football Edit

Mind of Mike: Stoops showed remarkable consistency at OU

Bob Stoops
Bob Stoops (AP)

The stunning resignation of Bob Stoops at Oklahoma left many of us floored in a slow news month for college football. But for a guy like me, who got into this business right around the time Stoops took over at Oklahoma, it makes me reflect on his impressive career as well as some of the things he did that weren’t so impressive. Here are my thoughts on the man that revived Oklahoma to college football’s elite and kept it there for nearly two decades.

MORE SOONERS: | Stoops steps down | Recruits to watch | Teams that will benefit


• Consistency was the one word that came to mind immediately when thinking about Stoops and college football recruiting. Oklahoma never won a recruiting title in history, but they also rarely finished far off the pace. For the first many years of our recruiting history, Oklahoma and Georgia were the only two teams to finish in the national top 10 from 2002 to 2006.

That may not sound like a big deal, but when you see that teams like USC, Florida, FSU, Ohio State, Miami and others couldn’t do what the Sooners and Dawgs did at the beginning of our rankings, it’s impressive. Oklahoma finished No. 14 in 2007 and Stoops and company rebounded in 2008 with yet another top 10 class. From 2002 to 2017, Oklahoma had eight top 10 classes and the lowest they ever finished was No. 16. That’s consistency.

• Stoops wasn’t a flashy recruiter but his on-field success, laid back demeanor and ability to close in living rooms were key. While coaches like Urban Meyer and Bobby Bowden got by on personality and Nick Saban succeeded with directness, Stoops was able to be what was needed depending on the situation. He is one of my top 10 all-time head coaching recruiters in the nearly 20 years I’ve been following recruiting.

• Stoops wasn’t afraid to think outside the box as well, famously visiting Adrian Peterson’s natural father, Nelson, in prison rather than doing an in-home visit. After Stoops visited Nelson Peterson, Adrian’s mind was pretty much made up and he wasn’t even around when Mack Brown finally got around to doing his in-home visit for Texas in late January.

Stoops was the first and only coach to visit Nelson Peterson as the prison warden barred all other coaches from visits. Whether Stoops knew that would happen or not means little. He out-maneuvered Brown and Texas for arguably the best Lone Star State recruit in Rivals history.

• Oklahoma recruiting suffered from the realignment of the Big 12, yet Stoops still kept them consistently in the top 15 range and finished his OU career with one of his best classes in 2017, a class that ranked No. 7 overall. His best year was 2005, when the Sooners finished No. 3, followed by 2003 (No. 4 overall) and 2008 (No. 6 overall).

As the Big 12 began to fall apart, top 10 finishes for the Sooners fell apart as well. However, the Sooners still finished No. 11 in 2012 with Nebraska and Colorado gone and No. 15 in 2013 with Texas A&M and Missouri gone. Even with the conference considered the weakest in the Power Five, Stoops still finished 2014, 2015 and 2016 with amazing consistency (No. 15, No. 14 and No. 16 respectively) before his big final push in 2017.

• As Stoops got older, his ability to change his recruiting strategy impressed me greatly as many would have been stuck in their ways. Oklahoma used to be slow to offer underclassmen, but that changed. His staff became complacent in recruiting, which helped lead to the top 10 classes turning into 11-15 range classes, so he made staff changes. Stoops reacted with the times. He might have been a tad slow to react at times, but he always reacted and the results showed.

• National recruiting under Stoops was excellent. Not only did he hit Texas, but he was consistently pulling high level prospects from California from as far back as the Tony Jefferson, Kenny Stills class in 2010. Oklahoma had just begun to hit Florida a bit more and always did well keeping kids at home as well as recruiting the Midlands area (Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska, Colorado, etc).

In history, which covers every Stoops class from 2002 to 2017, they landed a four-star or high prospect from the following states – Oklahoma, Texas, California, Colorado, Louisiana, North Carolina, Missouri, Florida, Illinois, Ohio, Nevada, Kansas, South Carolina, Virginia, Utah, New Jersey, Georgia, Michigan, New Mexico, Arizona, Mississippi and Pennsylvania, plus had a Canadian prospect. That’s impressive work.

• Oklahoma signed 18 five-star recruits in Rivals history under Stoops, the most impressive being Peterson, followed closely by Gerald McCoy and perhaps the most famous being Joe Mixon. There were more busts than booms, something that happens with many programs.

ν The Rhett Bomar no-show job deal and of course the Mixon fiasco are two situations that OU haters love to bring up and I’ve been obviously very vocal about the mishandling of Mixon. However, there is no doubt that June 7, 2017, is a very sad day for college football as the longest tenured coach in the nation steps down and the sport loses a man who, by all accounts, was a class act. Oklahoma football has lost a legend who will be remembered more for his 190-48 overall record at Oklahoma and his 121-29 in conference record more than his 9-9 record in bowl games. His national title in 2000 after taking over a program in disarray led to his “Big Game Bob” moniker and few coaches can claim to have played for four national titles in their careers.

ν Who’s happy? Texas head coach Tom Herman is happy, at least when it comes to recruiting. The same can be said for Texas A&M coach Kevin Sumlin as well as Oklahoma State head coach Mike Gundy and a few Pac-12 coaches who have been on the losing end to Stoops for California kids. The loss of a legend in college football is never anything to celebrate, but you can bet there are a few teams out their breathing a little easier.

Lincoln Riley
Lincoln Riley (AP)

Can Stoops be replaced with a budding legend? Lincoln Riley is stepping into some huge shoes, but his success at Texas Tech, East Carolina and especially Oklahoma has made him a big name in offensive circles. I’ve already been asked whether the hiring of the 33-year old Riley will be a boon for recruiting as he replaces a man 23 years older and my answer has simply been this – the bar has been set really high. Stoops put together some amazing recruiting classes, he went head-to-head with coaching legends for high profile recruits for almost 20 years and he won a national title and played for three more.

A boost in recruiting could be seen initially especially with the Sooners at No. 22 in the nation and having suffered a few de-commitments in the last month or so, but it’s really hard for me to say that this is a good thing for OU football. However, an aggressive, brash, offensive genius who is an excellent recruiter and closer taking over at Oklahoma at the same time as a guy with similar qualities at Texas sure makes this an interesting time in the Big 12 doesn’t it?