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Bob Stoops left an impact on many Big 12 colleagues

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Bob Stoops coached at OU for 18 seasons, second-longest behind Bennie Owen’s 22 years.
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OKLAHOMA CITY – Former Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops was the most successful coach in Big 12 Conference history with a 121-29 record and 10 championships. He retired from his 18-year position with a 190-48 overall record and a national championship.

Stoops’ legacy has left a mark on many of his colleagues, who spoke about him last week at the Big 12 Media Days.

Big 12 Commissioner Bob Bowlsby praised Stoops for being a leader, innovative, a voice for change and a voice of moderation.

“He has been active in implementing change. He’s been very innovative,” Bowlsby said. “He has been a voice of moderation. He has been a voice for change.

“The Big 12 is poorer for not having Bob Stoops any longer as a head coach in our league. He was a tremendous influence on his staff, on his players, on his university over a very long time, and he had tremendous football teams and tremendous football players. His legacy is extraordinary, and I would have been remiss to not recognize him today. I think he is tremendous in every way, and as much as we’ll miss him on the field, we’re really going to miss him in the meeting room, where he always was very thoughtful and very impactful with his colleagues.”

Matt Campbell of Iowa State and Matt Rhule of Baylor are two of the newest head coaches in the Big 12. Campbell is beginning his second year for the Cyclones while Rhule, a former coach at Temple, is in his first year for the Bears.

Campbell said Stoops holds a special place in his heart because they grew up in blue collar Ohio communities—Campbell in Massillon and Stoops in Youngstown.

“His father, head high school football coach, my father a head high school football coach in the same area,” Campbell explained. “I can remember the first convention. We just got done playing in Mt. Union, and the first speaker I ever heard was Bob Stoops down in New Orleans at one of the national conventions. I was so taken back by who he was and what he stood for.

“I think one of the great things that you have about Bob Stoops is who he was, you know, I think up here in front of everybody, to who he was with his football team, to who he was with his coaches. I think he’s as respected as anybody in our profession, and that’s hard to find today. He’s a guy that lived it, that breathed it and had a phenomenal career. I think how he built his own football program and the success they had, it’s a staple, and it’s a beacon that I think we all live—especially us young coaches, hope to be able to have a career like what Coach Stoops was able to do at Oklahoma.”

Since Rhule is a Big 12 rookie he had not a chance to match wits with Stoops on the gridiron, but Stoops made an impressive impact on him.

“I also want to personally acknowledge the impact of Bob Stoops on me as a young coach and on college football in this conference, and I know that he will certainly be missed,” Rhule said. “He’s a guy who was always able to win and do it with class.

“He was a gentleman’s coach. When I first got into coaching, I wrote him a letter and said ‘hey, I’d like to reach out to you from time to time.’ And he wrote me back. He’s somebody I’ve looked up to for a long time.”

West Virginia’s head coach Dana Holgorsen did go head-to-head with Stoops five times, coming out on the losing end each time. Holgorsen, who also was an assistant for nine years at Texas Tech and one at Oklahoma State, mentioned that family and friends were important to Stoops.

“Bob’s a guy that I look up to. I’ve spent a lot of time with him just in the coaching circles, fortunate to be able to spend some time with him,” Holgorsen said. “I know family and friends is very, very, very important to him.

“He’s accomplished everything that he can accomplish. What more can he do? He’s got the program in a great spot, did it to where nobody lost their job. He was able to watch his boys (Isaac and Drake) play high school football. It’s just everything about what he did is incredibly admirable to me.”

Walt Anderson has known Stoops since 2006 joining the league as Big 12 Commissioner of Officials. He recently told The Oklahoman that he had an excellent relationship with Stoops.

“Bob would occasionally get animated, but I probably answered more questions from Bob Stoops than anybody,” he explained. “They were rarely about calls that he knew were bad calls.

“He was such a student. Bob was an excellent student of the rules. He’d contact me all the time — ‘Hey Walt, I saw this play. I’m going to have my video guy send it to you because I need to know is this legal or is it not because I’m thinking about maybe putting it in?’ Or, ‘I’m going to send you a couple of plays from practice yesterday in terms of just actions by players, would these be enough for fouls?’ He was really good about studying holding — what can you get away with.

“Coaches like that, there’s probably a reason they’re successful because they’re doing those kinds of things rather than just not knowing the rules and just arguing about it from the sidelines. He was emotional on the sidelines. He even said, ‘Hey, sometimes I go too far.’ He was really good to work with.

“I’m going to miss Coach Stoops.”

Perhaps no one knew Stoops more than Bill Snyder, 25-year head coach at Kansas State. Before the K-State job, Snyder was an assistant at Iowa when Stoops played for the Hawkeyes. After Stoops graduated in 1982, he joined the Iowa Staff and coached alongside Snyder until Snyder took the Wildcats’ job in 1989. Snyder brought Stoops with him to Manhattan where he served as an assistant for seven years. When Stoops took the Oklahoma job, he and Snyder went head-to-head 13 times. Stoops won 10 of those meetings.

“We go way back to the University of Iowa where Bobby was a tremendous player for us,” Snyder said in a statement released by KSU. “Lots of wonderful history. I have never enjoyed playing against Bob or any of our previous coaches. But he was always gracious regardless of the outcome of how badly his team defeated us. I’ve known him as a demanding and fair mentor who truly cared about the young men he coached.

“Bobby’s time here was instrumental to building the foundation of our football program, from which our growth and continued success has evolved. We are truly proud of his success at Oklahoma. I, and many others I’m sure, will nominate and promote his induction into the NFF College Football Hall of Fame and then know at some point in time he will make it. Bob’s family should be recognized as well. Carol and the three children are all special people and have been such a positive influence on him.

“... I am so very proud of him and Carol and know that they will have a wonderful and enjoyable retirement.”

Lincoln Riley knew Bob Stoops from his playing and coaching days at Texas Tech. Riley moved on to coach at East Carolina where success there got Stoops’ attention, so the OU coach tabbed Riley as the Sooners’ offensive coordinator two years ago. After just two seasons as his mentor, Stoops turned the coaching whistle over to the 33-year-old Riley in June.

“I’ve learned a lot from him,” Riley said. “One of the most impressive things to me was he always had a great sense, I thought, for the pulse of the team, which I think is so important for the head coach. You’re going to have decisions that come up that you’ve got to make that could go either way. You’ve got to have an understanding of where the team is and what’s best for the team in that current situation.

“I thought there were times when, even as a staff, we didn’t totally agree with him, but now looking back on it, he just had a unique sense of that. It’s a little difficult to explain, but in the moment, you could really see it. So, had some great conversations with him about that and kind of how he developed that and kept tabs on it. He was, in my opinion, one of the best to ever do it.”

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Ray Dozier

Ray Dozier is the author of Legends of Oklahoma Sooners Football and two editions of The...

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