The greatest accessory a coach has ever worn on a sideline was donned thanks to an act of God.
"It was a deluge," former Oklahoma coach Barry Switzer said of the storm that passed over the Cotton Bowl as the Sooners faced Texas in 1984. "Just a torrential downpour." Since the game had begun, Switzer gave no thought to fashion. He simply wanted to insulate himself from the frog-strangling rain that pelted the AstroTurf and everyone on it.
"My manager came to me, and we put on our rain slickers," Switzer said. "And he handed me a hat. The game was already in progress. I had no idea what the hat said. He just handed me a hat. I never looked at the damn hat. I just threw the hat on top of my head."
The crimson hat was emblazoned with a cream oval. Inside the oval were two words: BEAT TEXAS.
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Nothing cooler has been worn on a sideline before or since. It was perhaps the most honest fashion statement in college football history. Similar headgear should be worn by the coaches in every rivalry game, but it'll never happen. Even for Switzer, a man who thinks nothing of tossing on a mink coat, the hat was a bit much. "It was very appropriate," Switzer said of the sentiment. "But at the same time, I would not have worn it had I known what it said on top of my head."
Photos courtesy of The Oklahoman
But why not? Why wouldn't a coach wear that elegantly simple yet brutally straightforward message atop his dome? I wish Bob Stoops would bring back the BEAT TEXAS hat. I wish Kirby Smart would have a BEAT FLORIDA visor made for his first World's Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party as Georgia's head coach. I wish Jim Harbaugh would trade his skinny block M every November for a lid that commands his players to BEAT THE BUCKEYES.
The coaches won't do this because they consider it an act of disrespect toward their opponents. But is it really? The hat said BEAT TEXAS, not TEXAS STINKS, HORNS DOWN or SAW 'EM OFF. What did Switzer want to do that day? He wanted to beat Texas. What will Smart want to do on Oct. 29? He'll want to beat Florida. What will Harbaugh want to do on Nov. 26? He'll want to beat Ohio State with an enthusiasm unknown to mankind.
It's not kosher to bash one's opponent with one's haberdashery. But there should be no edict in the written or unwritten rules of sportsmanship that forbids a simple declaration of a team's goal on a given day. On Saturday, Oregon will want to beat Washington. Washington will want beat Oregon. Will the republic fall if the respective coaches express those desires atop their heads? Of course not. As an added bonus, Nike would absolutely move some units after a three-and-a-half-hour commercial for the hats.
The NCAA makes so many silly rules. Why not add one more (incredibly) silly rule that requires coaches in rivalry games to admit somewhere on their clothing what they desire most? That way, before Bob Stoops could take the field at the Cotton Bowl to play for a solid gold cowboy hat, he'd have to toss on a Snapback that declares his intentions to the world.