When Oklahoma announced Lincoln Riley’s new contract extension about a month ago, it sounded to me as though OU had a de facto head coach in waiting without actually calling it that. At the time, I figured 2017 would turn out to be Bob Stoops’ swan song before passing the baton to his rainmaking offensive coordinator.
Stoops shocked the college football world by stepping down even sooner than that. As someone who writes about Sooner football, I admit that I’m glad to see him go.
Don't get me wrong: The fan part of me doesn’t love the uncertainty that comes along with seeing one of the sport’s most consistent winners replaced by a 33-year-old with no experience as a head coach. While it’s comforting to know that Stoops greased the skids for Riley to succeed him, we’ve seen more than enough hotshot coordinators flame out as CEOs to know Riley’s success isn’t guaranteed.
The pettier part of me also would have loved to see Stoops win another national title – if for no other reason than to see how the “Big Game Bob, hardy-har-har” crowd would react.
Yet, the part of me that enjoys analyzing and writing about college football would tell you that, honestly, OU had gotten kinda boring. It’s about as first-world of a problem as you can get, but it tested the limits of my creativity to come up with fresh angles to write about a regime that was in place for the equivalent of an eternity in coaching years.
The down seasons for OU under Stoops were rare, and they weren’t that “down” - the Sooners averaged nearly 11 wins per year under Stoops. They failed to reach double-digit victories in just four of 18 years. They never finished with a losing record. The consistency grew numbingly predictable.
And, in reality, OU football had become the Bob Stoops Story. Year after year, the underlying theme of the season was if Stoops would finally win another national championship. Thankfully for Stoops, he got out before people started talking about how holding on was putting the program in a deepening hole. (See: Brown, Mack.) In fact, the Sooners look pretty strong now.
Everything I’ve heard about Lincoln Riley indicates that he’ll make a great head coach. The fact of the matter, however, is that he could very well suck out loud.
Either way, OU football broke out of the Stoops loop last week. I like having something new to talk about.