Oklahoma Coach Barry Switzer shut the door on New Year's Day today at 3:30 a.m., slept a couple of hours in his suite at the Fontainebleau Hilton Hotel, then hitched a ride back to the site of his latest, greatest triumph.
The lights of the Orange Bowl still were on when he arrived at 6:30 a.m. to meet with televison reporters representing the nation's morning news shows.
It was an eerie morning, one crowded with a million magic things and the memory of the night before. It also was a morning meant to go on forever.
Less than seven hours earlier, his team had overwhelmed top-ranked and previously undefeated Penn State, 25-10, in a game for the national championship. Now, a dense fog had settled in on the city, and strands of gossamer kicked across the floor of the Orange Bowl.
Parade floats stood on the parking lot of the stadium, and janitorial crews continued to clean the rows and rows of aluminum seats that had accommodated almost 75,000.
The feeling that moved through Switzer was 10 years in coming. It had been that long since the favorite son of Crossett, Ark., now 48 and in his 13th year as coach of the Sooners, had won the national championship.
Later in the morning, Switzer sat before a crowded gathering of reporters and spoke his mind.
"A sportswriter put some words in my mouth last night," he said. "He told me this should be the most satisfying championship for me because it was won by players we recruited and not by those we inherited. The truth is, that's only part of it.
"The real reason it means so much is that I don't think any team in college football has gone as far as we have with youth and inexperience at the key skill positions . . . To do what we've done, it's been refreshing as a coach. I never anticipated the kids would do as well as they did or perform as they did."
The nationally televised game ran close to four hours and featured the kicking leg of Tim Lashar, who made field goals of 26, 31, 21 and 22 yards, the strength of the Sooners' defense and the beauty of an archaic, pound-it-out offense led by freshman quarterback Jamelle Holieway.
Penn State's offense was an embarrassment as quarterback John Shaffer threw three costly interceptions and completed 10 of 22 passes for only 74 yards.
But the Nittany Lions' defense fought hard and prevented Oklahoma's high-powered wishbone offense from crossing the end zone more times than seemed rightly human.
Oklahoma fullback Lydell Carr finally broke free for 61 yards and a touchdown with less than two minutes left in the game to put it away for the Sooners, who won their sixth national title since 1950.
"You ought to have seen the game from the sidelines," Switzer said. "You can't imagine how physical it was. Their backs and linemen are so big, they just splatter right up in there. I tell you, it was rough."
The victory gave Switzer a 126-24-4 career mark -- the exact record Bud Wilkinson put together during his years as the Oklahoma coach. Like Wilkinson, Switzer also has won three national championships, produced one Heisman Trophy winner and two Outland Trophy winners.
The game also served to ameliorate the Sooners' frustrating, 28-17 loss to Washington in the 1985 Orange Bowl. In that game, Oklahoma might have wrestled the national title away from Brigham Young University with a convincing victory.
"I know what goes around, comes around," Switzer said. "Humility is only seven days away in this profession."
The reason the Oklahoma program is enjoying a resurgence of power, Switzer said, "is because we went back to what we believed in, the wishbone offense. We got off the track in the (Marcus) Dupree era with the I-formation offense and doing things we really didn't believe in. The 1984 season brought us back to what we should have been doing and could always hang our hats on."
The Sooners came into the year ranked No. 1 in several preseason polls, just as they had in 1975. Miami upset Oklahoma, 27-14, in mid-October and stood to make a strong claim for the national title had the Hurricanes beaten Tennessee in the Sugar Bowl. Miami was ranked second in the last regular-season Associated Press poll, one up on Oklahoma.
Somebody asked Switzer if he felt any sympathy for Miami Coach Jimmy Johnson, who in the weeks leading up to the finale had campaigned hard for more respect among pollsters. "You tee it up enough times," Switzer said, "and it happens to all of us."
On Jan. 3, 1966, Switzer first visited Norman, Okla. He flew into the Will Rogers Airport at Oklahoma City and was greeted by Coach Jim Mackenzie.
First working as an offensive line coach, then as the offensive coordinator, Switzer needed only seven years to find himself in position to take over the head job, and only one more to win his first national title in 1974.
Although he won back-to-back championships, Switzer said he never "had a time frame set for when I wanted to win the next one. Some coaches coach all their lives without winning one.
"I'm fortunate to coach at a school that attracts the kind of players that allow you the opportunity to win conference and national championships.
"There are a lot of good coaches out there who never got that chance. Other people talk about it and it's only dreams. But it's a realistic goal at Oklahoma, and one you work for."