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Spring football eases pain




On Sale at Newsstands March 1, 2019!
To The Point
Interesting and Exciting to see Bob Stoops return to the sidelines again coaching football

It was about an hour after Bob Stoops was announced as new head coach and general manager for the Dallas XFL franchise, and I was still stunned he had taken the job. Then Clarence Hill of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram posted a video to his Twitter feed.

It was of Stoops having an exchange with Star-Telegram columnist Mac Engel in the post-announcement media scrum.

Engel: "Bob, can you address all of the speculation... Because you left (Oklahoma) in June, there's a million conspiracy theories out there why you left in June..."

Stoops: "You were waitin' for the other shoe to drop, weren't ya."

Engel: "Kind of, yeah."

Stoops: "Yeah, there isn’t one.”

Engel: "Well and that's just it. Can you address..."

Stoops: "And you found out that it actually was a really good time, wasn't it?"

Engel: "I don't know, that's up to you."

Stoops: "Well how has OU done since?"

Engel: "Great. How have you done?"

Stoops: "And those same recruits when I stepped out?"

Engel: "No, but it was this idea, this conspiracy that Oklahoma wanted Bob to step aside and retire."

Stoops: "Oh OK. Yeah."

Engel: "Is there any truth to that at all?"

Stoops: "I don't even need to answer that."

Engel: "That's a no?"

Stoops: "Yeah."

About then, I was still stunned Stoops had partnered with Vince McMahon and the second version of McMahon's old renegade pro football league. But I was more glad than stunned.

I was glad Stoops was back in the game.
I missed seeing him set that jaw of his, lock his eyes onto yours and insist that whatever he did, said or believed was gospel. He did that for nearly 20 years as coach of the Sooners. It explains his remarkable success rate over that span.
It also, if you think about it, explains his essence.

A kid doesn't emerge from that Youngstown bedroom, the one Stoops shared with his three brothers, or that factory-whistle hometown of his, without ironclad assuredness. An athlete lacking size and speed doesn't earn his way to a starting spot in the Iowa secondary without it. A coach doesn’t progress through the ranks of Kent State and woebegone Kansas State without it.

Staring down doubt, or heck even speculation, with a smirk that tells the room he knows better? That's Stoops. That's the football coach.

That wasn't Stoops the retiree.

I enjoyed seeing him step back and take deep breaths for a change. I saw him on the field at Ohio State that first fall without football and in Oklahoma City the night they unveiled his statue the following spring. I noticed immediately his willingness to laugh a little more, to have a conversation instead of a confrontation.

I saw the social media video of Stoops pouring beer at his buddy Matt McMillen's new restaurant. I saw the beard he tried on. I heard about all of the golf he could suddenly play.

I was happy for the coach to be more of a fan again, or more of a dad or husband or tax-paying citizen or whatever he chose to be given the circumstances of days suddenly untethered to the Switzer Center.
But I sort of missed the coach.

I missed Stoops removing his headset and clapping to encourage players, or removing the thing and nearly hurling it to berate officials. I missed him giving his players grief, too, how angry he'd get if they screwed up a pass coverage. I missed him giving his players game balls, how excited he'd get through the foggy lens of OU's video camera there to record the locker room moment.

He intimated at the XFL announcement he missed all of that. He intimated he had become a little bored, with a little too much time to play golf, pour beer, mow lawns or replace grout.

I can't blame him for that. All Stoops knew the first half of his life was competing. He's supposed to throw it into "idle" and be perfectly content over the last half?

Tough task that.

He can still have a retirement. A permanent one, I mean. Now he has another few million dollars for another few trips around the world with family and friends.

Now, Stoops has the option to keep coaching, or even general managing, if he finds the job still suits him. The NFL might be more curious in him if they see him handling XFL salaries and trades with the same aplomb he tackled NCAA scholarships and transfers.

I just fancy the idea that he is coaching again. I was dubious about the what and the where -- he was introduced inside a baseball stadium, for goodness sake, with cheesy Jock Jams music blaring in the background.

Now, I don't so much care.

The new Bob Stoops was interesting, but not nearly as much as the old one. That the old one will be back on a sideline in February of 2020 is pretty darn cool.

(Editor's Note: This story appears in Sooner Spectator's 2019 Recruiting Issue - to subscribe or read more, call 405-364-4515)