Tramel: Stigler tales on Barry Switzer & Green Acres
I’ve always been a little partial to Stigler, the Haskell County seat in southeastern Oklahoma. When I was a kid, my uncle was the county agent in Stigler. Three cousins went to school in Stigler.
My Aunt Maxine refused to let “Green Acres” be shown in her house, because of the dimwitted county agent, Hank Kimball. She thought it put county agents in a bad light, and I suppose she was right.
In our Zoom staff meeting this week, Stigler became a topic of conversation, because the Stigler High School Panthers are in the Class 3A state semifinals. They play Tulsa Holland Hall on Friday night.
Our long-time outdoors writer, Ed Godfrey, is a Stigler graduate. Eddie takes any chance to fly the Stigler flag, and I’m there to cheer him on.
Eddie told us the story that I long have known but never get tired of hearing, how Stigler made the 1971 Class 2A state semifinals, where the Panthers tied 14-14 and were eliminated on penetrations, that absurd tiebreaker used by Oklahoma high schools in the days before overtime. Officials chronicled how many times each team penetrated the opponents’ 20-yard line, an early-day acknowledgement of the red zone, if you will, and used it to break ties.
So Stigler lost that tie game to a small school from the Tulsa suburbs. Place by the name of Jenks.
You know the rest of the story. Stigler stayed being Stigler -- population 2,300 in 1970, population about 2,600 in 2020. Jenks became the huge school district in south Tulsa that has become a national football powerhouse.
Jenks has won 16 state championships since 1979, 14 of them since 1993. There are more students at Jenks High School than residents in the town of Stigler.
Jenks went on to lose the 1971 Class 2A state championship game to Watonga (Watonga also survived the semifinals via penetrations, after a 0-0 tie with Lindsay).
Anyway, that was a fun jog down Old Time Boulevard. And I told Eddie it always bothered me that Stigler never sent any big-time players to OU, the way most of the other schools in Stigler’s conference did.
Eufaula had the Selmon brothers and J.C. Watts. Sallisaw had Steve Davis. Spiro had Rod Shoate and Wayne Hoffman. What’s the deal with Stigler?
Eddie responded with a great story.
“Your comment today about Stigler not holding up its end in the old (Black Diamond) conference as a pipeline of talent to OU in the '70s reminded me of this Barry Switzer story.
“My former classmate and teammate at Stigler High, Tim Grubbs, now lives in the Detroit area. Several years ago, Tim is standing in line at the airport there and turns around and sees Billy Sims standing in line behind him. Well, Tim, being an OU fan, gets excited and starts up a conversation with Billy, who is friendly and receptive upon learning he is from Oklahoma.
“At one point, Tim asks Billy if he ever sees Coach Switzer anymore. Billy says, of course, and pulls out a cell phone and dials a number and leaves a message, ‘Hey coach, it's Billy, call me back.’ A couple of minutes later the phone rings and it's Switzer. Billy tells him he is at the airport in Detroit and ran into a Sooner fan and hands Tim the phone. For the next 15 minutes, Switzer has a phone conversation with someone he has never met about OU football.
“At one point, Tim felt bad about being on the line so long and told Switzer he better let him go, to which Switzer replied he was at some charity golf event in California and just riding around in a golf cart, so they kept talking.
“Tim, now feeling comfortable in the conversation, decides to crack a joke and tells Switzer, ‘Coach, I want you to know that I have finally forgiven you for not recruiting me.’
“‘Not recruiting you?’ an incredulous Switzer replied. ‘Where are you from?’
“‘Stigler,’ Tim said.
“‘Stigler!’ Switzer responded. ‘That explains it. If you had been from Spiro or Eufaula I might have recruited you!’”
Later, Eddie let me know he corresponded with his old friend, and Grubbs said the joke actually was delivered when Sims handed over the phone. But either way. Grubbs also said that he’s run into Sims a few more times at Detroit Lions games, and Sims “always has time to talk OU football.”
And I always have time to talk Stigler.