Usually when the most successful coach statistically in the conference decides to call it quits, it opens up an opportunity for the rest of the conference. I’ve seen a lot of reactions stating the same as a result of Bob Stoops abruptly retiring, but I’m not sold on it. In fact, I’m thinking closer to the complete opposite, and think Oklahoma is going to be in better shape than they are right now a few years down the road. Hear me out.
Stoops is leaving with a complete and talented roster. He’s handing over the reigns to Lincoln Riley with a Heisman-contending quarterback (in some people’s eyes), a stable athletic department from what outsiders can see, and a program that’s won back-to-back Big 12 championships.
But most importantly, I think Stoops is leaving at the perfect time. Not only the perfect time of the year, but the perfect time in his career as well.
I’ve said for two years that OU football is going to start declining under Stoops. Even though he was winning, he just didn’t have the same demeanor on the sidelines, and definitely didn’t sound the same in press conferences.
He started reminding me of Mack Brown about two years ago.
During Mack’s decline, he started responding to questions more politically. So did Stoops the past couple of years.
Mack always pointed to the 2005 National Championship and 2009 Big 12 Championship to bail himself out when people doubted him. Stoops started pointing to the trophy case more often as well when asked a difficult question about the state of his program. But the fact is, Sooner fans don’t care about the Big 12 Championships anymore. That’s the result of success, Bob.
Instead of looking to the future and talking about where the program was headed, Mack started talking more about where they’ve been. Stoops has been doing the same.
I was at peace knowing OU was going to head down a similar path as Texas, because Stoops was going to stay too long. I wanted to see a messy transition, similar to what Texas went through with Mack. I wanted to see Stoops have a losing season before eventually getting run out of Norman. But that’s just the Texas fan and my natural hate of everything Oklahoma in me.
But he played his cards perfectly. He’s getting out before the pressure hits him any harder. Did he learn by observing Mack’s situation a few years ago? I wouldn’t doubt it.
He’s made enough money in his career where he doesn’t have to put up with that stuff if he doesn’t want to. He’s chosen to get out before it happens. Good for him, but not good for Texas.
The reason? Lincoln Riley.
I was afraid when Oklahoma hired him two years ago as Offensive Coordinator. Aside from the fact that he has no head coaching experience, it feels like Oklahoma now has their version of Tom Herman.
He’s a young up-and-comer who many experts believe will be the next hottest coach in college football. And while he’s being thrown into a pretty cushy situation in Norman, he will find out quickly that this is a different animal he’s dealing with if he loses a game or two early. There will likely be some growing pains, but I fully expect him to adjust, as much as it hurts me to say that.
Riley will be able to relate to players more than Stoops has been recently, and that doesn’t bode well for Texas on the recruiting trail. Just as Herman is dominating recruiting right now without having coached a game at Texas, I expect Riley to do the same in the very near future.
And remember those commitments Herman secured from the state of Oklahoma recently? I wouldn’t be surprised if one or two flipped back and decided to stay home now. It’s just how recruiting works.
Riley puts the Sooners back on an even playing field for the time being in recruiting, because he brings a new vision, a new level of excitement and possibly a new brand of Oklahoma football. Who knows how well he will follow-up Stoops in the win column, but I’m worried he will see success earlier rather than later.
I have some peace knowing Texas has Herman to counter anything Riley has to throw out there, though. And I think you’re going to see a Red River Shootout like none other this October as a result.
This is the first time since 1947 that both Texas and Oklahoma will have first-year head coaches at their respective schools squaring off against each other in the annual battle. And I think we will be in for an instant classic.
I know I’m not in the minority when I say I wish I could have one more chance at beating Stoops in the Cotton Bowl. But I believe I am in the minority when I say I’m more worried about the Sooners now than I was a week ago.
E-mail Chase at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @chaseholik88.