Kirk Bohls

American-Statesman Staff

Column

Bohls: Bob Stoops faces a big decision — Go to Texas-OU? Or watch it from the couch?

Posted October 12th, 2017

Story highlights
  • Bob Stoops is perfectly at peace with his decision to step down as an OU legend.
  • Stoops said he thinks his successor, Lincoln Riley, will do just fine even though Stoops never lost to Iowa State in 12 games.
  • Texas coach Tom Herman said it will "feel weird" not to have Stoops on the sideline Saturday, and quite frankly we're the ones cheated of great theater between the two coaches.

Bob Stoops’ plans are up in the air.

No, not for 2018 and beyond. He’s already made that call. But Saturday? He’s not sure where he will be this weekend.

Stay at home, prop his feet up on the ottoman and eat nachos. Or go to the Cotton Bowl and take in the game.

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“I’m not sure yet,” Stoops said on our “On Second Thought” podcast this week. “I haven’t decided.”

But his decision to step down this summer as the man at Oklahoma sent shock waves reverberating throughout that state and had irrevocable consequences on the proud Sooners football program. And possibly on Texas’ and the Big 12’s future as well.

Head Coach Bob Stoops of the Oklahoma Sooners poses for pictures with the team after the game against the Oklahoma State Cowboys December 3, 2016 at Gaylord Family-Oklahoma Memorial Stadium in Norman, Oklahoma. Oklahoma defeated Oklahoma State 38-20 to become Big XII champions. (Photo by Brett Deering/Getty Images)

Stoops, 57, is irreplaceable as the winningest coach in crimson and cream. Sadly, the Big 12 has lost a Hall of Fame coach, with the legendary Bill Snyder also in the twilight. Mike Gundy and Gary Patterson now rank as the deans of the league. Beyond those three league coaches, the other seven have just 91 wins as head coaches of Power 5 programs.

Stoops, on the other hand, won 190 games in 18 seasons. He won a national championship and played for three more. He made the College Football Playoff in 2015. He won 10 Big 12 titles. No other school won more than two during his span.

And he owned Texas. He beat the Longhorns 11 times, twice more than Bud Wilkinson and Barry Switzer ever did. He broke Longhorns hearts with a five-game OU win streak and two routs at the start of the decade that was the 2000s, depriving Mack Brown of a chance to win multiple titles before Stoops had to contend with a fully mature Vince Young and Colt McCoy.

Now he’s depriving us of a lively Stoops-Tom Herman war, which is a shame. That would have been great theater, particularly given how passionate the Texas coach is and his 1-0 record against Stoops in their 2016 clash in Houston.

“College football’s not the same without Bob Stoops, and it’s going to be weird not seeing him on the other sideline,” Herman said. “Bob brought passion and coached with an edge. Of course it would have been great to go against him, but Lincoln Riley will bring a tremendous challenge.”

Former Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops won 190 games in 18 seasons, one national championship and played for three more, and made the College Football Playoffs in 2015. (Getty Images)

Stoops was edgy. And he was tough and proud and built for distance. He’s the best coach in Big 12 history. And he’ll miss this rivalry as much as it will miss him.

Stoops says he loved the adrenalin rush he got, pulling up in the team bus outside the Cotton Bowl on game day. “It’s fantastic,” he said. “I loved that game. You could feel the hair go up on your neck.”

But he’s handed over the reins to Riley, as capable and qualified a successor as there’s ever been. Stoops did disagree with the hard, fast rule that says one should never follow a legend, pointing to Nebraska’s Tom Osborne moving up to replace Bob Devaney and Switzer getting promoted at OU after Chuck Fairbanks stepped down. “Those worked out really well,” Stoops said of the value of continuity.

We assume that means he will not be taking over at Alabama when Nick Saban eventually retires since Bob’s not on his staff. Stoops agreed and joked, “That would violate the rule.”

Hey, Riley will do just fine as Stoops’ successor, and I’m betting he’s a big success, Iowa State stumbles notwithstanding. Stoops, remember, went 12-0 against the Cyclones, however. Even though the Sooners managed just seven points in the second half of that 38-31 shocker last week, it’s been brother Mike Stoops’ horrendous defenses that have held OU back.

Bob Stoops still will “sneak by” to catch an OU practice every now and again and said he doesn’t feel like he’s a distraction when he does. When he has been to games — he missed the Iowa State debacle because he was on a recruiting trip with his son — he’s really been into the action and looked as joyous after the upset of Ohio State as he ever did stomping Texas.

He watches his two sons play high school football now. He does speaking engagements, talking to the Northwest Arkansas Touchdown Club this week. He’s still handy with a golf club. So could the Champions Tour for senior golfers be in his future?

“I wish. I don’t have that kind of game,” the 12-handicapper said.

Bob says he hasn’t missed football all that much and still has no plans to return to coaching, which is our loss. He has zero plans to coach again, especially on the NFL level, which he says really never had all that much appeal to him.

The NFL teams that made a serious run at luring him will remain his business, Stoops said, although I believe Denver and Cleveland both made strong pitches in his direction.

“I never felt the NFL was something I needed to do,” he said. “I think my job equated to an NFL job, and there may be some NFL coaches who’d rather have my job.”

He’s probably right about that. Besides, college usually offers more security even though a seven-loss record got last year’s Houston Texans in the NFL playoffs and got Charlie Strong fired.

Stoops lived with all that pressure and scrutiny, thrived and remained a fixture at OU. Now if someone can fix the Sooners defense.

In the meantime, Stoops will enjoy life, play some golf and be quite content on the sidelines.

“I can’t say I miss any of it,” he said. “I didn’t enter this decision lightly. I’m very much at peace with it. It’s all good really.”

But we’ll keep hoping his retirement is temporary.

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