Barry Switzer coached three national championship teams at Oklahoma and led the Dallas Cowboys to a Super Bowl win, and he has former Arkansas coach Frank Broyles to thank for that.
“If it hadn’t been for Frank,” Switzer said, “I’d have been a damn lawyer in Little Rock.”
In an interview with SEC Country, Switzer shared his memories of Broyles, the longtime Arkansas coach and athletic director who died Monday at age 92 from complications of Alzheimer’s disease.
Broyles arrived at Arkansas from Missouri in 1958 and inherited a roster that included Switzer, who played at linebacker and center for the Razorbacks. Switzer played two seasons under Broyles and then transitioned to coaching the freshmen at Arkansas in 1960. That was in the days before freshmen were eligible to play with the varsity.
Switzer earned his degree and didn’t intend to coach. His plan was to attend law school after a stint in the U.S. Army. But Broyles reached out to him through offensive line coach Dixie White and inquired about his interest in joining the program as a scout-team coach. Switzer obliged.
“He was paying me a couple hundred dollars a month to live in the dorm and eat free,” Switzer said in a phone interview. “I got a brand new car. I was single on a college campus, not bad. So I started my coaching career in 1960 with freshmen, but really in ’61 full-time, on the staff.”
That was the beginning of Switzer’s 36-year coaching career, which included 20 years as a head coach — 16 seasons at Oklahoma and four more with the Cowboys. If not for Broyles, there’s no telling what Switzer would’ve done with his career.
“I knew Sam Walton before there was a Walmart,” Switzer said. “I was in school with Don Tyson [of Tyson Foods]. He was a friend. So, I don’t know where my career would have gone. I would like to think I would have been successful.
“I’m sure I wouldn’t have left the state of Arkansas. I knew everybody in every town in the state because we all went to the University of Arkansas. I think I would have been successful in business back there, but I’m glad it worked out the way it did.”
Switzer said he turned down job offers at Dartmouth, Southern Methodist, Tennessee and the Virginia Military Institute while at Arkansas. He was promoted from coaching the scout team to working with the running backs during his five years with the Razorbacks.
The strong admiration he had for Broyles played a significant role in keeping him in Fayetteville. When Switzer left to become offensive coordinator at Oklahoma in 1966, it primarily was to do something Broyles himself enjoyed.
“The reason we came [to Oklahoma], one reason, was Oklahoma hadn’t beaten Texas in eight years,” Switzer said. “That’s why we came, and we beat their ass the first year.”
Switzer owns a 9-5-2 advantage over Texas as a head coach, undoubtedly a record that made Broyles proud. Through all the wins over Texas, conference and national titles, and a Super Bowl victory, Switzer remembers Broyles as the man who gave him his start.
“The thing I think about Coach Broyles … there are only one or two people in your life you can say ‘Coach’ to,” Switzer said. “He was my ‘Coach.’ Someone I could call by ‘Coach.’ He had more influence on where I am in my life than any other individual, including myself. I mean that with the fact that if I hadn’t had him, I doubt if I’d have been a coach. He gave me the opportunity.”
Former SEC Country reporter Jason Kersey contributed to this report.