STILLWATER, OK - DECEMBER 03: Head coach Bob Stoops during play against the Oklahoma State Cowboys at Boone Pickens Stadium on December 3, 2011 in Stillwater, Oklahoma. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
A little dramatic? Maybe. But given what I believe Bob Stoops and this Oklahoma football program are facing, I'd argue that it's a pretty fair statement. And I make it because the Insight Bowl, against Iowa, is a massive disappointment for what this team's goals were before the season started. You might hear something different from them between now and kickoff Dec. 30th, but it's just lip service and we all know it. They're human beings just like you and I are, so it's only natural they'd be a little disappointed they've fallen all the way to the Insight Bowl. The potentially major problem with that though is this team has had an impossibly difficult time all year, for some unexplainable reason, getting up for games. So what reason would we, as OU fans, have to believe that a game that is widely regarded as a massive disappointing to be in, means literally nothing to fans (or the players I'd argue), will be a game that this OU football team will come out ready to play?
Before we get into this, I'd just ask you one favor. I'm sure there are plenty of you out there who are well past tired of all my complaining. So if that describes you, skip over the rest of this post and just read the last paragraph. I'm hopeful that we can at least find some common ground in there.
Arizona is a terrible location for an OU bowl game because it's a destination (the Insight is played in the same location as the Fiesta Bowl if you didn't already know that) OU players and fans have been to repeated times in recent years. So there is little to no excitement from either about returning yet again. Iowa is a terrible opponent, not because they're a bad football team/program, but because the only people excited about the match up are the sportswriters who have a month's worth of "Did you know that Bob Stoops is from Iowa?" columns (and I'm pretty sure even they're not all that excited). So I doubt I'm telling you anything you didn't already know in that the motivation for this Oklahoma Sooners football team to 'get up' for this game isn't exactly bursting at the seams.
So it's to that point that I based my headline. Bob Stoops and this coaching staff have their hands full in getting this team ready to play on December 30th. Under Stoops, OU has developed a reputation nationally for coming up short in big spots. That unfair part of that would be all the Big 12 championships and more national title game appearances in his (Stoops) tenure than any other program in the country. Another unfair part of it, in my opinion, is the ridicule Stoops seems to receive for his record in those title games (1-3). Now the fair part of that reputation is the repeated instances where Stoops' teams have come out flat and so clearly unprepared for their opponent. So that's the fear, at least for me. The fear that this team comes out and lays yet another egg against a team they should be able to beat rather handily (no offense Iowa fans).
Everything on paper absolutely screams this will be another classic OU letdown game. Bob Stoops and his staff have the next 25 days to prevent that. It's a staff that has struggled to motivate a team all year that supposedly had national championship aspirations. It's a staff, that in the eyes of this diehard fan, is facing a crossroad in terms of how it approaches its future. They can either keep being lazy and continue doing things the way they've done them in the past, lose games (regular season and bowl) they shouldn't lose, and rest on their laurels (which is VERY much what I feel like they're doing). Or they can take a good, long, hard look in the mirror and ask themselves if they really want to get better. It would involve change, something Stoops and his staff have proven they don't like very much. But it's a necessary one if they want to continue to have the level of success they've achieved and maintain the standards they themselves have set.
It's obviously not a short amount of time to prepare for a single game, so I assume you'll agree there should really be no excuses come December 30th. "Yeah, but the injuries!" Um, no. These coaches have 25 days, not five like a normal game week, to create a game plan suited to who is available to play in this game. So forgive me if I'm not buying that excuse that has been offered up all year.
So the crux of the point I'm trying to make is if we get to the night of December 30th, and this OU team comes out and yet again unprepared to play, gets behind early, and/or gives us yet another uninspired performance then as far as I'm concerned we know all we need to know about Bob Stoops. He will have had 25 days to prepare his team and in a similar situation in which he has failed to do so several times in the past. If "it" happens again, then I'm just not sure how any OU fan could argue that Bob hasn't lost his edge. After the nightmare that was OSU last Saturday, Bob hears the critics. He'd tell you he doesn't care and while he probably is telling the truth in that he doesn't care what you or I think, he has pride and it was hurt last Saturday night. The only question is whether it was hurt enough to force him to change? While we won't truly know that answer in full on December 30th, it wil be the first test and if he and this team fail, yet again, then in my opinion it's a very bad sign for what the future holds for the football program we all love so much.
I keep going back to this and it's probably annoying you, but I do so because I firmly believe it to be true. This team/staff/program has just started to make its way down the path that Mack Brown and Texas are currently on. Mack and his staff were cruising right along, all fat and happy, coasting on the success they were having and thinking "We're a machine. As long as we keep her tuned up, we'll be just fine." Then the freaking bottom falls out of their program, their laziness catches up with them, their failures in evaluating talent really catch up with them, they go 5-7 followed by 7-5, and are in the midst of a substantial rebuilding process. The most frustrating part of all this is we can so easily avoid having to go through something like that. We were witness to their failures, we can learn from theirmistakes without actually having to make them ourselves. Fortunately we're on the outside looking in on all the things they did wrong, but we still have time to stop ourselves from heading down that same path. To be that lucky is a rare thing, usually you have to make the mistake yourself in order to learn from it. And all we need to do in order to avoid a disaster similar to what Texas is going through is for our head coach to not be so incredibly stubborn so as to ignore the warning signs.
And for me, that's where the fear resides. Is Bob too stubborn, or proud, or loyal to his friends on staff, or whatever the hell you want to call it, to see the signs? To get off the path of finesse and entitlement that we're currently on and that leads to failure? We know Bob is stubborn, we've witnessed it, but could he actually be this stubborn? I hope not, at least as much as any of you out there if not more so, but given his history I'd be lying if I told you I wasn't worried.