If any coach could afford to take Bedlam for granted, it was Barry Switzer. He went 15-1 against Oklahoma State from 1973-88.
Switzer did not take Bedlam for granted.
“My era, my players figured we were better than OSU,” he said this week. “So I would always tell them before we went on the field, ‘That team over there is more pissed off and ready to play than you guys are. You might not think much about this game, but I promise you they want to beat your ass. And the reason why is because in most cases those guys didn’t have an opportunity to make a choice. You guys did. You were offered both places. And a lot of those guys over there weren’t offered scholarships to Oklahoma.
“They want to beat your ass badly.”
Bedlam is going away after Saturday’s 118th edition. To understand how sorry that is is to reach out to this state’s most significant college football figure, listen to him reflect and realize that while those reflections will never disappear, the series responsible for them is about to.
“I’d think we would continue that series,” Switzer said, “but because money and television controls college football today, everything is based on what you can pay. The coaches move for money and now teams move for money, for television.
“I regret that we will not be able to have that type of competition in the future.”
The most lopsided football series are still competitions. To say otherwise about Bedlam is to deny OSU’s rights as competitors.
The Cowboys took their lumps during Switzer’s 70s heyday because his players were right. They were better than OSU’s. That did not mean the Cowboys didn’t fight like honey badgers.
Thirty-five years gone from his OU job, Switzer appreciates OSU’s mentality still.
“I think it would be a competition,” he said of a world where Bedlam plays on. “It’s changed a lot. I look at OSU even this year and last year and the year before, I saw the improvement of how good they are, how well they’ve played on defense, their players. Right now they have a better running back than we’ve got.”
Well, OU is moving to the SEC. Realignment taking a wrecking ball to tradition, all we’re left of Bedlam beyond Saturday is reminiscence.
Switzer remembers Jim Stanley giving him his lone Bedlam loss.
“Thomas Lott fumbled the ball on the 5-yard line. I think that was the difference in the game” Switzer said. “Of course they had Terry Miller.”
The Sooners had Billy Sims in ’78 Bedlam. They won 62-7.
“Jim Stanley got fired because of that, and I hated that. I really did,” Switzer said. “Jim was a quiet guy. He was humble, never put himself out there. I knew of Jim coming out of high school in Kentucky. He committed to Bear Bryant to play at Kentucky. Wound up with Bear at Texas A&M…
“There was nothing we could do about it. The players play, and we had great players that made great plays.”
The Cowboys had Barry Sanders in ’88 Bedlam. They lost 31-28 because Brent Parker dropped Mike Gundy’s pass in the zone… or maybe there was something else to it.
“Charles Thompson won that game with his ability to run and with his quickness,” Switzer said. “He jumps up the field on the option and scores in the fourth quarter. A drive we had to have, we took that drive over and scored to win it…
“The interesting thing about that game was that was one Gundy played in. It was Barry Sanders and they had a good team. I remember the halftime stats. Barry had about the same amount of yards as Mike Gaddis and Gaddis had it on half the carries. He was really ripping it off…
“I think Mike Gaddis is the most underrated back that ever played at Oklahoma.”
Sanders was no slouch. Switzer remains an admirer, although the Sanders who Switzer truly loved was Barry’s dad, Willie, since Willie loved the Sooners.
That leads to a story about the NFL but, really, one rooted in Bedlam.
“I was at Dallas in the coaches’ dressing room before a ’94 game at Texas Stadium,” Switzer began. “A security guard knocks on the door and says, ‘Coach, Willie Sanders wants to see you.’ I got up and walked outside and there was Willie. I said, ‘What the hell’s going on Willie?’
“‘The sombitches on the other side won’t give me a sideline pass.’
“I said, ‘Willie, it’s an away game for Detroit. We control the passes, they don’t. They just don’t have a pass for you. Here. Take mine.’
“I pulled my sideline pass off my belt and handed it to Willie. I said, ‘You have to stay on my sideline. If you don’t, they’ll throw your ass out of the game. You stay over on my sideline and stay back against the wall.’
“He said, ‘OK, I understand, Coach.’
“About middle of the third quarter, Barry Sanders had rushed for about 150 yards. One of our coaches or players came up to me and punched me on the arm and said, ‘Who is that guy running up and down the sidelines against the wall?’
“What it was, anytime Barry would make a long run, Willie would run with him against that damn wall. I turned around and saw it happen one time and I said, ‘Son of a bitch. I don’t know who he is. I’m in the middle of a game here.’
“Barry breaks off about a 40-yard run in the overtime. He rushes for 190 yards. He beats our ass. The only person who had more yards on that damn field that night was Willie Sanders down on our damn sideline.”
Pat Jones coached Sanders and OSU in ’88 Bedlam.
“I got along with Pat,” Switzer said. “He was an Arkansas boy.”
So was Jimmy Johnson, who coached Bedlam against Switzer before Jones.
“I got Jimmy hired here at Oklahoma before he coached at OSU,” Switzer said. “I coached Jimmy at Arkansas. Jimmy got his first job in Picayune, Mississippi. It was a high school job. They went 0-10. Didn’t win a (bleep)in’ game.
“Around then Larry Lacewell took the defensive coordinator’s job at Wichita State. Next thing I know Lacewell is calling me and asking me who I would recommend for defensive line coach. I recommended Jimmy Johnson.
“He said, ‘Who’s that?’
“‘I coached him at Arkansas.’
“‘That’s good enough. Tell him to come to Wichita State. He’s got a job in college football.’”
That was 1967. Twelve years later Johnson would go 0-5 against Switzer in Bedlam. Then Jones would go 0-5 against Switzer in Bedlam. Which isn’t the point so much as relationships fostered over a 118-games-old football series.
One hundred eighteen and no longer counting.
“I had never really thought about it until this year when someone said, ‘Well this is the last Bedlam game,’” Switzer said. “I said the thing I most regret about it is it’s two in-state schools and we’re a small state.”
Sort of makes the Sooners and Cowboys football neighbors, whether they like it or not. In closer proximity than the Longhorns, Huskers or anyone else.
You know, Coach, until this week I’ve never called to talk to you about OSU. Just Texas or Nebraska mostly. You ever disregard Bedlam because of everything that Texas and Nebraska meant all those years?
“No,” Switzer said. “We had to win it for the state championship.”
The conversation carried a bit further, Switzer cracking that NIL stood for “Now It’s Legal” instead of name, image and likeness, and wondering whether OU would recruit Texas just as effectively as an SEC program, and how strange Saturday is going to be for everyone in our small state.
“Yeah,” he said. “No Bedlam anymore.”