Why Is Tom Izzo a Hero and Bob Stoops a Goat?

Luke McConnellCorrespondent IMarch 30, 2010

ARLINGTON, TX - SEPTEMBER 05:  Head coach Bob Stoops of the Oklahoma Sooners before a game against the Brigham Young Cougars at Cowboys Stadium on September 5, 2009 in Arlington, Texas.  (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

The Michigan State Spartans clinched their second straight berth in the Final Four on Sunday. It is the Spartans' sixth trip to the Final Four since Tom Izzo became head coach in 1996.

However, Izzo has only won one national title in his previous five trips to the Final Four, meaning he is 1-4 when it comes to winning national championships after getting to the prime destination of the sport.  

Sound familiar? It should. Tom Izzo isn't the only coach who has been on the biggest stage of the sport only to come away with a championship a single time.  

Oklahoma Sooners coach Bob Stoops burst onto the national scene in 2000 when, in his second season in Norman, he took the Sooners to an undefeated season and a national title in, ironically, the same year that Izzo and Michigan State won THEIR national title.

Since that time, Stoops has been to the national championship game three times, losing all three.

Here's the part I don't understand: Izzo is hailed as an amazing coach and is lauded over for getting his teams to the Final Four year after year but not winning titles.

Stoops, on the other hand, is bashed mercilessly for not being able to win the big one and choking when the spotlight is brightest, despite having an almost identical pedigree.


Someone please tell me how this makes any sense at all.  

Stoops' teams haven't even been favored in the national championships that they've been in. They were a slight underdog to LSU and more heavily against USC and Florida.

It's not like Oklahoma has swaggered in as the clear favorite and been toppled by a lesser team.  

One main argument that is interesting to me is that in college football, you are put in the title game based on the votes of those who have confidence in you.

In college basketball, you get to the Final Four on the grit and determination of your players and the ability of your coach.  

I think that it's a very valid argument when it comes to actually getting to the title game in football and the Final Four in basketball, but I don't think it holds up when you look at the title game or Final Four itself.

A coach takes a lot of responsibility for the actions of his team, which I sometimes think is unfair, but it comes with the job description. The coach is the face of the team. When the team doesn't perform, you look to the top for answers.  

Getting to the Final Four means that you have won four games over teams that are sometimes better and sometimes worse than you. But the fact remains, you've earned your spot there based on your play on the court.  

However, is that enough? Is it enough to get to the Final Four and then just lose?  

When Michigan State has lost in the Final Four under Izzo, they've lost big, getting blown out by UNC twice and Arizona once. The only close game was a six-point loss to Duke the year before the Spartans won the national championship.  

Oklahoma lost in the title game by a touchdown to LSU and by 10 to Florida. They got blown out big time against USC in 2005 in a game that was never close.  

But there is more noise about Oklahoma's blowout losses than Michigan State's. And it's not even close.  

I'm not degrading Tom Izzo. He is a great coach and he has done some amazing things at Michigan State. I very much admire him and respect him for the job he does year in and year out.

However I also greatly admire and respect Bob Stoops. He is a fantastic coach and knows how to win football games.  

It just doesn't make any sense how one of the greatest coaches in college basketball today can get to the biggest stage and lose and not be dubbed a choke artist, while one of the greatest coaches in college football can do the exact same thing and be dubbed one.  

Does this make sense to YOU?

Let's get the discussion rolling.  


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