Bob Stoops shocked the college football world yesterday when he announced his retirement. After 18 seasons in Norman, 10 Big 12 championships, 7 top 5 finishes, a national title in the year 2000, one of the best in the business, one of the legends of his profession, and he hung it up at the height of his powers, at 56 years old, coming off an 11-win season and a Sugar Bowl win. And it was the absolute right call.
Because it’s always better to walk away on your own terms. Always better to leave when it’s your decision rather than someone else’s.
And for as successful as Stoops has been, for as good as he had it going in Norman — it wasn’t always easy. 2014 ended with Oklahoma at 8-5 and a 40-6 beatdown by Clemson, with some people openly wondering if it was time for Oklahoma to pull the plug on Stoops and not the other way around.
Even this 11-win season was clouded by Joe Mixon, a guy who punched a woman in the face and was still allowed to play. And Heisman finalist Dede Westbrook, another bad seed, who kept his scholarship because he could run fast enough for Stoops to forget the multiple domestic violence charges he brought with him to Norman. And they weren’t the only ones either. Stoops also brought in, guys like Dorial Green-Beckham, Frank Shannon, and Josh Jarboe, and always had a rationalization and justification for doing so. And that’s definitely a part of his legacy.
So now the question is why? And why now? He says the decision is not health related. And he’s still a young guy. Maybe he lost the stomach for it. Maybe the price of doing business just became too great; the challenge of keeping up with the Nicktators and the Urb’s, too overwhelming.
For as much success as he had, he probably, at some point, lost that “all-in, whatever it takes mentality necessary ” to get back to the top of the mountain. No shame in that.
At some point the risk is no longer worth the reward. Esp. If you’re Bob Stoops and have seen firsthand what coaching can do to you. He saw what it does to a family when his father died at 54 after suffering a heart attack coaching high school powerhouse Cardinal Mooney in Youngstown. And while Stoops and Oklahoma brass refused to put this decision on Stoops’s health — there are reports that Stoops himself was diagnosed with a heart condition within the last few months. And if that doctor’s report doesn’t scare you out of coaching — if it doesn’t make you think about what really matters, especially after nearly 2 decades since your last national championship, I’m not sure what will.
So Lincoln Riley takes over. The 33-year old gets the keys to the Cadillac, the offensive coordinator that helped to reboot the program that Stoops had stalled out is now asked to follow the footsteps of a legend. And while the timing of the decision is less than ideal — the season opener just 86 days away — Stoops knew better than anybody, there’s never the right time to make this decision. “After 18.5 years, when is the right time. We’re in a cycle yearly than never stops. And if that thought comes to you, whenever it is, do you act on it immediately or do you weigh it? There isn’t a good time, that’s the bottom line…”
So credit to Bob Stoops. For his success at Oklahoma. For lasting as long as he did. For bringing back a Sooners program that had turned mediocre. And for being smart enough to walk away from a game that could have very well put him in the ground.
His legacy is complicated… but he had a great run. And he did bring them back. And will go out on his own terms instead of being run off. Coach em up, Riles.