Entering this, his tenth season at Oklahoma, Bob Stoops had already posted a 97-22 record, a feat that would be met with cheers and excitement for the majority of the country’s college football programs. At first in Norman, it was likely met with a similar reaction, as after all, Stoops managed to build the Sooners back into a legitimate and consistent National Title contender—pulling them from a long and painful funk.
The 2008 season was no different, posting a 12-1 record and a berth in the BCS National Championship.
Still, let’s take a step back and look at what’s most important for a college football fan—not just winning… but winning the big games. Translation in Norman: beating Texas in the Red River Rivalry and winning a major bowl game—preferably a National Title.
And with that being said, one should lean in and mutter, “What about Bob?”
Indeed, what about him?
Oklahoma Sooners (Recent Bowl History)
2003 Season – Sugar Bowl - #2 LSU 21, #3 Oklahoma 14
2004 Season – Orange Bowl (NC) - #1 USC 55, #2 Oklahoma 19
2005 Season – Holiday Bowl – Oklahoma 17, #6 Oregon 14
2006 Season – Fiesta Bowl - #9 Boise State 43, #7 Oklahoma 42 (OT)
2007 Season – Fiesta Bowl - #11 West Virginia 48, #3 Oklahoma 28
2008 Season – BCS National Championship - #2 Florida vs. #1 Oklahoma
That’s four consecutive BCS bowl losses and a mind-numbing Holiday Bowl victory over Oregon. What about the “artist formerly known as the Red River Shootout?" The Sooners crushed Texas in ’03 and shut them out in ’04, but since then, it’s been a struggle to say the least.
Red River Rivalry (Since 2005)
2005 - #2 Texas 45, Oklahoma 12
2006 - #7 Texas 28, #14 Oklahoma 10
2007 - #10 Oklahoma 28, #19 Texas 21
2008 – #5 Texas 45, #1 Oklahoma 35
The Oklahoma boosters may love Stoops for restoring order to the school’s football program, but poll the fans, and see where their loyalty lies. Top dollar says the Sooner-faithful is ecstatic to have order restored, but more hungry for titles.
They appreciate Stoops’ winning percentage, and realize how much better it is compared to the 61-50-3 record posted in the “Post-Switzer-Pre-Stoops era”, but they’re sick of being embarrassed in the big games. They love the five BCS bowl appearances over the last six seasons, but they’re sick of hearing about the Statue of Liberty play. They’re sick of hearing about Boise State. They’re sick of hearing about USC dropping fifty-five points on them in a National Title game. They’re sick of losing to the ‘Horns.
They love the sixty-plus points per game scored over the final month plus of the 2008 season, but they want to see that kind of offensive explosion in a National Championship game.
Every aspect of life—especially sports—comes back to one simple phrase: “What have you done for me lately?” And that my friends is why Bob Stoops should be in a seat as hot as Norman in the middle of the summer. Take the following comparisons…
Mack Brown caught heat year after year, consistently winning ten games, but never getting over the hump and winning the big game at Texas. Then Vince Young came around and saved him the headaches of hearing that broken record over and over again. In a New York minute, Coach Brown went from the hot seat to a leather recliner.
Mack may still be kickin’, but coaches like John Cooper are not. Cooper couldn’t win the big game at Ohio State, failing to knock off Michigan on a number of occasions, plus being unable to vault the Buckeyes into the winner’s circle. Nope, John Cooper was only a pro at running up the score. Ohio State moved on, and brought on Jim Tressel, who has one title under his belt—but even Tressel could start to take heat if Ohio State can’t return to its old form of winning big-time bowl games.
Then there is Stoops, who is floating in a similar boat, and he better grab a life raft, because one more BCS clunker and his Oklahoma ship could be sunk for good.
At least, it should be—and for anyone to say the end isn’t a possibility is just being naive.
Why? Plain and simple, Oklahoma is a big time program that expects to win—and win titles. Heck, maybe it’s the seven National Titles that have spoiled them rotten. Bud Wilkinson and Barry Switzer each won three, and while Stoops won one in 2000, Oklahoma hasn’t even managed a New Year’s Day (or later) bowl victory since 2003 (when the Sooners defeated Washington State in the Rose Bowl), let alone smell a National Title.
Either way, it’s a tease to have a title shot dangled in your face, only to have it swiped away without a fight. All season, Oklahoma is a ferocious beast desperately trying to escape from its cage, but come big game time, the Sooners are nothing but a paper tiger, ready to fold.
It comes down to this one game—national stage, national audience, big stage—so big that fans are paying top dollar to watch it in the theaters—in 3-D nonetheless. How many dimensions of the Sooners will we see this time around? Will it be the one-dimensional offense-only Sooners led by Heisman winner Sam Bradford? Or will it be the multi-dimensional Oklahoma team that blew Texas Tech off the field?
Will it be Coach Stoops’ tail being kicked three-dimensionally into the crowd of viewers one last time, or tears of joy from his eyes raining down on each fan in the audience? Only time will tell, but one thing’s for sure, it’s time for Coach Stoops to put up or shut up.
Put on those 3-D glasses, but not until you’re told to. This is about to get interesting.