Behind-The-Scenes With The King: How Barry Switzer Is Changing The Way We Watch Football

Barry Switzer wants to watch college football with you. Yes, you. He wants you to be sitting right next to him, in his house, munching on his snacks, with drinks from his fridge, talking Sooners football while the game is on TV.

And yes, I’m talking about that Barry Switzer, the 79-year-old College Football Hall of Famer and Oklahoma legend who won three national championships in the 70s and 80s.

Oh, you can’t just up and go to Norman, Oklahoma every Saturday in the fall? That’s fine. That’s where Switzer’s brainchild, the Coaches’ Cabana comes in.

The Cabana  

“Mark Rodgers! Boy I was scared to death y’all wouldn’t show,” bellows Switzer, his commanding voice echoing throughout his backyard cabana.

Switzer leaps up from his chair to shake hands with radio host Mark Rodgers and former Sooners QB Thomas Lott. Rodgers walks in toting a laptop, while Lott carries a folder full of research.

“I didn’t find out until five minutes ago who we were playing. I said, who in the hell are we playing today?” says Switzer. He’s joking, sort of. Almost everything the College Football Hall of Fame coach says comes out in the same jocular, folksy tone that it can become difficult to separate fact from fiction.

Lott and Rodgers, along with a host of other people, are here for the Coaches’ Cabana, Switzer and his business partner Mike Henry’s show, entering its fourth season. The show is unlike any other sports talk show. Besides taking place at the legendary coach’s house just south of the University of Oklahoma campus, the show is pioneering a new way to experience college football, and sports in general.

“We know more about OU than anybody from ESPN or Fox or whatever network is broadcasting the game. We give our fans the option of a second screen,” says Switzer. “And we are all over the world, we get tweets from soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan telling us they are watching us live.”

Barry Switzer Coaches Cabana
Switzer broadcasts the Coaches’ Cabana with co-hosts Mark Rodgers (left) and Thomas Lott (right).

Switzer says the trick is to pull up your phone, laptop, or tablet and stream Coaches’ Cabana on while you have the game up on your TV, or watch the Coaches’ Cabana show on the local Cox Cable channel. If you’re doing that, Switzer suggests doing a Picture-In-Picture of the Cabana and the game. Either way, turn the volume down on the networks and up on Switzer and co., he says.

“People are just watching me talk about the game. If I invite them over to the house, they come to talk about the game, so it’s the same thing,” says Switzer. “But this way you don’t have to come to my house. You can stay home and turn on the damn cable to watch me talk about the game.”

The “second screen” experience that Switzer and Henry discuss is something they started experimenting with during the first iteration of the Cabana back in 2012 — though it’s far from Switzer’s first business venture outside of football.

A sampling of Switzer’s other businesses include Switzer Locker Rooms, Switzer Family Vineyards, Switzer Wine & Spirits, and his wife Becky’s talent agency, Switzer Talent. It’s apparent that Switzer isn’t just lending his name to business ideas either, he’s got a sharp mind and has been investing in and starting businesses since his coaching days.

“We know more about OU than anybody from ESPN or Fox or whatever network is broadcasting the game.”

The son of a bootlegger from rural Arkansas, football and smart investing have made Switzer a wealthy man. He coached before college coaches made the astronomical salaries they make today, but almost 20 years since he was on the sidelines for the Dallas Cowboys, he’s doing just fine financially.

The Cabana isn’t Switzer’s first foray into media either.

“Back in 1978, Mike and I started a magazine called Sooners Illustrated. A magazine called Sports Illustrated challenged us and they lost. Then we did a Huskers Illustrated, Longhorns Illustrated, and a Trojans Illustrated,” says Switzer. “We did 13 schools. I used it as a recruiting tool. We were successful with it and we ended up selling it several years ago, but it’s still in print today.”

So when Henry approached him four years ago with the idea for the Coaches’ Cabana, Switzer liked the idea and knew there was a market for it. They brought in Neal Pilson, former president of CBS Sports to perform due diligence to make sure they had the rights to do it. Switzer did the first show by himself and quickly realized he needed to bring in some help.

“I did the first show by myself. After the first show I said I’ll never do that sumb**ch again,” says Switzer. “Three and half hours of me non-stop. Wore my ass slick out.”


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