Steven Godfrey raised a great point in a column reacting to Bob Stoops stepping down at Oklahoma. Namely, if you had to pinpoint the biggest key to Stoops’ sustained success, he handled his coaching staff extremely well over his 18 years with the Sooners.
As Bruce Feldman noted in the most recent episode of The Solid Verbal podcast, Stoops enjoys an extraordinary level of respect from his peers. He earned a reputation in the coaching community for being a good boss who treated his staffers well. He also became known for helping other coaches advance their careers.
Counting Lincoln Riley, seven of Stoops’ assistants went straight from OU to head coaching positions. Meanwhile, those assistants who were shown the door typically got a chance to find a soft landing spot first. And Stoops almost certainly let a few of them linger at OU a year or so beyond their expiration dates.
When times were good, Stoops spread the credit around. When things went south, he never scapegoated his assistants. He often answered criticisms of his coordinators with reminders that he was the one signing off on their decisions.
All in all, he demonstrated a longstanding commitment to grooming up-and-comers, looking out for his staff and generally making OU a desirable place to work. In that sense, the well wishes he received from the coaching community in the last 48 hours aren't surprising.
So, why would Stoops quit now? If you look at it from the perspective of a coaches’ coach, it actually makes a lot of sense.
Retiring in January would have put a huge dent in the chances that his handpicked successor would get the job. Think about how the dominoes fall for the rest of the staff if a new head coach from outside the program takes over – that’s a bunch of guys who suddenly need work.
By doing this now, Stoops guaranteed that Riley would get the gig. He also ensured the job security of the rest of the staff (for at least a year, to be fair). Lastly, he got all the members of OU’s vaunted 2017 recruiting class on campus.
Riley now finds himself in a situation that most rookie college football coaches could only dream of: leading a veteran-laden team with a superstar quarterback. Even with the coaching change, OU likely remains the favorite for the Big 12 crown and a top contender for a bid to the College Football Playoff. That’s not quite Cokerian good fortune, but it’s damn close.
True to form, Stoops did Riley and the rest of the staff a major solid in his last act as OU’s coach.