Barry Switzer told the Northwest Arkansas Touchdown Club that he is close to signing a movie deal with Molly Smith, producer of The Blind Side. And the former Oklahoma coach also had advice on college football scheduling.
"You are making a mistake if you play teams from north Louisiana," Switzer said. "Everyone can throw the football now. They have skilled athletes. Parity is here. You have to be ready for nearly every game."
That was in Switzer's general comments at the TD club. Afterwards when he handled some interview requests, he repeated those comments.
"I didn't lose any games like that when I coached," he said. "My losses were to teams like Nebraska, Texas, Southern Cal and Miami. But I didn't play any teams from north Louisiana."
Switzer said he gets score alerts from ESPN on his phone. When the Arkansas score beeped him, "I said, 'That's a mistake.' It shocked me."
Switzer knows that part of Louisiana well. He grew up on the Arkansas line near Crossett where his father was a bootlegger. He said Fred Smith, founder and CEO of Fedex, gave his daughter a copy of his autobiography and asked her to consider doing a movie on Switzer's life.
"We'll probably sign a movie deal next week," Switzer said, noting the budget will be in the $50 million range. "She called me and asked about doing the movie. I said, 'What will be the story line?' She said it would be about being raised in the 40s and 50s in the rural south, the Mississippi delta. It would be about my world, totally integrated."
Switzer told the TD club about his offering his thoughts to his all-white Arkansas teammates in 1957 as he watched on black and white TV in Gregson Hall when Little Rock High went through forced integration.
"My teammates asked, 'Don't they have their own school?'" Switzer said. "I said I always wondered why they didn't go to my school. They looked at me funny."
That's the story Switzer wants to tell in the movie. He said his world included six black families working for his father in the bootlegger business. He was raised by a black woman, Erma Reynolds.
"She raised my daddy and she was my nanny," Switzer said. "She lived to be 104 and passed in 2000. She held me in her arms when I was born."
Switzer said afterwards that he's been told he will have "creative control" of the movie.
"I'll help write the script," he said. "I don't want a football movie. That's not really the story. Molly agrees."
Switzer knows it's about football in Arkansas right now, with No. 1 Alabama coming to town Saturday. The former Razorback captain and assistant coach understands fans are still angry over the loss to ULM, but players and coaches should have moved on by now.
"They have to," he said. "But it can be a good thing."
He said the Hogs went from a potential contender to a team that no one has a chance. He said that sometimes gives a team a better chance.
"Football players are young and resilient and it may be a plus," he said. "If they get their quarterback back, they might have a chance."
That was in reference to Tyler Wilson's status. The senior quarterback was injured in the ULM loss and was still not cleared to play early in the day Wednesday.
Switzer, per the usual, charmed and entertained in his 30 minutes before the TD club. He said he makes University of Oklahoma officials nervous when he speaks close to home. He's prone to lay it all out.
"I'll get up in a setting like this and there will be OU administrators there," he said. "I'll talk about what happened (when he was fired) in 1988. It was about doping, raping and shooting. Say what it was. I wanted to write what it was in my book. I wanted to talk about the hidden agendas that I saw (at OU) and tell a few things about the NCAA."
That may be still the motivation with the movie deal.
"I've had other chances, calls from HBO and others in Hollywood," he said. "But they wanted to do a football movie. I wanted it to be about my world, a black world."
Switzer said it was 57 years ago Wednesday that he reported as a freshman football player at Arkansas.
"I was 17 and scared to death," he said, noting one of his first nightmares was meeting Billy Ray Smith.
"He intimidated everyone," Switzer said, noting he sometimes decided not to go to the bathroom when he saw Smith in the hallway because he didn't want to go near him.
"I eventually realized that most people are just thinking about themselves and not about you. I got over that, but he scared me."
There was a time Switzer thought about going to LSU.
"It was so much closer," he said. "Baton Rouge was about five hours closer than Fayetteville. Roads were better in Louisiana. I had to ride with someone else or hitch hike. It was 10 hours or more.
"Back then the school here was about 5,000, about like a big high school and everyone knew everyone. Population for Fayetteville was 12,000. I noticed today it's 72,000."
Switzer made note of the population on his drive in from Oklahoma, via Lake Wedington.
"I came in on Highway 16," he said. "Usually, it's through Tonitown past the Venetian Inn. But I made the turn at Siloam Springs to come that way."
And he tried to pull into the park at Lake Wedington only to be blocked by a locked gate.
"I came the back roads," he said. "When I couldn't go in the gate, I pulled off the road by the lake and I got out my phone to call an old girl friend."
Switzer reminded her about a blanket party at the lake from their college days.
Then he reminded Arkansas fans about one of his beliefs, never play teams from north Louisiana.