Robert Anthony Stoops has had a successful run as the coach of the Oklahoma Sooners. Some would argue he is the third best coach in Sooner football history, but as the Sooner football program is unraveling, Stoops needs to step aside at the end of the season.
Most of Stoops’ success should be credited to John Blake. When Stoops showed up in Norman as a confident, brash young coach, the cupboard was full and waiting for an excuse to succeed. Stoops made some brilliant coaching hires and his assistant coaches were able to point the Sooner football program in the right direction. Once all Blake’s players used up their eligibility, the Sooners started a string of embarrassing big game losses that is unprecedented at a major college football program. This year, Stoops’ squad may finish under .500 for the first time under his watch. Throw in the Big Red Autos pay for play scandal, and it becomes evident that the Sooner program is in a downward spiral.
Comparing Stoops to other successful Sooner football coaches emphasizes this point. Bud Wilkinson had a very successful run from 1947 to 1958, although most of his wins were in a very weak Big 8 Conference. In 1959, things began to go sour for Wilkinson, and his teams from 1960 to 1963 were downright awful. Wilkinson stepped down after the 1963 season and pretended to dabble in politics. Obviously, he never would have run for office if the Sooners could have won a few more games on the field. Stoops obviously will never run for office, but he should be planning on a graceful exit. Wilkinson’s entrance into the political arena was a brilliant move that allowed him to step down with dignity.
Stoops can look at Barry Switzer to learn how to leave amidst scandal. Switzer’s teams didn’t tank on the field like Wilkinson’s, but his quarterback was a central figure in a cocaine ring and most of his players was shooting each other with automatic weapons in the athletic dorms. Still, Switzer would have remained the Oklahoma coach if his team had managed to win a still weak Big 8 in 1988. After his team’s performance off the field started impacting its performance on the field, Switzer had no choice but to resign. Right now, Stoops is facing less criticism than Switzer did for off the field problems. Stoops was successful in placing all the blame of his most major scandal on the hands of an 18 year old kid who was just doing what he was told to do.
In conclusion, the similarities to the fall of the two other Sooner coaches are evident. Like Wilkinson, Stoops’ teams on the field are faltering, and most Sooner fans agree that Stoops won’t be able to harness another magical season. Like Switzer, Stoops seems unable to control his team off the field. There are a lot of rumors out there, but usually those rumors don’t hit the newspapers until the teams starts tanking. Guess what? The Sooners are tanking.
Check those newspapers over the coming weeks. Something interesting is about to happen in Norman.