The Oklahoma Sooners suffered an embarrassing 48-14 loss to the Baylor Bears this weekend that essentially guaranteed their exclusion from the first ever College Football Playoff. With the loss, the Sooners dropped to 3-3 in Big 12 play (6-3 overall), good for sixth in the conference. One can’t help but wonder if after 15 years it’s time for a change of scenery for the future Hall of Fame coach. Is it really time for Stoops to leave Oklahoma?
In my opinion, no. Have things gotten slightly stagnant? You could make that argument. But it’s not like the Sooners have ever fallen from the status of ’National Title Contender’ year-in and year-out. Heck, just ten months ago the Sooners were finishing an 11-win season with a throttling over mega-power Alabama in the Sugar Bowl. And now people are saying he should consider heading off to soon-to-be-vacant positions at Michigan and Florida? Give me a break.
OU fans are probably anxious for another National Championship from Stoops, who provided one in his second season as top man in Norman, back in 2000. But remember, he’s also been to three title game’s since then and racked up seven conference championships. I can think of dozens upon dozens of schools who’s fans would thank the heavens for such consistent success on the football field.
Stoops is also continuing to recruit at a high level. Since 2002, Oklahoma has pulled in a top-15 class nationally every single year according to rivals. For the 2015 class, Stoops has seven 4-star prospects verbally committed, including Rodney Anderson, arguably the best all-purpose running back in the country. Considering the constant success on the field and the outrageous new facilities (more on that in a moment), recruiting simply won’t fall off any time in the near future. There’s going to be a ton of talent in Norman every year, despite the fact that the state of Oklahoma isn’t known for the number of top prospects coming out each year.
Another thing that should keep Stoops in Norman is the aforementioned facility upgrades. OU is upgrading and expanding ‘The Palace on the Prairie’ at a cost of nearly $400 million dollars. The brand new, shiny, riverfront stadium that Baylor just built? That entire stadium cost $250 million, just for some perspective. Drawings and renderings online show an absolutely ridiculous home stadium that will make it one of, if not the nicest stadiums in the country. A facility like that keeps fans and boosters happy and will certainly help to continue drawing elite athletes from all over the country (if you haven’t noticed, recruits like shiny new facilities).
It’s not growing stagnant in Norman. Is it harder to win now than it was a decade ago? Absolutely, because other schools in the division are getting much better (Baylor, Oklahoma State, TCU, etc.), not because OU is in decline. But if Stoops goes to Florida, it’s not like his conference slate is going to get easier. If he goes to Michigan, it’s not- well, yea it probably would be easier, because the Big Ten is terrible.
Still, that program is totally fractured (as is Florida’s) and will take a few years to re-build, something the 54-year old Stoops may not be interested in. The Sooners, meanwhile, will have a young and very talented defense next year and a junior QB who could be in the running for a Heisman. Combine that with the constant recruiting success and the new stadium upgrades, the future is very bright for Oklahoma. Things are trending up, not down.
Stoops should stay at OU and continue adding to his tremendous legacy. It’s unique to find a coach who can stay at one spot for so many years and continue such levels of success. In today’s business, it’s all about going to a spot, succeeding, then once things grow slightly stagnant, bounce to the next big job (cough, Nick Saban, cough, Urban Meyer). That’s easy. It’s much harder to plant your roots and stick it out for the long haul.