Feb. 27, 1989
Feb. 27, 1989

Table of Contents
Feb. 27, 1989

Special Report
The Suns
Pat Burns


Oklahoma has paid the price for the anything-goes attitude that coach Barry Switzer has allowed to take root

On the afternoonof Feb. 10, Oklahoma quarterback Charles Thompson hobbled out of the Sooners'football office and headed toward his car, which was double-parked across fromBud Wilkinson House, the athletic dormitory on Jenkins Avenue in Norman.Thompson was limping because he was wearing a cast on his lower right leg: Hefractured his tibia and fibula on the final play of the Nebraska game on Nov.19. He opened the door to his black Nissan 300-ZX, with the smoked windows, theKING CHARLES VI vanity plate and the dice hanging from the rearview mirror, andpaused to look at the swarm of reporters and photographers on the dorm lawnacross the street.

This is an article from the Feb. 27, 1989 issue Original Layout

Only a few hoursearlier three of Thompson's teammates, sophomore running back Glen Bell,sophomore offensive tackle Nigel Clay and junior tight end Bernard Hall, hadbeen arraigned for allegedly gang-raping a woman on Jan. 21 in the Wilkinsondorm. Eight days before that, Thompson's roommate, redshirt freshman cornerbackJerry Parks, had shot sophomore offensive lineman Zarak Peters in the chestafter a late-night argument in the dorm. Parks then allegedly aimed the pistolat Thompson, then pointed the weapon at his own head and pulled the trigger,but the gun misfired.

The shooting cameone month after the NCAA had placed the Oklahoma football team on three yearsprobation for "major violations," which included offering cash and carsto recruits and giving airline tickets to players. The NCAA Committee onInfractions stated that for "at least several years, the university hasfailed to exercise appropriate institutional control" over the footballprogram. One more violation in any sport in the next five years and the Soonersprogram will be temporarily shut down—the so-called death penalty. Now, outsideBud Wilkinson House, the press was waiting for any player who would comment onthe sordid mess.

Thompson slid intohis car and roared off, free of the reporters and, apparently, of any blame forthe Sooners' ills. At 5'10" and 175 pounds, Thompson is tough andwhippet-quick. He emerged as a team leader after replacing Jamelle Holieway onOct. 15 as the starting quarterback in Oklahoma's wildfire wishbone offense.Thompson seemed to have his priorities in order. Earlier that week he hadlectured children at a nearby grammar school about the evils of drug use."Regardless of what anyone has told you about drugs," he told theyoungsters, "they're the quickest way to end your life, the quickest way tobe in jail."

Three days laterthe FBI charged Thompson with having sold 17 grams of cocaine for $1,400 to anundercover agent on Jan. 26. The newspaper photographs of Thompson, theSooners' leading ground-gainer—he rushed for 824 yards and nine touchdowns on145 carries last fall—dressed in an orange prison suit with his hands cuffedtogether were nearly as shocking as U.S. attorney Bill Price's announcementthat, if convicted, Thompson could receive 20 years in prison and $1 million infines.

A football programthat was already in turmoil now seemed ready to sink into oblivion. Seniorrunning back Don Smitherman, who had steadfastly defended the team and itscoaches before Thompson's arrest, felt betrayed. "I'm not naive," saidSmitherman. "I don't think everyone is a lamb; I have a good feel forpeople. Some of the other guys who got into trouble, I could understand. ButCharles.... We bestowed trust in him because he had demonstrated himself to bea leader. This knocks my feet out from under me. I mean, who can you haveconfidence in?"

The answer is noone, at least among those charged with overseeing Oklahoma football. TheSooners' winning tradition on the field has been overshadowed by an uglyatmosphere of lawlessness. Even die-hard fans are beginning to realize that thetime has come for someone to be held accountable for the disgrace.

In a newsconference following Thompson's arrest, Oklahoma governor Henry Bellmon said hewas "thoroughly disgusted" with the football program. But because heappoints the board of regents, he must share blame for the circumstances thatdisgust him. The regents, who govern the university and who have repeatedlyignored glaring evidence of a program run amok, are culpable as well. So isSooner athletic director Donnie Duncan. However, the man who must bear the mostresponsibility is coach Barry Switzer. He brought these athletes to Norman, andhe's in almost daily contact with them throughout the school year.

Last week TheDaily Oklahoman in Oklahoma City and the Tulsa World urged Switzer to resign.The Oklahoman reprinted part of a column that had asked for Switzer'sresignation back in 1982: "The top man of any organization sets the moraltone for his associates.... Switzer has never set the best of examples in hispersonal life for the young men on the Sooner football team.... Perhaps, it'stime for him to move on."

Even formerSooners are beginning to turn against Switzer. On Monday, Jim Owens, cocaptainof the 1949 team, said that that squad would be canceling its 40th reunion inApril to express disgust and embarrassment over the recent events in Norman.Owens said he would not attend any reunions on campus "until a drasticchange in leadership takes place."

Switzer was anOklahoma assistant for seven years before being promoted 16 years ago. The calmand courtly Bud Wilkinson, who coached the Sooners from 1947 through '63, madeOklahoma a team of great expectations, and his success imposed a heavy burdenon those who followed him. "Bud Wilkinson created this monster,"Switzer has said. "I just have to keep feeding it. I like feeding it. It isexciting. It is a challenge. It is never monotonous." And, indeed, Switzer,who has put together a 157-29-4 record and won three national championships,has been the equal of Wilkinson, who had a 145-29-4 mark and won three nationalcrowns.

The Sooners are areflection of their coach's personality. The son of a bootlegger, Switzer wasraised dirt-poor in tiny Crossett, Ark., and he learned early, as he has said,that "there were different sets of laws" for different sets of people.He developed a seemingly carefree—some would say undisciplined—approach to lifeand admits that, when it comes to his team, he "runs a loose ship."

When it comes tohis own behavior, he has trouble battening down all the hatches. In 1984Switzer pleaded guilty to driving while impaired. The year before, theSecurities and Exchange Commission filed suit against him in an allegedinsider-trading case. An Oklahoma City federal court dismissed the suit forlack of evidence in 1984.

An importantelement in Switzer's success as a coach and recruiter is that he has alwaysgotten along well with blacks. "My black players look at me as honest andopen," he has said. "They're not suspicious of me. I'm theirfriend."

Indeed, he's afriend to all his players. But he's not a disciplinarian. "We don'tinhibit, muzzle or restrict our players," Switzer has said. "You can'tmanage kids that way. I don't want to be managed that way."

You reap what yousow, and the epitome of the be-ond-the-bounds college player arrived atOklahoma in the person of punk linebacker Brian Bosworth. The Boz wore abizarre hairdo and earrings. He spat on opponents and spouted whatever thoughtscame into his head. "Do hairdos bother you?" Switzer asked a writer whohad wondered why Switzer didn't discipline Bosworth. "They don't botherme."

But before the1987 Orange Bowl game, an NCAA-mandated drug test revealed that Bosworth hadbeen using anabolic steroids, and he was banned from the game. As he stood onthe Sooner sideline, Bosworth wore a T-shirt bearing a crude slur on the NCAA,and that bit of arrogance was apparently more than even Switzer could tolerate.He booted the Boz from the team in a rare—and certainly tardy—show offorce.

In September,Bosworth, who's now with the Seattle Seahawks, released his autobiography. TheBoz (written with SI's Rick Reilly). It describes wanton drug use,off-the-field violence, gunplay in the dorm and other manifestations of berserkbehavior by football players during his years as a Sooner. In Norman, Bosworthwas derided as a vengeful muckraker—from Texas, no less. The book, saiddefenders of the Sooners, was full of exaggerations, if not outright lies.Three months later the NCAA released its findings, which contained, in lesslively prose, some of the same things Bosworth had recounted. Then came 1989and the horrors.

On the night ofJan. 13, several players were lining up to get their hair cut in an upstairsroom of Bud Hall, as the Wilkinson dorm is known. The police and publishedreports gave the following account.

Parks, whoreportedly had been drinking, barged in and angrily confronted Peters about acassette tape that he claimed Peters had borrowed. Peters told Parks he didn'tknow what he was talking about. The two had gone to high school together inHouston, and Peters knew of Parks's volatile temper. But Peters was muchbigger—240 pounds to Parks's 176—and once the shouting turned to shoving, Parkswas on the floor.

In a rage, Parksbolted from the dorm and into the parking lot. He returned with a Harrington& Richardson eight-shot .22-caliber revolver. He threatened Peters with itand was taunted in return. "You're not going to do anything," saidPeters. "I dare you! Go on, shoot me! Shoot me!" Peters stepped forwardand pushed Parks yet again. Parks shot him. The bullet missed Peters's heart bythree inches. Parks fled to neighboring Jones Hall, where he was apprehended byuniversity police officers. "I'm the one who did it," police quotedParks as saying. "I had no choice."

Peters is back inschool; he's expected to recover fully and to play football in the fall, thoughhe'll carry the embedded slug from his friend's gun as a reminder of theincident. Parks, who faces a preliminary hearing in March on a charge ofshooting with intent to injure, is at home in Missouri City, Texas, and underthe impression that he might someday rejoin the Sooners. He's mistaken. Switzersays forcefully that Parks's football career at Oklahoma is over.

That Parks wouldhave been involved in such an incident is not surprising. "He was talented,but he had a violent temper," says Switzer. "He'd jump right in aperson's face. He was always volatile."

So why had Switzerrecruited him? "Everyone else wanted him," says Switzer. "He washighly recruited. He would've played for another school."

Police records saythat Alan Hagen, 18, of nearby Noble, Okla., was among those in the room at thetime of the shooting. Earlier that day Hagen had been released from theCleveland County Detention Center, where he had served 30 days for stealing aVCR and a television from his father, a chemistry professor at Oklahoma. Afterthe university police took Parks into custody, they took a witness statementfrom Hagen and dropped him at the local Salvation Army mission because heclaimed no permanent residence.

The police don'tknow why Hagen was in the dorm, though they have verified that he knew some ofthe players. "I don't know why he was in there, either," says juniortackle Mark VanKeirsbilck, who lived in the dorm until last December. "Buta guy like that just shouldn't have been in there."

The furor over theshooting had hardly subsided when worse news came from Bud Hall: A 20-year-oldOklahoma City woman alleged that on Jan. 21 five football players hadgang-raped her in Suite 302. The woman told police that she and a 17-year-oldgirlfriend had come to visit a player and that she was to be set up on a blinddate. The woman said that early in the evening she and Clay had made a liquorrun and then had drinks in the dorm with several of Clay's friends. The womantold police that she felt uneasy because some of the men were "makingpasses" at her while they were playing cards. She said she went to thebathroom, and when she came out, she found the dorm room darkened. Then,according to the university police incident report, "[The victim] wasgrabbed by an unknown suspect and forced into the adjoining bedroom. Thesuspect was unzipping her dress. [She] fought the suspect. The suspect threw[her] onto a bed then down onto the floor. [She] began screaming whereupon thesuspect placed his hands over her mouth."

The victim allegedthat the unnamed suspect "forcibly" removed her clothes, and that sixattempts to rape her were made by an undetermined number of men. Four times oneor another of them had intercourse with her. "She continually screamed forhelp and later learned the interior door had been blocked," the policereport said.

In executing asearch warrant in Suite 302 two days later, the university police found "amajority" of the items the woman said that they would find—an earring, twobottles of cologne, some hair, a bloodstained rug, as well as 35 rounds ofammunition. After a 2½-week investigation, the Cleveland County districtattorney charged Clay, Bell and Hall with first-degree rape.

Four of theirteammates gave statements to the DA and were listed as possible witnesses, andtwo of them have said that they subsequently were contacted by the defendants.Sophomore offensive guard Larry Medice told prosecutors that Clay had calledhim and said, "I know you went to the DA's office. Don't lie to me."Defensive back Jimmy Fennell, a freshman, said that Hall told him during aphone conversation, "My cousins from Detroit will come down and take careof you."

KTVY, an OklahomaCity TV station, aired an interview with the mother of the alleged victim."We want to fight because I feel this will happen again and again andagain," said the woman, who was shown only in silhouette. "[Mydaughter] thought she was safe because of who they were and where they wereat.... She knew they were OU players, and she thought she would be safe withthem."

According to oneformer resident of the athletic dorms, no woman is really safe in Bud Hall:"What happened was not an isolated kind of thing. The attitude is, We'reSooners. This is the way we party."

The formerresident, who knew some of the players involved, says the players' intimidatingmanner is an acquired trait: "As freshmen, they're all excited and a bunchof neat guys. As the year progresses, they change. It's real subtle. Theybecome more callous to discipline as they find they can get away with more. Theolder guys show them around, show them the attitude."

This was not thefirst time that Hall had been in trouble. On Nov. 11, 1987, the other Soonerplayers had voted to suspend him for then-undisclosed disciplinary reasons.Charges filed—and later dropped—with the university police alleged that he hadbeen stealing from his teammates. Switzer remembers that Hall swiped a warmupsuit, and several players claim that Hall took jewelry and some stereoequipment from them. Most of the Sooners assumed that Hall's separation fromthe team was permanent. He wouldn't be missed for the rest of the '87 seasonbecause Keith Jackson, a senior All-America, played tight end.

But by the startof practice in late August 1988, Jackson was gone to the pros and the twoplayers slotted to replace him, Billy Dykes and Duncan Parham, were sidelinedwith injuries. "The tight end position—it's been devastated," Switzertold The Oklahoma Daily on Aug. 26. "Our seniors came to me last week....They want to reinstate [Hall]. I told them they dismissed him; if they want himback, they can have him. Bernard Hall has to be activated for us to have achance to have a good player, a winning player at that position."

The Sooners votedto welcome Hall back. A few days later, they lost him again—this time when hewas ruled academically ineligible for the season. Until his arraignment on therape charge. Hall was considered a likely starter in 1989.

"Barry's beenknown as a coach who's really changed lives and made them productive by givingsecond chances," says Duncan, who was one of Switzer's assistants from 1973through '78. "Over the years, there have been plusses and some minuses.Obviously this one's a minus."

None of the threewho were charged with rape will get another chance from Switzer. "I've mademy decision," he says. "They won't play here again. And if they'refound guilty in the courts, I want them behind bars; I want them caged. I havea 19-year-old daughter, and if somebody harmed her, I'd kill thebastard."

Though theshooting and the alleged rape hit Switzer hard, nothing has pained him morethan Thompson's drug bust. "It destroyed me, it really destroyed me,"says Switzer. "I had a real good relationship with Charles. I had talked toCharles about him being drug-free, him doing the right thing, because he was aquarterback, in the public eye. Now, I worry about Charles going the other way,going into that culture, those associations."

After receiving atip during the weekend of Feb. 11-12, Switzer told Thompson on Monday that hewas under investigation. However, the FBI, which reportedly photographed itsalleged undercover transaction with Thompson, was hoping to break a much biggercase. It wasn't ready to arrest Thompson, but Switzer's warning forced thebureau's hand and brought an important operation to a premature end, althoughNorman police did arrest three other suspects, none of them Oklahoma athletes,in connection with the Thompson case.

Switzer says helearned of the investigation from "different sources" and calledThompson into his office. "He sat there, and I said, 'Charles, they've gotyou,' " says Switzer. "He was shattered. He told me the truth, thewhole thing. The first thing I asked, Ts there anyone else involved?' That'sthe first thing that races through my mind. He said, 'Coach, I acted alone.' Igot him on the phone, got him together with a lawyer. He went of his ownvolition and turned himself in."

The FBI brieflyconsidered taking legal action against whomever Switzer's snitch might havebeen, but dropped the idea because neither Switzer nor his informer appeared tobe trying to obstruct justice. Switzer isn't at all contrite. "I've beenaccused of ruining an investigation by doing this," he says. "If I'dlet it go on, after what's happened to me, how would that have looked? When itall came out, and people found out I had known, how would that have looked? Ifwe know this information, we have to protect ourselves."

What's more,Thompson spent part of last summer in a drug rehabilitation center, a fact thatthe university revealed after Thompson's arrest. And Thompson had had aprevious brush with the law only weeks before he was scheduled to begin classesat Oklahoma. In August 1986 Thompson pleaded guilty in Tulsa to a charge ofpetty larceny and no contest to an assault-and-battery charge for stealing apair of gloves and shoving a store clerk. He was ordered to perform communityservice and attend a counseling session for shoplifters.

Switzer and hisplayers aren't the only ones in the Sooners' program who appear to be out ofcontrol. Four days before Oklahoma faced Clemson in the Citrus Bowl on Jan. 2in Orlando, Fla., Sooner assistant Scott Hill, who had earlier been reprimandedby the NCAA for recruiting improprieties and who may not recruit off-campus in1990, engaged in what Duncan calls "horseplay" at the posh Lake NonaGolf Club.

Hill ran up a $475bar tab with other Oklahoma coaches and was involved in roughhousing thatresulted in a shattered cherrywood chair and a damaged table. Hill laterslammed bowl official Tony Martin into a car, bruising his cheek and chest. Asof last week Oklahoma still had not reimbursed the Citrus Bowl for $583 indamages that the committee paid to the Lake Nona club.

Says Duncan,"Scott is going to send them an apology, and he's going to be responsiblefor seeing that payment occurs. There was damage done, and even though it wasin fun, you pay for it."

Not to be outdoneby their coaches, a number of players trashed their rooms at the Peabody Hotelin Orlando. Switzer's response was to upbraid the local press for reporting thehotel incident.

Switzer points outthat after every malfeasance involving his players he calls a meeting and warnsthem to behave. Still, Sooners just can't seem to stay out of trouble. On Feb.2 Anthony Duplisse, a graduate student at Oklahoma, swore out anassault-and-battery complaint against VanKeirsbilck. Duplisse alleged that the6'2", 270-pound VanKeirsbilck had hit him from behind in a fight outsideBrothers, an off-campus watering hole. Both VanKeirsbilck and the bar's owner,Keith Allen, maintain that Duplisse was drunk and belligerent (which Duplissedenies) and had been asked to leave. Allen says that Duplisse attacked himinside the bar and Sooner split end Carl Cabbiness on the sidewalk outsideBrothers. "Mark came to my defense," says Allen, who ended up with asplit lip and a broken left hand after, he says, being struck by Duplisse.

"Nine timesout of 10 you've got to bite your lip and just walk away," saysVanKeirsbilck. "But you see one of your friends get hit, and your instinctstake over. The warnings never crossed my mind. The adrenaline starts flowing,and you don't think about what's going to happen tomorrow, what I'm going toread in the paper."

"Isolatedincidents," says Switzer, over and over again, not just about theoccasional brawl, but also about the shooting, the alleged rape and the drugarrest.

"Isolatedincidents," says Duncan. "Isolated incidents," says theuniversity's interim president, David Swank. "A few individuals aretarnishing the program."

Is it just a fewbad apples or could that "Sooner attitude" be contributing to the illsplaguing Oklahoma? The evidence suggests that the Sooner football program is anethical wasteland. Oklahoma churns out good football teams, but can it churnout good people, too? Sadly, in recent years the monster has generated morethan its share of athletes who have run into trouble after they've left Norman.Some examples:

•On Feb. 10, JimboElrod, an All-America defensive end in 1975, was ordered to stand trial inMuskogee, Okla., on a charge of stealing a pickup truck. He also facesmarijuana and cocaine possession charges.

•Greg Roberts, anoffensive guard who was the Out-land Trophy winner in 1978, is charged in Tampawith racketeering and drug-related offenses. Authorities allege that Roberts is"the principal operator...of a distribution ring that brought drugs fromMiami for sale in the Tampa area." In 1982 Roberts and former teammateDavid Overstreet, who was killed in 1984 while driving drunk, were charged withraping an Oklahoma coed. The woman dropped her complaint shortly after.

•John Truitt, adefensive end from 1980 to '83, was arrested in Oklahoma City last April forpossession of cocaine. Truitt, who was in town to see the annual Red-Whiteintrasquad game, pleaded guilty to possession with intent to distribute. He wassentenced to probation.

•Stanley Wilson, arunning back for the Sooners from 1979 to '82 and a member of the CincinnatiBengals for the past six seasons, has a history of drug abuse that culminatedin his suspension from this year's Super Bowl. He was discovered apparentlystrung out in his Miami hotel room the day before the game.

Then there are theboosters. In December the NCAA ordered the athletic department to disassociateitself from booster William Lambert for five years. The NCAA had determinedthat Lambert had given linebacker Kert Kaspar the free use of a car and hadpaid him $6,400 for summer work that was never performed. Lambert, an oil manin Lindsay, Okla., told The Daily Oklahoman that he had employed an estimated100 to 150 Sooner players and assistant coaches during a period of 15 years inthe 1970s and '80s. This abundance of goodwill toward Oklahoma football cameafter Lambert's release from federal prison, where he served a four-yearsentence for possession of $300,000 in stolen stock certificates.

Ordinarily aschool can look to its board of regents for guidance, but many people atOklahoma, including a number of faculty members, view the state's seven-memberboard as ineffectual in overseeing the athletic department. This benign neglectturned into what appeared to be blatant contempt for the school's academicstandards in the fall of 1987, when the board intervened in the case of JoeBrett Reynolds, a wrestler. Reynolds had been expelled for having anotherstudent take one of his final exams and for falsifying a student ID card in anattempted cover-up. Oklahoma provost Joan Wad-low kicked Reynolds out of schooland said that he could apply for readmission in two years. Reynolds retainedformer university legal counsel Stan Ward as his lawyer and petitioned theregents for a lesser sentence.

Frank Horton, whowas president of the university at the time, lobbied against a reduction. Afterall, Wadlow had been lenient with Reynolds: Of 28 students expelled foracademic misconduct since 1981, only two had been granted permission to reapplyafter two years. "The [student] code states that expulsion is usuallyintended to be permanent," Horton said.

At a hearingbefore the regents, Ward compared Reynolds's punishment to SMU football's deathpenalty, imposed on that school in 1987. Reynolds's plea found sympatheticears. Charles Sarratt, a onetime Sooner quarterback, wondered if Reynolds mighthave been entrapped by the professor. The board voted 5-2 to, in effect, reducethe suspension to 11 months.

The reaction inNorman was swift and furious. Some 200 faculty members met and, amid loudapplause and desk banging, unanimously adopted a resolution asking the regentsto reinstate the expulsion. "I've never seen a zoo run like[Oklahoma]," Michael Engel, an associate professor of geology, said at thetime. Several teachers called for the governor to dismiss the five boardmembers who had approved the lesser sentence.

Said then stateeducation secretary Smith Holt, "They [the regents] interjected in mattersbetter left alone to the faculty and administration." The Oklahoma studentcongress voted to censure the regents—the kids spanked the parents—and 400faculty and student signatures were gathered on a petition demanding thatReynolds suffer the original penalty.

The regents turneda deaf ear to the criticism, and the Reynolds matter was closed. Reynolds cameback to Norman last May. Through last week, he had a 16-1-1 record this seasonand was ranked fifth nationally in the 142-pound division.

Shortly afterReynolds's return, Horton resigned. One regent said that a "variety ofdifferences" between the president and the board made coexistenceimpossible, but would not confirm that Horton's lack of sympathy for theathletic department was one of them. Horton, who is now president of theUniversity of Toledo, will not discuss the reasons for his departure, otherthan to say, "I did some things that are in my best interest."

Says one Oklahomafaculty member, "The regents dumped him; they got rid of a perfectly goodpresident, a true academician. They're an embarrassment."

The specialtreatment afforded some Sooner athletes, coupled with the revered status of thefootball team, has pushed some faculty members to the breaking point. "Whenwe go to professional meetings, we get kidded about the latest cheating in theathletic department," says Alan Nicewander, chairman of the psychologydepartment. "I really resent it. The stain spreads. I don't think theacting president has accepted that. I think he's blinded by his devotion toathletics.

"The wholeessence of this thing must be changed. The problem with the wrestler was awatershed event; it created a lot of ill will. A university ought to becrystalline pure, more so than the community around it, because a university isa place where morals and ethics are taught. Right now we faculty members feel areal frustration. The problem is with the board of regents. But what can we do?Nobody's listening."

The regents claimthey are listening, and point to a set of reforms passed Feb. 10 that areintended to restore some semblance of order to the football program. The rulesare meant to ensure accountability: If troubles continue, Switzer and Duncanwill be held directly responsible, no matter how "isolated" theincidents.

An effort is alsobeing made to turn Bud Hall into a more civilized place. A university policeofficer now patrols the dormitory each night—standard procedure at otherOklahoma dorms—and the coaches and cops presumably will be more watchful forguns. Says Neal Stone, chief of the campus police, "The general attitude inOklahoma may be that firearms are part of life, but the institution does notsubscribe to the Wild West behavior."

Some observershave been wondering how bad things have to get before the NCAA steps in andshuts down the Sooners' football program, but in fact, the NCAA is concernedonly with breaches of its recruiting and academic rules, not withhonest-to-goodness crime.

"With criminalproceedings we let people with subpoena powers, people who can put people injail, do their work," says NCAA enforcement director David Berst. Thus theOklahoma football program has been fortunate that its alleged transgressionssince it was placed on NCAA probation have been criminal; one more free pizzato a recruit, and the program could have been sent to the NCAA gallows.

Since the NCAAcan't clean up the mess, would firing Switzer help do so? After all, Switzer isin charge of these young men, yet all he can say of Parks, Bell, Hall, Clay andThompson is, "Obviously, I wish I'd never seen them."

The Oklahomaplayers of the future can be corralled and disciplined, but where does auniversity's control over the life of its students begin and end? Already,Sooner players have five mandatory study halls a week as well as mandatorymeals, workouts, curfews, drug tests and weightlifting and running programs.Players with academic deficiencies are walked to their classes by paid graduatestudents and, as Switzer says, "eye-balled into class."

Soon to come atthe university of Boz are dress codes for traveling, and women have been bannedfrom Bud Hall. In light of such current and pending rules, it's no longer clearwhether the athletes are pampered royalty or well-attended prisoners who mustperform for their keepers.

For all hisfailings, Switzer is only doing what those who control his destiny—theuniversity president, the regents, the governor and, ultimately, the people ofOklahoma—have asked him to do: Win football games. Oddly enough, if fans wereever to ask less of Switzer—and other coaches like him—they might receive a lotmore.