In an interview with Matt Hayes of SportingNews.com, Stoops dismissed the suggestion of stipends for athletes. He did it in his typically blunt fashion, which naturally caught the attention of the national media.
A guy who makes $5 million a year comes out against paying players what looks like peanuts? “You’re not the first one to spend a hungry Sunday without any money.”
That’s chum in the water for righteously indignant opinionators like me who believe Stoops couldn’t be more wrong on this issue.
Just because I’m an OU fan doesn’t mean I’m going to ride with the Sooners’ head coach on this. I’m also not going to get into yet another debate about the pay-for-play issue.
But here’s the thing about the message...
Stoops didn’t do himself any favors by making these statements. Yeah, he might have the public’s opinion on his side. Even so, you can be damn sure that this is going to hurt him on the recruiting trail. After all, coaches like Brian Kelly and Nick Saban have paid lip service to paying stipends in the past. The Ol’ Ball Coach even suggested taking it out of coaches’ salaries.
So, who comes off looking like the asshole?
Yet, a coach saying players should be paid and a coach doing something about it are two entirely different things. I don’t see Saban organizing marches on the NCAA headquarters in Indianapolis to get full-cost scholarships for players.
If you’re trying to win the hearts and minds of recruits, you have nothing to lose with a tepid endorsement of a stipend that you know will never come to fruition. Meanwhile, you’re pulling down nine figures and telling your players, “I really wish we could pay you, but the NCAA won’t let us.”
I might disagree with Stoops’ justification for not paying players, but we shouldn’t kid ourselves. He’s just talking it like he and his colleagues are walking it.