Last week at Big 12 Media Days, Brent Venables made headlines when he explained his method for rebuilding the program at Oklahoma, and how it differs from the most prevalent rebuild happening in college football right now, at Colorado.
The Sooners’ head coach talked at length about changing the culture in Norman and resetting the standard and expectations at Oklahoma.
“Eighteen months ago when I got here, we weren’t going to class like we needed to,” Venables told KREF Radio. “We weren’t living right off the field like we need to. So, you talk about a culture change and a resetting of the standard and what the expectations are. I gave guys 12 months of grace. I wasn’t like Deion [Sanders]. I gave guys 12 months of grace to figure it out. Here’s the three [expectations]: Go to class, live right off the field, and when you show up over here, you show up with respect and appreciation for your opportunity. If you go 0-for-3 for 12 months, you need a fresh start. So we helped 21 guys, give or take, find a fresh start.”
In another interview at Media Days, Venables revisited the differences between his method and that of Sanders at Colorado.
“We’re another year into establishing our standards and our culture and our values,” Venables told OU Nightly Sports. “That matters. A year ago, I challenged the guys. I wasn’t like Deion that gave guys a bunch of pink slips. I gave guys 12 months of grace to go to class, live right off the field, and to show up with a great urgency and respect for your opportunity at the University of Oklahoma. If you went 12 months and you were 0-for-3 for 12 months, then you needed a fresh start.”
Those two interviews made their way around social media and eventually ended up appearing on an episode of “Pardon the Interruption” on Tuesday, where Mike Wilbon was asked if Venables’ comments make him look better or worse, to which he had this to say.
“It makes him look like a sanctimonious, loudmouth, know-it-all college football coach who doesn’t like Deion [Sanders],” Wilbon sputtered. “So let me talk about who I do and don’t like. Deion is way out there, like Saturn’s rings, with he’s doing with his approach. I’m going to root for him so hard you would think his last name was Wilbon; to beat all these loudmouth, sanctimonious, self-righteous college football coaches who dislike Deion, for whatever reasons, I have my own suspicions.
“He’d better win though, because Deion is way out there, but I’m rooting for him hard. I may go and buy season tickets at Colorado to go and sit in the stands and root for Deion to beat people like the loudmouth, sanctimonious Venables.”
Before I dive into why Wilbon is dead wrong on his take on Venables, let’s first address something: college football coaches don’t agree on much. They are competitive by nature and with hot-button topics like the transfer portal and NIL, they are bound to have differing opinions on how things should be handled.
When Deion Sanders inherited a 1-11 team this past winter, it was clear that his vision wasn’t attainable with the current roster makeup in Boulder. So, in his opinion, the best thing to do was clean house and start over. Just 10 of Colorado’s 85 scholarship players from a year ago remain on the team. In fact, Sanders was quite outspoken about the fact that there would be plenty of players hitting the portal.
During his introductory speech as the Buffs’ head coach, Sanders told players that he has, “few positions already taken care of because I’m bringing my own luggage with me, and it’s Loius [Vuitton].”
So, Sanders’ method was to clean house and start over from the beginning, which is something the college football world has never seen. NCAA rules haven’t allowed turnover of this significance until this past year when rules surrounding scholarship limitations changed. What Colorado is doing is unprecedented, and it has captured the attention of everyone who follows this sport, including other coaches.
In Venables’ method, the players that he inherited had one year to show that they had what it takes to remain on scholarship at OU. “Unlike Deion,” Venables didn’t come into the program with a preconceived idea of what needed to change on his roster. And, “unlike Deion,” Venables didn’t inherit a losing program. Oklahoma went 11-2 the year before Venables took over, which was quite the antithesis of the 2022 season at Colorado.
Taking Venables’ comments at face value, it’s easy to realize quickly that this wasn’t any sort of shot at Deion Sanders. It wasn’t an attack on the past offseason in Boulder. Brent Venables was simply stating that his approach to setting a new standard at OU was quite different from the one that has captivated the world of college football, and what many see as the future of the transfer portal.
Both Sanders and Venables have the same goals heading into the 2023 season, but they’re taking totally different routes to get there. That’s sports. That’s what makes each team and program different.
So, for Michael Wilbon to go after Brent Venables, and call him a “loudmouth, sanctimonious, self-righteous college football coach,” is irresponsible, and really, deplorable, especially for someone that the public sees as a reputable member of the media.
As someone who grew up watching shows like PTI, Around The Horn, and The Dan Le Batard Show after getting off the bus from school, I found Wilbon’s comments to be disappointing, and baseless to say the least.
The hilarious part about all of this was that Venables did take a shot at a Power Five program at Big 12 Media Days, but that didn’t get near the publicity that this Deion Sanders bit did.
“6-7, none of it’s any good, right?” Venables told College Sports on SiriusXM. “But had we gotten blown out by a Middle Tennessee, had we gotten beat by Florida State 45-3, the conversation is probably a little different.”
Those are two extremely specific references to Miami, whom Oklahoma has been going head-to-head with on the recruiting trail this cycle. Venables and the Sooners have triumphed over the Canes for four players in the 2024 class, so that’s probably not a coincidental statement.
If Wilbon wanted to call Brent Venables out for something with some merit to it, then he should’ve gone after the comments that actually had a little bite to them. Instead, he made insinuations that there was more to this than there actually was, citing “suspicions” as a reason to attack Venables’ integrity.