Stoops sees Arkansas to the Big 12 as 'good fit'

By: Clay Henry
Published: Wednesday, October 11, 2017
Former Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops speaks during a Northwest Arkansas Touchdown Club luncheon on Wednesday, Oct. 11, 2017, in Fayetteville.
Photo by J.T. Wampler
Former Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops speaks during a Northwest Arkansas Touchdown Club luncheon on Wednesday, Oct. 11, 2017, in Fayetteville.

— Bob Stoops isn't going back to work as a coach any time soon, if ever. That has been clear at every speaking stop he's made in an open fall.

Stoops stepped down earlier this year after an incredibly successful 18-year run as Oklahoma football coach, which included a national championship and three national runner-up finishes.

Maybe he'll dabble in the world of TV analyst, but probably not in an every Saturday capacity.

“If I wanted to work every weekend, I had a good job,” Stoops said Wednesday at the Northwest Arkansas Touchdown Club.

He was asked last week before a similar group in Atlanta if he'd bite “if someone came with a lot of money” to coach again.

“You think Oklahoma wasn't paying me a lot of money?” Stoops said.

There was a large group of Oklahoma fans to hear Stoops speak in Arkansas. Around two dozen waited around afterward for pictures and autographs. Stoops might have been playing to them earlier with his answer about the Razorbacks fitting better in the Big 12.

Stoops wanted the crowd to settle the debate.

“How many in favor of going to the Big 12?” Stoops asked. “How many in favor of the SEC?”

The response was about even, with many wearing OU shirts favoring the Big 12.

“Geographically, it's a home run,” Stoops said about the potential for an Arkansas move.

“Imagine you are playing a series against Oklahoma, Oklahoma State and TCU, all within driving distance. I think it's a home run for the Oklahoma folks, too. You have to look past the finances. I think it's incredibly good for Arkansas. It's a fit.”

Stoops said afterward he wished he'd inserted a couple of Arkansas names at that point. He knows two of the top hands in Jeff Long (athletics director) and Matt Trantham (senior associate AD).

“Jeff and Matt are great friends and leaders,” he said. “They were at Oklahoma and they are good people. I wished I'd mentioned them in my address.”

The move to the Big 12 might help recruiting.

“I know Arkansas has done well in Texas before,” he said. “Playing in the Big 12 would help them get back to that. I know it's been incredibly important to us at Oklahoma.”

There are other things that helped recruiting at OU. Stoops said among his first hires was at offensive coordinator where Mike Leach brought the spread throwing game.

“You have to attract quarterbacks,” he said. “Mike Leach was incredibly important to what we were doing as far as getting quarterbacks. They like that offense. We were among the first to do it.

“Quarterbacks are the key at any level. That's where it all starts. We attracted good quarterbacks. It's the big key in winning. It's hard to win big without great quarterbacks.”

That's what he pointed to as the key to beating Alabama. Stoops led the Sooners past the Tide, 45-31, in the 2014 Sugar Bowl.

Stoops recalls sitting up most of the night after the Sooners finished the regular season with a victory over Oklahoma State for a 10-2 record.

“I was watching ESPN on TV and had our game on my computer,” he said. “I don't sleep much after a game, maybe an hour or two. There it came across the ticker on the bottom of the screen, Oklahoma in the Sugar Bowl – against Alabama.

“So the next morning when my wife wakes up, she asks me what's the news of the day. I said, 'It's good news and bad news. The good news is we are going to the Sugar Bowl. The bad news is we play Alabama.' She said to turn that around, that it's bad news for Alabama.”

Stoops said that's the way Arkansas should look at the trip to No. 1 Alabama this week.

“You gotta do the same thing,” he said. “You have to think, 'The bad news is that they have to play Arkansas.' You have to believe that.”

Stoops started four years for Hayden Fry at Iowa. Fry coached for Frank Broyles at Arkansas. Did he recall anything from Fry about Broyles?

“Not really,” Stoops said. “I've been around coach Broyles three or four times and I respect what he did for our profession.

“What I recall that Coach Fry did at Iowa, he brought a swagger that wasn't there. He came in wearing those white pants and sun glasses.”

There are ties with the Stoops family with Arkansas coach Bret Bielema.

“I know Bret, but my brother Mike at Kentucky is closer to Bret,” Stoops said. “I'm a little older than Bret.

“Give it time. Bret's a good coach. I've heard there are key injuries. He can't say it, but that's always tough to overcome. It falls on deaf ears, but if you don't have depth it's difficult. You think the second or third guys are as good as the first?”

Someone told Stoops they “were at the edge of the cliff. Why shouldn't I jump?”

Stoops urged, “Don't do it! Last year at Oklahoma, we were 1-2 at the start. We lost to Houston and Ohio State. People were saying the sky is falling. We'd lucky to be .500. We didn't lose again until last week (against Iowa State). We had the nation's longest winning streak.”

The key to turning it around is to believe in your system.

“By that I mean how you go about practicing,” Stoops said. “Maybe you intensify certain things. You keep doing what you believe. You fix what you can fix. You keep positive.

“What I know is that the better teams get better as the season progresses. And you have to get lucky. One or two plays can mean all the difference. You gotta keep your key guys healthy.”

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