As we continue our look at the Oklahoma Sooners’ eras, we have seen some good times, five national titles won to this point, and some not so good times. Let’s just admit it for what it is, the 1960’s sucked ass. Coach Switzer returned Oklahoma to prominence during the 1970’s. The beginning of the 1980’s Oklahoma was up and down.
The 1980 Oklahoma Sooners had a fantastic year. They finished 10-2, and defeated the second ranked Florida State Seminoles in the Orange Bowl squeaking by 18-17, finishing third in the country. That’s a solid year. However, Switzer suffered a bit of a fall off. During the years of 1981-83, Switzer’s Sooners would only manage 8-4 twice, and 7-4-1 during that span. In 1981, Oklahoma was ranked third to start the year, but the schedule for that season was BRUTAL. They would face three top twenty teams consecutive weeks, going 0-2-1.
Losing to the number one ranked USC Trojans in a close 24-28 game, tying the 20th ranked Iowa State Cyclones, and losing to third ranked Texas. The team in 1982 began the season ranked ninth in the nation, only to lose their first game to an unranked West Virginia. 1983 was arguably as tough. Oklahoma would begin ranked number two in the nation, defeating Stanford to open up the season. However, the sixth ranked Ohio State Buckeyes would take them down in week two of the ’83 season.
Oklahoma during this time, had multiple match-ups against the number one team in the nation. They also had a number of match ups against the number two and three ranked teams as well. Florida State, Nebraska, Texas, and USC all spent time in the top three during this stretch. Oklahoma also did not fair well in these match ups in the first half of the 80’s, going 1-7-1 against teams in the top 3. Then 1985 happened.
Oklahoma all of a sudden came back, and came back with a vengeance. They would go 11-1 and win the national title defeating Penn State, and beating them pretty soundly on both sides of the ball, but thanks mainly to one of the best defenses in the history of college football. Oklahoma would go on to win the game 25-10.
The only game Oklahoma would lose, is to a team whose rivalry would begin to intensify in the late 80’s, the Miami Hurricanes. Not bad, considering that starting quarterback Troy Aikman would go down to a broken leg early in the season. His back up, Jamelle Holieway, would lead them to the promised land.
Oklahoma would continue to have good years after ’85. Miami however, was a thorn in the side of the Sooners, defeating them both years in the home and home series, then follow up by beating Oklahoma a third time in the Orange Bowl. Oklahoma finished each year number one, two, and three from 1985-87, despite the losses to the U.
Under Switzer, Oklahoma accumulated a record of 84-22-2 (.778), which is still a decent percentage considering the rough patches. However, winning and losing would not be the only thing that would define Oklahoma in this decade, and change its course for the following decade. Something more painful than losing every year to Texas happens in 1989:
Oklahoma was placed on probation by the NCAA for three years. Scandal had broken out in that year for the university. In conjunction with the NCAA violations, star quarterback Charles Thompson, attempted to sale cocaine to undercover FBI agents. Other players had been charged of rape, and two players were involved with a shooting, with one Sooner player firing shots and injuring the other.
Many claims were made that players had been allowed to use cocaine during the 80’s. Those claims, appeared to become more legitimate when a book written by former Sooners linebacker Brian Bosworth was released. With the increase in criminal activity, and multiple violations the NCAA, which four were cited on Switzer, he chose to resign. He felt it was the best for the program for him to leave.
This scandal as a whole would have major repercussions. Coach Switzer had a legendary career at Oklahoma. This is the one blemish, on not only him, but the history of the University of Oklahoma’s football program. It was the beginning of tough days for Oklahoma. The 1990’s were not kind to the Sooners. That is the subject we will tackle on the next article. Be ready to cringe.