Legendary coach Bob Stoops to be enshrined with College Football immortals in 2021
Bob Stoops could have stayed on as head coach at Oklahoma for as long as he wanted. His teams could have won more conference titles, played for more national championships and won so many more games that no one would have ever touched any of his records.
Stoops owned the keys to the castle.
That was part of his reward for taking over an OU football program mired in the depths of mediocrity and rebuilding it into a perennial contender, which included winning a national title in just his second season at the helm.
In his 18 seasons at OU, Stoops' teams collected 10 conference titles and won 190 games, more than any other coach in the program's illustrious history. He helped reinvent the football monster that legendary coaches Bud Wilkinson and Barry Switzer created and perfected, respectfully.
Only 56 when he turned over the OU reins to Lincoln Riley in 2017, Stoops could have continued to coach for another 10 or even 15 more seasons had he so desired. That's maybe potentially another 120 wins added to his total, which puts him over the 300 mark and etches his name alongside guys like Bear Bryant, Bobby Bowden and Eddie Robinson.
But even without those additional numbers, the Youngstown, Ohio, native did more than enough to earn a first ballot induction into the College Football Hall of Fame, as announced by the National Football Foundation on January 11. Stoops will join 12 other honorees -- one coach and 11 players -- at the annual induction ceremony in December, when both the class of 2020 and 2021 are celebrated.
"As a son of an all-time, lifelong high school coach, no one appreciates the game of football and the coaching profession more than I do," said Stoops, "and so I am truly grateful for and humbled by this honor."
Stoops will be the sixth OU head coach to enter the College Football Hall of Fame, as he joins a list that includes Wilkinson, Switzer, Bennie Owen, Biff Jones and Jim Tatum. There are also 22 former OU players enshrined in the HOF.
"Son, brother, friend, teammate, colleague, leader, husband, father, coach, mentor, innovator, winner, Head Ball Coach, Big Game Bob, legend and now first-ballot Hall of Famer," said Joe Castiglione, OU's director of athletics. "Whatever reference you choose, he is the gold standard. For 18 seasons, he gave his all but it was never about him -- it was always about his players first, then coaches and staff, etc. He put the credit beacon on everyone else.
"So happy for Bob, Carol and their family. We're eternally grateful for all he did for OU, as well as the opportunity to share his legendary journey with him."
In the four years since stepping away from his duties as head coach, Stoops has not strayed too far from the program. He initially took over the role of special assistant to Castiglione -- and except for a short coaching stint in the XFL, he has remained a fixture in and around the OU athletics department.
In fact, his son Drake Stoops is currently a receiver for the Sooners and he still resides in Norman with his wife Carol, and remains involved in several business interests in the area.
"Coach Riley and I still have a very close relationship, and I still go by practice quite often. My son plays on the team, so the program still means a great deal to me," said Stoops, who worked his way through the ranks with coaching stops at Iowa, Kent State, Kansas State and Florida before landing in Norman prior to the 1999 season.
Once in charge, it didn't take long for Stoops to return Oklahoma back into an elite power.
After finishing a respectable 7-5 in his first year, the Sooners put together one of the most memorable seasons in program history, as they reeled off 13 straight victories en route to winning the school's seventh national title.
That 2000 season was only the beginning of a stretch that would include winning ten conference titles and earning three more trips to the BCS championship game, as well as a spot in the 2015 College Football Playoff.
With Stoops leading the charge, OU produced a 121-29 regular season league record, which translated into a .807 winning percentage. And the Sooners were a remarkable 101-9 at home during that stretch -- the best record among all Power Five programs.
"Bob came along at the perfect time for Oklahoma," said legendary coach Barry Switzer. "They needed someone to turn things around and lead them back to greatness, and he proved he was the right coach to do that. And he kept on proving it for 18 years, winning championships and more football games than anyone in OU history.
"That's a pretty special legacy to take with you on your own terms, which is pretty rare for college football coaches."
Stoops led OU to 14 seasons that produced 10 or more victories and 18 consecutive bowl appearances. His teams forged an 11-7 mark against Red River rival Texas and owned a 14-4 record vs. Bedlam rival Oklahoma State.
While he was considered a defensive specialist during his years as an assistant coach -- including working as Florida's defensive coordinator when the Gators won the 1996 national title -- Stoops was quick to adapt to the spread offense that has become so prevalent over the past 20 years.
He reached the 100-victory milestone faster than any coach in college football history, thus making Oklahoma the only school to ever produce four coaches with at least 100 wins (Bennie Owen 122-54-16, Bud Wilkinson 145-29-4, Switzer 157-29-4).
In 2013, Stoops eclipsed Switzer's mark for program wins, and when the 2016 season came to a close -- his career mark stood at 190-48.
"Football is the ultimate team game with so many pieces that must be put together, and nobody can have success by themself. It takes everybody contributing," said Stoops, whose younger brother Mike spent two stints on the OU staff. "Certainly, that was the case for me. From my family to my support staff to my assistant coaches to our administration and to our great fans -- I had incredible support at Oklahoma for each of my 18 years, and I am thankful to everyone who played a role in all our achievements....
(Editor's Note: To read more of this story or to subscribe, call 405-364-4515)