Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Bob Stoops' Sudden Oklahoma Exit Is a Shock, But Yet It's Not

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Bob Stoops has stepped down as Oklahoma Sooners head coach effective immediately, and Lincoln Riley, the current OC, has been promoted to head coach, and will be the youngest head coach in FBS football. While the immediate response to the retirement of Stoops, who was the longest tenured coach in FBS football at the time, there are reasons as to why it may not be such a shock after all.

Why Is This a Shock?

200 Wins
Stoops was the head coach at Oklahoma for 18 seasons, and finished with a record of 190-48 overall. When you examine his record, one of the reasons to be surprised about this move was that he is just 10 wins away from 200 wins for his career. Of course, when it all comes down to it, Stoops will be inducted into the Hall of Fame. Of course, if he had won those 200 games, which he most certainly would have done in 2017, he would have been a first ballot lock. He likely still will be a first ballot guy, but that 200 win mark makes a coach elite.
Big 12, National Title Aspirations
Another reason to be surprised is that Stoops had a team that could win the Big 12 title in 2017, and at worst is a top ten program, and at best is a top four or five program. Certainly there will be some push in conference play from Oklahoma State and West Virginia, but this team, despite some losses, will definitely be one of the best teams in the nation this fall. To walk away from that makes one wonder why anyone would leave this situation.
No Health Concerns
Bob Stoops' father died at age 54 from a heart attack, while coaching a high school game. There was a fear early on today that Stoops was facing similar health concerns. The good news is that Stoops has gone well out of his way to dispel any health concern rumors, and has stated that he is in good health, and that his health has no bearings in this decision.

Why Should This Not Be a Shock?

The Tom Osborne Syndrome
In the modern era, there are only four seats at the big table every season, and that is the four teams that make the so called playoff. If you don't have one of those seats, you have been branded an also ran, which has gone a long way to turn people off on the game. With the movement to that mindset, pressure on coaches has been ramped up to all-time high levels. Of course, the money being paid to coaches has also been elevated to an all-time high.
Tom Osborne was in this same position in the mid-90s. He had been narrowly missing out on national titles, and the pressure had been applied for him to get over that hump and win titles. With this pressure, Osborne traveled down a road he had never really traveled down before, and started recruiting players who he had never considered before, and he had to turn a blind eye to character issues.
When Stoops was hired 18 seasons ago, he was brought in to clean up a lingering mess that had begun under Barry Switzer, and had continued through the tenures of Gary Gibbs, Howard Schnellenberger, and Jeff Blake. He cleaned things up, and began to win fairly early on in a big way.
In recent years, Stoops had been narrowly missing titles, much like Osborne had at Nebraska just 20 years ago. Osborne won his title, but succumbed to the pressure within two seasons, as the pressure on his conscience wore him down.
Stoops has recently had to deal with things that he has not been dealing with. The Joe Mixon situation, the DeDe Westbrook revelation of domestic assault, and the Baker Mayfield off-season DUI issue are all things that wear on a guy like Stoops, and he finally may have just broken under that pressure of having to have individuals around that may cause him heartburn. A guy like Stoops may not be able to live with what is being done to win in this era.

Pressure, Pressure, Pressure
Just a couple of years ago, Stoops was pushed to make major changes to his staff, which he did not agree with. Of course, some of those changes worked out very nicely, but Stoops still found a way to chafe at the pressure that had been applied to him to make those changes, and his job had become in jeopardy. He had earned more from the administration and boosters at that point, and left that situation feeling disrespected. Something tells me that he still has not gotten over that issue, nor should he.

Conference Issues, Off-Field Issues
Privately, Oklahoma people are yelling from the rooftops that they want out of the Big 12. Publicly, the administration is singing a different tune. The school could earn more revenue by joining the SEC or PAC-12. Of course, none of this has anything to do with Stoops, but he still fields an awful lot of questions about this, and his relationship with the press has always been tenuous, at best. He has been salty in pressers, and his relationship in recent months and years has shown some signs of strain. If Stoops was feeling strain from any of the other issues that have existed around his program, and the issues looming at other schools (sexual assault issues are popping up like weeds all across the nation), he may very well have decided that he had had enough.

The program may very well be in excellent hands with Lincoln Riley. He has one of the brightest young minds in the college game, and it was just a matter of time before he was given a big time head coaching job. That being said, with not a word leading into this decision leaking from any sources, the departure of Stoops was a major surprise all over the nation. There could be issues that I have not mentioned here for him, and there could be personal life issues at play as well. There could be a looming bomb that is about to go off around the program with allegations coming, but there is no rumor or anything specific pointing in that direction at this time.
In short, there are  several reasons to be surprised by this, but there are several reasons as to why this move makes sense. The one thing we do know as of now, is that one of the most successful coaches in college football has chosen to walk away, and that will be felt by Oklahoma, and by college football at large.

As always, you can follow me on Twitter @BiloFootball, and all comments are welcome.

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