In recent years there has been a groundswell of support that college athletes should be paid for the work they do and funds they generate for their university.
But don’t count Barry Switzer among that group.
Because students on NCAA Division I athletic scholarships attend college without paying for tuition, books and room and board, Switzer believes those students have already cashed in on the college experience.
“I just look at it that they’re getting paid already,” Switzer told the Star-Telegram. “A football player has a scholarship, got a place to live, he’s got a brand new dorm room at Oklahoma, a great chow hall.
“They’re giving them their books free, they’re giving them a $500,000 scholarship. What the hell are you talking about!”
One of the all-time top coaches in NCAA history, Switzer coached Oklahoma to three national titles, a 157-29-4 record and 12 Big 8 titles from 1973-88.
His 83.7 winning percentage ranks among the best of any college coach, and he also was elected to the College Football Hall of Fame in 2002.
In essence, Switzer has grown tired of debate after debate on whether college athletes should be drawing a paycheck from their college. Yet, he does believe they deserve a stipend.
“You’re never going to get it done because of Title IX,” Switzer said. “You’ve got a lot of girls that need help just as much as the guys.
“They’re just as poor, too, and they need a stipend or something. I look at women’s sports and men’s sports, and I look at it on a need basis, a financial need basis.”
As far as OU winning a national title for the first time since 2000, Switzer believes it comes down to one simple equation: recruiting.
“Get some players,” said Switzer, who turns 76 on Oct. 5. “Some OU coaches are excited. They have the young players playing, but they don’t have many experienced players at any position. Well, they’re going to find out how excited it really is.”
Switzer believes the Sooners will be questionable at quarterback where redshirt freshman Trevor Knight has won the starting job over junior Blake Bell.
“They have no quarterback that’s started a game [at the college level],” said Switzer, who is working with DePuy Synthes Joint Reconstruction and talking about his new innovative hip replacement surgery. “They don’t have a quarterback that’s ever taken an 80-yard drive for a touchdown, and obviously no quarterback that’s ever won a game.
“They’ve got Blake Bell and they’ve got this kid [Knight] from San Antonio who is going to be a really good player in time. But defensively their big question is they just don’t have the down linemen they’ve had.”
Switzer also talked about the controversy surrounding Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel. The reigning Heisman Trophy winner’s eligibility for this season remains in question while the NCAA continues to investigate whether he received money in exchange for signing autographs.
“I can’t believe that kid would have done that for that kind of money,” Switzer said. “It didn’t make sense at all, but it wouldn’t surprise me if he didn’t do it.
“It’s going to be interesting to see how it comes out. That’ll be the biggest Aggie joke of all time, won’t it?”
Asked if he’d ever consider returning to coach the college game again, Switzer quickly said: “No. I’m not going back. I’m too old to chase 17- and 18-year-old kids.
“But I can still get them, though. I promise you I can get them.”
Switzer believes the reduction in scholarships has somewhat leveled the playing field in college football.
“President [Barack] Obama talked about spreading the wealth since he’s been in office,” Switzer said. “Well, the NCAA did that several years ago when they went to 85 scholarships.
“Twenty years ago who would you have thought that Louisville and Kent State would be in the Orange Bowl and the Sugar Bowl? If anybody told you that you’d probably say they’re crazy as hell.
“You knew who the perennial top 15 teams in the country were,” Switzer said. “They would be there every year because they’re the same ones every year. But because of scholarship limitations, it’s a tougher job today.”
After coaching the Dallas Cowboys to a 40-24 record from 1994-97, and a Super Bowl title following the 1995 season, Switzer added that he wouldn’t coach in the NFL again because it’s a tougher job today than it was in the early 1990s.
“I told [owner] Jerry [Jones] at the time I was the right guy for Jerry at the time,” Switzer said. “Jerry needed me, he trusted me and we had a great relationship.”
Former Cowboys coach Jimmy Johnson and Switzer are the only two coaches to win an NCAA championship and a Super Bowl.
Controversy ensued after Switzer replaced Johnson as the Cowboys’ coach shortly after the latter led the Cowboys to back-to-back Super Bowl titles.
“People thought I didn’t like Jimmy, but I’ve always liked Jimmy,” Switzer said. “I’ve had a great relationship with Jimmy, and with Jerry, too.
“Jimmy and I coached on the staff together at Oklahoma for three years [as assistants from 1970-72], so our lives have always been thrown together. I’m the only one that’s ever won three national championships and a Super Bowl, and Jimmy is the only one that’s won one national championship and two Super Bowls, so that separates us right there.”