It was a nugget of information in college football's summer slowdown that probably didn't make much news outside of Sooner Land: Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops and his staff had traveled to Tuscaloosa for an offseason skull session with Nick Saban's crew.
Were they trading ideas about defending Florida's funky option attack? Discussing the intricacies of the no-huddle? Swapping theories about talent evaluation?
Or, was Slick Nick teaching OU's head man the art of living with a lie? After all, Saban seems to be doing just fine since telling anyone who would listen that he wasn't interested in the Alabama job while still coaching the Miami Dolphins. Tens of millions of dollars later, we all know how that turned out.
"What I'm saying is I'm going to be at Oklahoma next year. I can't be in two places at once," Stoops said today when asked point blank about the rumors linking him to the open Notre Dame coaching vacancy.
Sounds pretty definitive. So why should we take ESPN's Adam Schefter seriously when he goes on the air hours later and reports that the Fightin' Irish are negotiating the details of a deal with Oklahoma's coach? Well, there's this comment, also taken from Stoops' teleconference today: "I'm not confirming or denying anything about Notre Dame or any other job. My point is this is what I love doing right now."
If I was an eternally optimistic Irish fan, I know how I'd interpret that.
"You should know everything reported isn't true," Stoops told the Tulsa World tonight, responding to Schefter's report.
True that, but what about Notre Dame?
"I don't lie," Stoops told the World.
Well, to borrow a line from an accomplished liar, that depends on what the definition of "is" is, coach.
I don't really "know" what I'm going to be doing 15 minutes after I finish writing this. I "intend" to watch the romantic tear-jerker Nights in Rodanthe on HBO. That doesn't mean I'm not entertaining the idea of watching the Transiberian Orchestra concert video on PBS, though, does it?
Such is life for fans in the wake of the distrust guys like Saban and Bobby Petrino hath wrought. We immediately suspect that "no" from a college football coach really means "it depends on how much more money you offer me."
(To be fair, I don't blame coaches for their wandering eyes. If schools like 'Bama and Notre Dame want to throw it out there like Rachel Uchitel at a Masters party, it's tough not to look.)
As I've said before–and this is coming from someone Stoops wouldn't know from Adam–I don't think the idea that he would be interested in taking over in South Bend is completely crazy. But he won't take the job.
Despite what some folks south of the Red River would have you believe, Stoops has never shown himself to be a liar. In fact, for all his media-induced surliness and propensity for coachspeak, most who know him well consider him the straightest of shooters. So, when he releases a statement like the one he put out through the school Monday night, I believe him: "I stand by the comments that I made earlier today. I will be at Oklahoma. Any reporting to the contrary is completely unfounded."
I see no reason to think he's lying about this. And make no mistake, that's what this would be, a lie–and a big one at that.
No amount of double-talk and hair-splitting could change that. Thankfully, OU fans shouldn't worry.
At least, I don't think they should.