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The Encyclopedia of Oklahoma History and Culture

Barry Switzer
(2012.201.B1225.0431, photo by S. Sisney, Oklahoma Publishing Company Photography Collection, OHS).


Head football coach at the University of Oklahoma from 1973 to 1989 and son of Frank May Switzer and Louise Switzer, Barry Switzer was born in Crossett, Arkansas, on October 5, 1937. His twenty-year marriage to Kay McCollum Switzer produced three children, Greg, Kathy, and Doug.

Switzer started playing football in the sixth grade in El Dorado, Arkansas. There he first met Larry Lacewell, who would later become his assistant head football coach at the University of Oklahoma. In high school in Crossett Switzer played football and competed in free-style swimming, putting the shot, and throwing the discus. Louisiana State University recruited him, but he accepted a football scholarship from the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville in the fall of 1955. A 185-pound, six-foot-one-inch linebacker for the Razorbacks, he served as tri-captain on the 1959 team, which tied for the Southwest Conference championship and defeated Georgia Tech in the Gator Bowl. He graduated in 1959.

That year, Switzer helped coach the Razorback's freshman team. Then Coach Frank Broyles hired him as an assistant coach, a position he held from 1960 until 1965, with the exception of one year in the U.S. Army in 1960. The University of Arkansas won the national football championship in 1964. Another assistant at Arkansas was Jim McKenzie, and when McKenzie accepted the head coaching job at the University of Oklahoma in 1965, Switzer joined his staff. When McKenzie died suddenly in 1967, Chuck Fairbanks replaced him. With Switzer as offensive coach, Fairbanks inserted the "wishbone" offense in 1970, and by 1971 Oklahoma was statistically the best team in college football. When Fairbanks left for the National Football League, Switzer replaced him on January 29, 1973.

During his first three years as head coach Switzer lost only one game and won three Big Eight championships and two national championships. He was named Coach of the Year in 1973. Under his leadership the Sooners won the national championship in 1974, 1975, and 1985 and were also selected as the national champions by the Hehns Foundation in 1973, 1978, and 1986, and by the Dunkel Football Rating System in 1973, 1978, and 1980. In his sixteen years as head coach the Oklahoma Sooners compiled a 157–29–4 record and won twelve Big Eight championships and three national championships. This gave him the highest winning percentage of an active football coach. Switzer-coached teams appeared in the Astro-Bluebonnet Bowl, Citrus Bowl, Fiesta Bowl, Gator Bowl, Orange Bowl, Sugar Bowl, and Sun Bowl.

Switzer's teams produced an amazing fifteen consensus All-Americans: Lucious Selmon and Rod Shoate in 1973; John Roush, Rod Shoate, and Joe Washington in 1974; Lee Roy Selmon, Dewey Selmon, and Jimbo Elrod in 1975; Mike Vaughan in 1976; Zac Henderson in 1977; Billy Sims and Greg Roberts in 1978; Billy Sims and George Cumby in 1979; Louis Oubre in 1980; Terry Crouch in 1981; Rick Bryan in 1982 and 1983; Tony Casillas in 1984; Tony Casillas and Brian Bosworth in 1985; Brian Bosworth and Keith Jackson in 1986; Keith Jackson, Mark Hutson, Dante Jones, and Ricky Dixon in 1987; and Anthony Phillips in 1988. That is the largest number of All-Americans ever to be coached by one man. Switzer is the only coach to ever win a national championship, and his players won the Heisman Trophy, Lombardi Award, Outland Trophy, Butkus Award, and Thorpe Award. He resigned as Oklahoma's coach on June 19, 1989.

In 1994 Jerry Jones, who had played for Switzer on the 1964 Arkansas team, hired him to coach the Dallas Cowboys of the National Football League. They won Super Bowl XXX in 1996. Switzer ended his career as the Cowboys' coach in 1997 and entered private business in the Oklahoma City metropolitan area.

Kenny A. Franks


Gini Moore Campbell, "1999 Oklahoma Hall of Fame," Oklahoma! 4 (Fall/Winter 1999–2000).

"Barry Switzer," Oklahoma Heritage Association Newsletter 28 (August, 1999).

Barry Switzer and Bud Shrake, Bootlegger's Boy (New York: William Morrow and Company, Inc., 1990).


The following (as per The Chicago Manual of Style, 17th edition) is the preferred citation for articles:
Kenny A. Franks, “Switzer, Barry Layne,” The Encyclopedia of Oklahoma History and Culture, https://www.okhistory.org/publications/enc/entry?entry=SW006.

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