Archive for the ‘barry switzer’ Category

2009 Oklahoma Season Preview: Missing Sooner Magic

August 29, 2009

OK, so we’ve covered the 2009 edition of the Sooners from head to toe, and Homerism has given them a clean bill of health. Honestly, I can’t find a thing wrong with this team. So sign the papers, punch the ticket to Pasadena, right?

As much as Homerism wants to, for some reason I just can’t bring myself to certify the Sooners as a legitimate national championship contender. Why? I’m not entirely sure.

Maybe it has something to do with depth issues. Maybe it’s the lack of an offensive playmaker. Maybe it’s all the new faces on the o-line.

I suspect, though, that it’s Sooner Magic—or a lack thereof—that’s holding me back.

In the ‘90s, even OU fans like me who grew up watching Barry Switzer’s squads hang half-a-hundred on overmatched Big 8 opponents had forgotten what success felt like. After such a sustained run of excellence, watching the Sooners stumble their way through an entire decade of something somewhere in between futility and calamity was downright tragic.

When head coach Bob Stoops arrived on the scene in Norman in 1999, the fact he was able to get OU bowl eligible seemed miraculous; bringing home a national championship the next year actually was.

Stoops quickly earned a reputation as a brash riverboat gambler whose teams played loose and were just as willing as their coach to dare to be great. The Sooners took chances that always paid off.
Sooner Magic was back. OU football was fun again.
Of course, with all the excitement surrounding OU’s resurgence under Stoops, Oklahoma fans forgot the decidedly less fun part of success: expectations. Suddenly, after an era in which falling to teams like San Diego State and Northwestern had become all too commonplace, losses to some of the best teams in the country turned into disasters once again. Undefeated seasons and national championships were the new standards.
Gradually, that old Sooner Magic started to fade. OU kept on winning, but at some point it started to seem more like not losing. Were the Sooners playing tight? A 7-6 record in games decided by 10 points or less since 2006 is one way to answer that question.
As fans, we don’t really get to see all the behind-the-scenes moments—practices, sideline skull sessions, team meetings—that really tell us about the mood of a team. Occasionally players may pop off to the press, but for the most part, they’re as well-trained in coachspeak as coaches themselves. All we have to go on is what we see on game day. Watching the Sooners lately, it’s easy to wonder if they’re actually enjoying themselves.
And that starts at the top. From his demeanor on the sidelines to the exercise in antipathy known as a Bob Stoops press conference, OU’s head coach doesn’t look like he’s having any fun.

Stoops doesn’t get paid to make people laugh, and football teams need lofty goals if they want to succeed. But maintaining high standards while preventing expectations from weighing a team down is a key part of the job description for an elite college football coach. Pro athletes may be able to handle the psychology of the spotlight on their own, but 18-year-old kids take their cues from their coach.

Even though Florida beat OU in last season’s national championship game, those looked like two pretty evenly matched teams. The Gators pulled it out through sheer will and being that much more aggressive when it mattered. This season, Florida brings back plenty of firepower. Man for man, though, OU is equally strong. Yet, if the Sooners want to get back to the top of the college football mountain, they need to get the Magic back.
Here’s hoping Stoops brings back some of his old tricks.
Prediction: 13-1, Big 12 champs, Fiesta Bowl win

Setting the Record Straight (Part II)

July 3, 2009

Yesterday, Homerism thoroughly schooled ESPN Radio personality Colin Cowherd in the finer points of rigorous college football analysis. Today, we move on to Ted Hutton, who somehow managed to draw the plum Florida Atlantic football beat at the South Florida Sun-Sentinel.

Hutton caused a minor ruckus among Sooner fans recently with his take on the demise of Florida Atlantic coach Howard Schnellenberger in his one year as the Sooners’ head man. (By way of background for the uninitiated, world-class braggadocio Schnellenberger followed Gary Gibbs in Norman. He arrived on campus in 1994 boasting that movies would be written about what the Sooners would accomplish during his tenure, but left 12 months later on the heels of a 5-5-1 season.)

To hear Hutton tell it, “The Voice,” as he has nicknamed Schnellenberger, got bounced primarily because of a long-running feud with Barry Switzer. In Hutton’s version of events, an upstanding legend like Schnellenberger would never stoop to the depths that “The King” had during his chaotic reign at OU, and he wasn’t about to cowtow to the Sooner legend. But when he failed to kiss the ring and show proper reverence for Oklahoma royalty, The Voice forever offended Sooner Nation. Since then, along with gravity and–sometimes–evolution, Oklahoma schools have drilled into the state’s young the theory that Schnellenberger’s one year at OU forced the Sooners to wander the desert for years, as martyr John Blake bore the brunt of his predecessor’s cosmic misdeeds. Obviously, that was until Switzer annointee Bob Stoops fell to earth.

I guess that would be one way to look at it… assuming your view is coming from up the big fella’s ass.

First of all, let’s start by recognizing that I’ve never met an OU fan who didn’t share my opinion that Blake’s tenure was an unmitigated disaster. Following Schnellenberger up with Blake wasn’t just adding fuel to the fire, it was like adding an entire tanker truck. I don’t think I’m exaggerating when I say you couldn’t build a worse coach than Blake, even if you were using the dead body parts of Pat Jones, Rich Kotite and Jeff Bowden. Trust me, the nauseating effect that the name “John Blake” has on Sooner fans is bad enough to make them forget Schnellenberger even coached at OU.

Then, there’s this little gem from The Whisper’s ghostwriter: “Say what you will about The Voice, he has never run a program where there was even the hint of scandal. And that is why, when he got out to Oklahoma, he refused to bow down to ‘King’ Switzer.”

I guess the way Schnellenberger ran OU’s program doesn’t count? As Tulsa World columnist Dave Sittler pointed out in his blog today, The Whisper’s “water-is-for-whimps” routine during August practices in Oklahoma nearly killed one of his players, who later took Schnellenberger to court. Then, Schnellenberger flat-out lied when confronted about it. As for his own personal conduct, word in Norman at the time was that if a movie really was made about Schnellenberger’s stint at OU, the most appropriate title would be “Barfly II.” (Schnellenberger has denied allegations of drinking on the job while at OU.)

I’m not defending Switzer – I honestly could care less about what Hutton has to say in that respect. Hutton’s criticisms of The King are all completely fair. 

But Schnellenberger as the Tobias to Switzer’s Barnes? To quote Hutton, Whatever.