In an era of sports punditry increasingly dominated by snark and glasses that are half-full, Bob Stoops can make for an easy target.
His program has garnered a reputation as college football’s version of the Buffalo Bills: lots of regular season success that hasn’t carried over to the postseason. His tendency to run his mouth has only made Oklahoma’s flops that much sweeter for the #haterz during Stoops’ tenure.
Amid plenty of legitimate questions from both inside and outside Sooner Nation about the possibility of Stoops getting the team back to the top of the college football mountain, OU’s head coach notched his 168th all-time win yesterday, a 41-31 victory against Kansas State. It gave him more wins in his career at OU than any other coach, passing Barry Switzer for first on the list.
Switzer, of course, became a coaching icon at Oklahoma in the 1970s and ‘80s. Known in Norman as “The King,” he remains a beloved figure around the community, even after a series of scandals on his watch tainted the OU football brand and sent the program into a vicious slump that lasted a decade.
In college football, greatness is measured not just in how many games you win, but which ones. Switzer won a ton of games, but he became Sooner royalty by capturing three national championships in his 16 seasons as head coach.
With one national crown to his credit, Stoops hasn’t hit that nearly impossible mark. He has checked off just about every other box, though, including seven (or eight) Big 12 titles.
OU hasn’t really come close to competing for a national championship in five years. If we’re going to consider that a shortcoming, then Stoops does deserve blame for letting the program atrophy on his watch. With a noticeable lack of depth and elite difference makers, this year’s OU team represents a microcosm of that slide. Even before a rash of injuries, it’s not a vintage OU team.
Yet, aside from propelling Stoops past Switzer, yesterday’s win also put the Sooners in position to possibly get to double-digit wins, which would make 12 times in 15 seasons. Even in his worst years, he has finished above .500. He has done all that while OU has pursued marquee non-conference games against the likes of Florida State, Notre Dame and Alabama. In an era when schools schedule for wins and coaches rarely stay in one place long enough change their drivers license, that kind of long-term consistency is remarkable. (Take a look at what’s happening at Florida right now… and Michigan... and USC… and Nebraska…)
Like most OU fans, I have my doubts that Stoops will ever match Switzer in the national championships department. Based on his sometimes prickly public persona, I also doubt that he will maintain the same level of visibility as Switzer around the OU program when he is done.
But given all that Stoops has accomplished, I think there’s more than enough room for him to sit on the throne with The King.