Stoops Leaves Sooners With Legendary Status
By Bob Hertzel
On so many levels, it was shocking news that came out of Oklahoma late afternoon Wednesday when Bob Stoops retired as head football coach of the Sooners.
Here was the winningest coach in the history of one of the platinum programs of college football, owner of 190 victories in 18 years. If you take a second to think about that, Dana Holgorsen got a new contract at WVU in large part for winning 10 games last year and Stoops averaged more than 10 wins for 18 years.
While Stoops was the longest-tenured college football coach in the land, having held his job one day longer than Kirk Ferentz at Iowa, he was only 56 years old and, in this day and age, there’s a lot of games left to be won and a lot of money left to be made for someone that young.
Kansas State’s Bill Snyder is 21 years older, fighting cancer and still coaching, having come back out of his early retirement to do so.
But coaching today isn’t what coaching always was. The game is different, as is the technology, the kids, the administrations, the goals and, more than anything, the pressure. It may have been a fun job when he took over at OU 18 years ago at age 38, but the business wears on you.
Recruiting, politics, Twitter, Facebook, talk shows … all of these things create pressure.
There comes a time when you have to weigh the enjoyment of the challenge, of preparing your team and working the sidelines during the game, with all the other things that really no one wants to do day after day, year after year.
Especially when you live in a palatial estate, as most big-time college coaches do today, although if you want to go on Google and look up Stoops’ house you might understand how some mornings it has to be hard to come to work.
The word came out that Stoops wants to “go live life,” and that’s a lot different than coaching a big time football program.
Now you have to understand, Stoops has the gift, though. You don’t win 10 Big 12 titles and a national championship if you don’t have that gift.
However, do you really want to talk to guys like me postgame and in press conferences, conferences in which Stoops could get a little bit testy?
Then every few years a scandal of some kind comes along to deal with. It goes with the territory and you read about it daily online or see it on “SportsCenter.” When they happen, you are kind of caught within a situation where you can’t win.
It’s happened at West Virginia over the years – Jonathan Hargett, Chris Henry, Adam “Pacman” Jones – star players who strayed.
Stoops has spent his last couple of years dealing with Joe Mixon, a wonderfully talented running back who socked a girl in the mouth on videotape in a restaurant, setting up a no-win situation.
Personally, it’s a no-brainer. You say thanks for all you’ve done, now hit the road.
But Stoops’ program took the hard way out — you have to win games at Oklahoma — and suspended Mixon for a year, but let him return and that just added the furor going on around Oklahoma’s program.
Things just weren’t as they should have been, and there was a little rust showing.
Losing to Clemson in the 2016 College Football Playoff semifinal, 37-17, had the faithful moaning and then losing last September, 45-24, to Ohio State at home — where the Sooners were 101-9 under Stoops — well, that may have been the last straw.
A little travel, some golf with Mack Brown just to keep that Longhorn-Sooner rivalry going, a show when he wants one, time with the family … it’s all there ahead of him now and new head coach Lincoln Riley can worry about how to avenge that home loss to Ohio State next year in Columbus.