Amid the chaos following the Sooners’ win in the Big 12 championship game, I happened to stumble upon Bob Stoops. It was right as the ceremony was taking place on the stage at about the 20-yard line facing the Oklahoma fans.
The confetti was falling and Stoops appeared to be in a state of ecstasy. He was looking up and looking around at the stadium and the fans, while simultaneously hugging and high-fiving lots of family and friends from the Sooners community.
When Bob Stoops retired in June, many knew Lincoln Riley had the potential to be the next in line of great Oklahoma coaches. Stoops selflessly stepped down heading into a season when Baker Mayfield was returning for his senior year. And while the team lost some key pieces, it was still expected to compete for a Big 12 title and College Football Playoff appearance.
Nearly six month later to the day, Oklahoma was celebrating its Big 12 championship victory by beating TCU 41-17 and unofficially punching its ticket to the College Football Playoff.
But when I kept glancing over at Stoops, at no point did he have the look on his face of a man that wished he was on the stage. In fact, he kind of lingered towards the back of the crowd and he soaked in the moment.
Remember, these players, are in many cases, his players. He knows them as well as anyone. It was Bob Stoops who went into the living rooms of these recruits to talk to their families and make his pitch for Oklahoma. So not only was he watching the achievements of his hand-picked successor, he was watching the young men who he probably expected to coach through the end of their college careers enjoying this moment.
I thought about having a brief conversation with Stoops, but I did not want to ruin the moment for him, as the only folks talking to him were family and friends. Plus, I’m sure part of the reason he retired was to avoid talking to the dopes in the media! Why be that guy?
So I saved my thoughts and in the postgame press conference, I asked Lincoln Riley (who is paid to answer these questions) about as he looked back on this season and this game in particular, how much he leaned on coach Stoops. Here was his full answer:
“I’ve definitely leaned on him. I would be crazy not to. I’ve told you guys you know what he means to me and how, you know, this happening, in large part is due to him, his unselfishness.
Like a lot of guys would be sitting there, like him today saying, man, that could have been me, or maybe bitter about it and he may be the happiest person out there on the field celebrating with us. That’s just him. He’s a special guy.
I’ve leaned on him for advice and loved having him around and thankful we had the opportunity to have him around our program. It’s just — you know, things are just a little bit different at Oklahoma. How many other places does the head coach that just retired is still around and still so involved and the it’s just so smooth. It’s just different. It’s a different place. We’re built different. There you go, and I think that’s a big reason why you see the consistent success.”
When you examine the insanity that is the college football coaching carousel this offseason, Oklahoma fans should be even more grateful as to how smooth this transition has been.
I’ve long questioned and speculated whether or not Bob Stoops was actually and truly retired and done coaching. In fact, I’ve ticked off many an Oklahoma fan by believing that Bob Stoops was not done coaching, either at the college or NFL level. Something would come along that would whet his appetite enough to get him back on the sidelines, somewhere, somehow, someway. But as I continued to study him (as creepy as this sounds) following Saturday’s win, it hit me: Bob Stoops is not coming back.
He was excited, yet simultaneously relaxed, and he was more than content to not be on the guy on the stage accepting the accolades.