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Barry Switzer (1937–)

Barry Switzer is a native Arkansan who became one of the most successful football coaches of all time. He is one of only two men to win both a collegiate national championship and the Super Bowl.

Barry Switzer was born in Crossett (Ashley County) on October 5, 1937, the son of Frank M. and Mary Louise (Wood) Switzer. Frank Switzer was a bootlegger and money-lender who spent time in prison. Both of the elder Switzers died under tragic circumstances.

Switzer graduated from Crossett High School in 1955 and won a football scholarship to the University of Arkansas (UA) in Fayetteville (Washington County), where he graduated in 1960 with a degree in business. After a brief stint in the army, he returned to UA in 1961 as an assistant under head coach Frank Broyles. In addition to his coaching duties, Switzer was assigned the state of Texas for recruiting purposes.

In 1963, Switzer married Kay McCollum of Stuttgart (Arkansas County). The couple had two sons and a daughter; they were divorced in 1981. In 2000, he married Becky Buwick.

In 1966, Jim MacKenzie, another assistant at UA, became the head coach at the University of Oklahoma (OU) and recruited Switzer for his coaching staff. Following MacKenzie’s death in 1967, Switzer remained as an assistant under new head coach Chuck Fairbanks. When Fairbanks departed OU to become head coach of the New England Patriots in 1973, Switzer was made head coach. He was thirty-five years old.

In 1974, Switzer led the team to an 11–0 record and the first of three national championships for OU; the other two were in 1975 and 1985.When he resigned in 1989 after Oklahoma was placed on three-year probation by the NCAA, his career record as a head coach was 157–29–4, (an .837 winning percentage), the fourth best of all time. His teams won or shared the title of the Big Eight Conference every year between 1973 and 1980 and won eight of thirteen bowl contests. During his sixteen years as OU head coach, Switzer coached fifty-four All-Americans, of which twenty-eight were consensus selections. These included two winners of the Heisman Trophy: Steve Owens (1969) and Billy Sims (1978).

Switzer returned to coaching in 1994, when Jerry Jones, owner of the Dallas Cowboys of the National Football League (NFL), persuaded him to become head coach of the Texas team. During Switzer’s first season as coach, the Cowboys had a record of 13–5. In 1996, Switzer led the Cowboys to a victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers in Super Bowl XXX. He resigned as coach of the Cowboys in 1998, having posted a career NFL coaching record of 45–26.

Football News named Switzer Coach of the Year in 1980. That same year, he was inducted into the Arkansas Sports Hall of Fame. In 1999, he became a member of the Oklahoma Heritage Hall of Fame, and in 2001, he was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame. He received the Jim Thorpe Association Lifetime Achievement Award in 2004. In January 2008, he became a studio analyst for Fox Sports. Switzer continues to live in Norman, Oklahoma, where he owns a number of small businesses.

For additional information:
“Barry Switzer.” Pro-Football-Reference.com. http://www.pro-football-reference.com/coaches/SwitBa0.htm (accessed June 18, 2014).

Switzer, Barry, with Bud Shrake. Bootlegger’s Boy. New York: William Morrow and Company, 1990.

Bill Norman

Little Rock, Arkansas

Last Updated 6/18/2014

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