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Schnellenberger says he's taking more heat than ever

(c) 1995 Copyright Nando.net
(c) 1995 Associated Press

OKLAHOMA CITY (Nov 15, 1995 - 16:18 EST) -- Howard Schnellenberger was fired as coach of the Baltimore Colts and had some lean years at Miami and Louisville. But never, he says, has he experienced more criticism than he has received this season.

"It's not even close," he said.

That isn't to say the first-year Oklahoma coach is surprised by fans' reaction to the Sooners 5-4-1 record and their ire at losing to Oklahoma State for the first time since 1976.

"It doesn't (surprise me) because I understand where I'm coaching and I understand the spotlight that's on this program," he said. "I will say that I've been a little bit concerned about some of the things that have been reported that have not been reported totally accurately."

An example: reports that offensive coordinator Gary Nord threw a punch at linebacker Broderick Simpson when the two scuffled after Saturday's 12-0 loss to Oklahoma State.

The story was first reported Sunday by columnist David Lanier in The Norman Transcript. Lanier wrote that as he approached the locker room, Simpson blasted the offense, Nord responded with a profanity and Simpson then went after the assistant coach.

"No, that's not true," Schnellenberger said Tuesday at his weekly news conference.

"What we wrote, we stand behind it 100 percent," Lanier said.

Schnellenberger acknowledged that Nord and Simpson were the principals in the incident, but denied reports that have circulated that Nord took a swing at Simpson.

"That's absolutely incorrect," he said. "Gary Nord has been a very level headed, fine football coach for a long time. It hurt him very badly. I think it was inappropriate, the way it was handled."

Nord told The Daily Oklahoman for a story in Wednesday's editions that he would never hit Simpson and Simpson would never hit him. He said the two were far apart.

"I would never lay a hand on him, whether he would have tried to hit me or not," Nord said.

"I've never, ever swung at a kid," Nord said. "I'm going to treat other people's kids exactly the way I want my kids treated. If someone hit my kid, I would be very upset."

Schnellenberger wasn't in the locker room at the time, but said he got his information from players and coaches who were on hand.

According to the head coach, some players threw their helmets in disgust as they approached the locker room. Then Simpson took some verbal shots at the offense, he said.

"It was first directed toward the other side of the ball, then when Gary tried to get it quieted, yes -- it (the criticism) was directed to a coach," Schnellenberger said.

He said only Simpson was involved at first, then others stepped between Simpson and Nord. He did say he thought other players echoed Simpson's sentiments.

Schnellenberger, who is in his 16th season as a college head coach, said he had never had something like that happen.

"It concerns me as I go forward today and as I go forward next year," he said. "It'll concern me forever, and it has concerned me before this because you always hope that something like that doesn't happen."

He said the frustrating season almost certainly contributed to the blowup. But he said it lasted no longer than a minute, order was restored quickly and that the incident is now behind the team.

"It was very spontaneous, obviously, and it was something that came as the result of a very bad loss."

Schnellenberger said Simpson would play in the final regular season game, Nov. 24 against Nebraska, and that Nord's future on the staff "is secure as long as I'm here, and I assume that's going to be for the next five years and longer."

Schnellenberger said he felt the need to mention what happened because false reports were being circulated. He said news spread to Nord's hometown, Louisville, Ky., that Nord had struck a player and had been fired. As a result, he said, Nord's mother called in tears Monday to find out what was going on.

"It's unfortunate that anybody has to go through that," he said.