed to be and our players took pride in that right away. We said 'Look we're going to do all we can to do this.' As Coach said, there's a lot of people involved in this not just us two during our times and not just me; great assistant coaches, a strong administration that really supports us, a great fan base.

I feel fortunate to be at the front of it, sure, but it's exciting and the people of Oklahoma do embrace us, and we appreciate that. Sometimes it can be a little bit overwhelming, but that's good, you know, that's better than the other.

ESPN.COM: Barry, you won a Super Bowl as coach of the Dallas Cowboys and three national championships as the coach of Oklahoma. Tell us how you felt the night before the Super Bowl and how you felt the night before the national championship game, then afterwards. Did it feel the same?

Switzer: First of all, the Super Bowl, well, there's no larger stage in sports than the Super Bowl. I'm talking about basketball, soccer, football, any sport you think of, the World Series … There's no bigger stage than the Super Bowl. You know what kind of production that is? It's great to have been a part of that, but the college game was my game, my persona, my personality, my love, my compassion for the game.
Pro football and college football, people ask me what's the difference in the two all the time. And, there's a great difference, because high school coaches and college coaches are more similar in their mission and goal as coaches than are professional coaches. Professional football is nothing about winning, it's about getting to the Super Bowl. You have 16 games to hopefully make the playoffs and get to the Super Bowl, which is what it's all about. It's a billion dollar business, it's all about making money and winning.

College football coaches, high school coaches have the golden mission of developing young men for the next step in the next 30, 40, 50, 60 years of living; that's 365, 24/7 for four or five years. Pro football you got 53 guys, if they don't do the job, they're on the waiver wire this afternoon; you don't know their mommas, their daddies, their siblings. You haven't been to their home, you don't know their goals and ambitions, you don't know anything about them, and you don't need to, other than what they run the 40 and how they play on the football field.

ESPN.COM: A lot of NFL teams have been talking to you, Bob. Every year you keep hearing these things, the first name that comes up is yours because you have been so successful.

Stoops: I hope to be here a long time, but in this business it's fair to say you don't say never and always, because you know there's a certain period of time sometimes where even with a lot of success that it's time to move on. But I hope to be here a long time and I believe I've demonstrated that. You can't help what other people want to pursue, and what their feelings may be, but in the end I do love it here. My wife loves it here, always has, and I feel fortunate to be here. And I do, as Coach said, I recognize some of the differences between the NFL and college football. And I really value it at this point in my life, and the age of my children and the area we're living in, and family structure and working with the young men at the this age ... You know, all of that together, I really value it and I really enjoy it and love it right now. So, sure I recognize the differences and, at this point in my career, I love what I'm doing too much and do hope to be here a long time.

ESPN.COM: Talk about the staff that you've assembled here. You've lost a couple of guys to head coaching jobs now, just like Barry did when he was the head coach here. Talk about your staff alignment and how critical it is to have great coaches on your staff.

Stoops: It's essential. You know, if I've done anything right, it has been hiring the right people. It's hiring strong assistant coaches to be here with me, and to have us to work together. I look at it that I work with them. I'm not much of a dictator. I like the flow that we have. We're all in this together. There are a lot of things you take off of them, take what I'm thinking in my approach, and you take their suggestions to heart. And so to have great assistants with you makes a world of difference. We're a product of that, and I say it all the time, these guys do a great job for us here.

Switzer: You hire a guy, you give him a job to do, and you let him do the job. You don't stand over his shoulder and tell him how you want them to do it. We sit in the staff room and we all have constructive criticism, we all have input, but in the end the coaches are hired to coach and you're allowed to go on the field and do that. I think everyone coached in an atmosphere here that's comfortable and everybody was sure of themselves. We had confidence in each other and therefore, the product we put on the field every Saturday was a compliment of the job our assistant coaches did and the results were great.

Stoops: We still see a great number of assistant coaches that were here come around, come out and look at practice, come by to see us. And my assistants, well, we all have a great relationship with a great number of assistant coaches that were here, that have worked with Coach Switzer, and they know as well that this is their place every bit as much as it is anybody else's.

ESPN.COM: Bob, this is the first year you were the head coach without your brother, Mike, being around. He got his own head job at the University of Arizona. How much were you able to keep up with what the Wildcats were doing?

Stoops: Well, Mike and I talk of course. He has my brother Mark there as his defensive coordinator, and we all talk several times a week about a variety of issues. Pulling for him is really hard for me. It's hard to watch the games. I can't watch them, and when I do, it drives me crazy. It's worse than playing our own games. When I've already been through it with our game, I'm already worn out and wrung out from that, I can't go home and watch his. It'd be twice as bad, so uh, I rarely watch him, though I keep up with the scores.

It will be different this year not having him here, but in the end I'm happy for him. He's got a great situation that he loves and believes he has what it takes to have a strong, strong program there. And, they're excited about continuing to build it.

ESPN.COM: Barry, you ran the ball extremely well, and threw it sometimes. What did you think when Bob came in here and said he was going to have a wide open passing game here in the Big 12? Did you think it would work?

Switzer: Well, first of all, I enjoyed it. It's exciting. Watching us play was kind of boring, you know, but I knew it would win for us. It was our philosophy and what we believed in. But, it was an interesting going up to Kansas State the year Bob won the National Championship in 2000. I think we had --13 yards rushing that day, or something like that, but yet we won, we dominated. And Kansas State had a very good football team, but what we did, we around 400 yards passing. But, we won the football game with negative yardage rushing, and I was so impressed and surprised. You play great defense and you win with what you do on offense, you believe in it, there's no magic playbooks.

Stoops: I kind of equated it to, when we came in, I said it's not different than what Coach had done, he threw the ball backwards, we're throwing it forward. Basically what he did was spread the field and use, well, you didn't know which back or who he was going to us. He'd spread the ball around to a lot of athletes. And, basically what we were doing early, we weren't physically strong enough to beat anyone up, but we were pitching the ball around to a lot of athletes and letting them do something with it. And in our passing attack at that time, which was a lot shorter than it is now, it was the same idea of giving them the ball in space and letting them do something with it.

ESPN.COM: Let's talk a little bit about the rivalry games, coach, going back over your 20 years here at OU, 17 years as head coach. What about the OU-Nebraska rivalry? You won, what, 12 of your ...

Switzer (quickly): 12 and 5.

ESPN.COM: 12 and 5. That was your game each year, wasn't it?

Switzer: Well, in that era, Texas was a great football team, Darrell Royal and Freddie Akers following him, and they had good teams. That was the days of the Southwest Conference and the Big 8. We thought if we could win the Texas game, we're good enough to beat Texas, and handle the rest of our schedule and beat Nebraska, we're going to be in the Orange Bowl because we had the contract with the Orange Bowl. It was the last game of the season on national television, played on NBC after the Rose Bowl was on ABC. We often thought it would be for the National Championship. And that was the case many many times, which led us to our rivalry with Nebraska.

People talk about the proximity of the Red River, the players, and the fact Texas is the big game for the fans, and it really is, it's a huge game for us. But the most important game for us, in that era, because you had the Big 8 and the Southwest Conference, was to beat Nebraska and win the Big 8 conference championship and go as a representative to the Orange Bowl. And, if we were good enough to win out our schedule, the Orange Bowl always provided the highest-ranked team available for us, so we had a chance at the mythical National Championship every year.

So the Nebraska game was very important. Tom (Osborne) was a great coach, had a great run at Nebraska. No coach dominated college football like he did during his period of 25 years. I mean his record is fabulous. He was able to acquire excellent talent at Nebraska, but we were very fortunate to win a lot of games against them. We won six of them late, coming from behind in the fourth quarter to win the ball game. We were fortunate, even though we had great teams ourselves.

ESPN.COM: Bob, you've coached on both sides of the field having been an assistant coach at Florida for the Georgia-Florida game at a neutral site, now the Texas/ OU game on a neutral site. Obviously being the head coach is a little different, but the games are kind of similar aren't they? Fans around the country compare them, the media weighs in, fans of both teams say their game is the best ...

Stoops: There are a lot of similarities. For OU-Texas, in the Cotton Bowl, we split (attendance) north and south. I believe in the Florida-Georgia game, it's split east and west. They are both huge games.

What I really enjoy, though, is was pulling the bus into the Texas State Fair and there are roughly, I don't know, 200- to 300,000 people at the state fair, and the Cotton Bowl sits right in the middle of it. You weave your bus through all these fans yelling at you, some not the most pleasant of comments, but in the end, you know you weave your way through and it's so exciting to be there, a great atmosphere, a great environment. Now being in the south division of the Big 12, the game is just so important. I know in our six years here, it's been one of us that's been in the Big 12 championship representing the south; us four times and Texas two. Fortunately, we have three Big 12 Championships from it. So it means a lot, not only in the national picture, but for us, first and foremost in the south division, having a chance to compete for a Big 12 championship.

ESPN.COM: And winning it the past five matchups with Texas doesn't hurt your recruiting does it?

Stoops: No, we're fortunate, having won the last five straight, and recruiting ... It does make a difference but I think more than just that game, people think just that game sways, may sway a recruit and what his, and what his opinion is, I think more than that is what we've done besides that game or outside of that game and afterwards, winning Big 12 championships, being in three of the last five national championship games. Our seniors are leaving here, our fifth year seniors, having been in four BCS games -- the Orange, Sugar, Rose, and Orange again, in the last five years. So to me that matters a whole lot more than just beating Texas.

Switzer: Players wanna go where good things happen. Good things happen at the University of Oklahoma. Always have and always will.

ESPN.COM: Analyze Coach Switzer's career here.

Stoops: I don't know that you can quantify what it's meant. I have tremendous respect for it. I always say Coach is very humble and always tries to say, 'Oh we had great players' and all he did was recruit. You don't win that many games and that many championships without being a great coach. To win, uh, you know, what, 12 Big Eight Championships, to win three national championships, that doesn't happen to everybody. Coach and his staff did an incredible job and we'd love here in our program today to try and live up to it.

Switzer: We were just lucky for sixteen years, consistently lucky.

Stoops: You know, to me, what I always say, to me the biggest thing outside of the three national championships, all the big wins, to me what may be most impressive is the 12-5 record against Nebraska. Nebraska at the time was, well, was in the top five, in the top 10 in the country every single year. To beat them 12 of 17 years is really amazing.

Switzer: (smiling) They were undefeated several times.

ESPN.COM: How about the game itself, this year's BCS title game in Miami? Barry, how do you see OU-USC and how to do you break it down?

Switzer: Well, it's first, it's best two teams in college football the last couple years and they've been on a collision course ever since I've been watchin' 'em. I'm glad to see it happen and that's why I say thank goodness for the BCS this year because we get that chance. I don't know much about USC -- I saw 'em play one time, I know they have got good athletes. They've got speed, they recruit well, (Pete Carroll and his staff) can coach ...

It'll be a good game. I think it will be a very close, tight ball game, but Oklahoma I believe will win the thing. Bob's gotta hold his (opinion) close to the vest, but I know he believes it, too -- and his players believe it. SC's players believe it and coaches believe it, but that's what makes the game great. Two great football teams, the best in college football ... It's gonna be the best game -- best ballgame, best matchup that I can remember in many, many, many moons.


Stoops: I obviously see it as a great matchup, too. I think we're so similar in so many ways, you know, everyone has talked much about the quarterbacks and the running backs: Reggie Bush, Adrian Peterson; Matt Leinart, Jason White ... But on top of that, if you watch us offensively, we both have the balance, the ability to run and the pass. We both have big play receivers. You look defensively, our structures are very similar in how we play. I know their program and Pete Carroll, and what he stands for, and what we do here. They take great pride in defense and that's where it all starts.

So, there are a lot of great similarities, great matchups, guys on both sides of the ball for each team. So as a coach, I'm really excited about it. Not just 'cause I know it's the national championship and we're in it, I love the match-up, the excitement of it and the challenge of it. We're excited for the competition of it.