A couple of months ago, I wrote about Bob Stoops and the notion of loyalty. In an age where the word’s definition is as tenuous as ever, Stoops’ tenure as the head coach of the Oklahoma Sooners was as loyal as it gets.
Key word: was. I still can’t believe how weird that is to type. Of course, when I penned that article, I had no idea what was going to come.
It’s over, he’s gone. But it’s not like he left the program in shambles — not that Oklahoma has truly come close to any valleys since Stoops has been there.
190-48, one National Championship, 10 Big 12 titles, and being the winningest coach in school history is some kind of legacy. But Stoops’ biggest legacy will be the excellent shape he left the program in for the Lincoln Riley era and beyond.
Bob Stoops, for all of his old-school sensibilities, was an incredible recruiter.
To date, his best class was 2006: Gerald McCoy, Sam Bradford, DeMarco Murray, Trent Williams, and Jermaine Gresham all moved on to the league from Oklahoma. Considering that the class produced four All-Americans, three first-rounders, and a Heisman winner: not bad. Not bad at all.
Stoops has always been a masterful recruiter of the state of Texas. Read Graham Dudley’s articles (part one and part two) on the greatest Texans to ever come through Norman for reference. Names from Bob’s tenure practically pop off the page: Dede Westbrook, Derrick Strait, Tommie Harris, Samaje Perine, and Adrian Peterson — just to name a few.
Texas isn’t the only place Stoops has put an imprint on, though. Before 2010, the Sooners weren’t known for picking up East or West coast kids, which, if you think about it, is a pretty substantial chunk of the nation’s premier talent. In the 2017 class, eight of Stoops’ 27 signees (nine of 28 if you include the newest addition) come from the coasts.
The ‘17 class (or, as it’s affectionately known, #SoonerSquad17) is the crown jewel on Bob Stoops’ career. Although it won’t be certain until at least a few years from now, the ‘17 class has a chance to be the greatest ever for Bob. Stoops has set up Lincoln Riley with one hell of a springboard for the beginning of his head coaching career. How’s that for a legacy?
Before Bob Stoops
After Bob Stoops
Before Bob Stoops arrived in Norman, Gaylord Family Oklahoma Memorial Stadium looked like a 6A Texas high school football stadium — at least relative to how it looks today. What was once a pseduo-horsehoe is now completely bowled in with decks on both sides.
It’s directly tied to Stoops’ success as head coach of the Sooners. Donors open their pocketbooks when they see sustained success like Stoops’. The East upper deck, for example, was announced after the Sooners won a national title. Construction was completed in 2003.
The many improvements in the South end zone, including the new mega-sized video board were announced after the (now infamous) Sugar Bowl victory led by Trevor Knight.
Again: all of this is a result of Bob’s handiwork. Gaylord Family - Oklahoma Memorial Stadium has become one of the nation’s premier destinations to watch a football game.
It’s not just the stadium, though. The Sooners’ training facilities and locker rooms are all first class:
The impact these improvements have are immeasurable, really. A nice stadium is a minor selling point for a recruit, but world-class facilities will be the point that clinches valuable recruits.
And, of course, better recruiting (hopefully) translates to on-field success, which in turn floods the athletic department with cash from ticket revenues and donors alike.
Oklahoma president David Boren and athletic director Joe Castiglione owe Mr. Stoops fruit baskets and bottles of wine for life after all he’s done for the football program and the university as a whole.
Before Bob came along, the Sooners had a culture problem. The winning culture had simply withered away after Barry Switzer left in 1988. Garry Gibbs (though his circumstances were far from ideal), Howard Schnellenberger, and John Blake all failed to varying degrees to return Oklahoma to the prominence it had known under Switzer.
Enter Bob Stoops. A four-year starter at Iowa as an undersized defensive back, he exemplified heart and hustle on the field in his Hawkeye days.
So it’s not surprise that he coached the same way. Under the tutelage of college football coaching legends like Steve Spurrier and Bill Snyder, Stoops learned the right way to handle a program. He knew what a winning culture looked like.
When he was handed the reigns in December of 1998, he brought the program their first bowl appearance in over five years. The next year, he brought them their first championship since the Switzer days.
Blue-collar, hard-working guys like Rocky Calmus, Roy Williams, and Josh Heupel became a trademark for Stoops’ early teams. And, despite the enormous paradigm shift in college football since Stoops first took over, more recent players like Adrian Peterson, Gerald McCoy, and Samaje Perine have taken up the mantle.
Stoops was the model of consistency in his time. He dipped below 10 wins only four times throughout his career. He was the Big 12 coach of the year six times in his tenure. And, as Brett McMurphy points out, the Sooners lost consecutive games under Stoops only three times. That, my friends, is a level of consistency many programs would do illegal things to obtain.
A winning culture is the gift that keeps on giving. Newly minted Oklahoma head coach Lincoln Riley has never been at the helm of his own program before. Fortunately, Riley won’t have to worry about creating a winning culture — it’s already there.
Perhaps the biggest gift Bob Stoops left the University of Oklahoma? Riley himself.
Not that Bob Stoops was trying to hire his eventual successor when he hired him away from East Carolina. The Sooners simply needed fresh blood after an 8-5 season with Josh Heupel as offensive coordinator.
It’s worked out like a dream so far: the Sooners ranked first in Offensive S&P+ last season. By all metrics, Riley has had prolific offenses his entire career — even at ECU.
Riley, as Stoops and the Oklahoma athletic administration must have recognized, is also a player’s coach. If anything, Riley as head coach is a plus for players. Recruits love him.
Recent OU QB commit Tanner Mordecai told 247Sports that he’s excited for Riley to take over, saying, “I’m excited. Coach Stoops was one of the best coaches ever to coach this sport and I think Coach Riley can do the same.”
Stoops, for all of his talents, is aging. It took him some time get aboard the social media train, which is now necessary to pull in football’s best and brightest recruits. He never seemed comfortable harnessing it in the same way that other coaches around the country have.
Although Stoops didn’t plan on hiring a 31-year-old coach-in-waiting from Eastern Carolina, it worked out that way. Riley didn’t have to wait long to get his shot.
“I didn’t want to miss the right opportunity,” Stoops said at his farewell press conference. “It was the right opportunity to have a seamless transition.”
If Stoops believes it will be seamless, who are we to doubt?