Bob Stoops doesn’t think the SEC is the cat’s pajamas.
Oklahoma recently retired head coach has said a number of things about college football’s oft-proclaimed top league over the years. These things have not been all that friendly, as a general rule. In what ended up being his final game, Stoops was able to put up instead of shut up.
The Sooners routed Auburn, 35-19, and we didn’t know it at the time, but it would provide a fitting storybook ending to his tenure in Norman.
Let’s recount Stoops v. the SEC in some detail.
It’s not been perfect, but Stoops has done fairly well against the SEC
Stoops’ last non-Oklahoma job was actually at an SEC school. He was the defensive coordinator at Florida from 1996-1998, coaching the unit that helped win a national championship in his first season.
Since Stoops took over at OU for the 1999 season, he’s 26-7 against the current membership of the SEC. A big chunk of that includes good runs against Texas A&M and Missouri, former Big 12 schools now in the SEC.
In games against the SEC at the time of the competition itself, Stoops is 7-4. That’s a winning percentage nearly 20 points below his career total. He went 0-3 against the league during a spell from 2003 to 2012, which was bad. But look: Stoops is 3-0 against Alabama, including 1-0 against Alabama under Nick Saban. He’s done just fine.
In 2013, Stoops said it was “propaganda” that the SEC was clearly the best conference
Stoops has been a Big 12 (or Big 8) guy for the last two decades, and even back in the early 1990s while he was on the staff at Kansas State. He did spend those three years at Florida, but the Big 12 is his league. The SEC is not.
Stoops has not always been a believer that the SEC is better than other leagues. From a Tulsa World article in 2013, headlined: “SEC's myth trumps its reality,” Stoops says:
"So they've had the best team in college football. They haven't had the whole conference. Because, again, half of 'em haven't done much at all. I'm just asking you. You tell me."
"It depends on who you want to listen to," Stoops said. "Listen, they've had the best team in college football, meaning they've won the national championship. That doesn't mean everything else is always the best."
"So you're listening to a lot of propaganda that gets fed out to you," he said. "You're more than smart enough to figure it out. Again, you can look at the top two, three, four, five, six teams, and you can look at the bottom six, seven, eight, whatever they are. How well are they all doing?
That’s our opening salvo. It more or less speaks for itself.
Later in 2013, Stoops threw shade at SEC defenses
Georgia’s quarterback that year, Aaron Murray, had good stats.
“How’s that happening?” Stoops wondered aloud one day. “They’re playing all those SEC defenses.”
(h/t to SEC Country for flagging this one down.)
Stoops kind of made fun of Alabama after beating the Tide in the Sugar Bowl
Apparently, there was once a year when Alabama did not play a bowl game with at least a title game shot on the line. The last such instance was the 2013 season when Bama found itself in this same Sugar Bowl, which wasn’t part of a Playoff and wasn’t for the national title. The opponent was OU, and the Sooners beat the Tide, 45-31.
Saban called the Sugar Bowl a “consolation,” which was: a) pretentious, and b) undoubtedly true. Stoops didn’t like it. Via ESPN’s Brett McMurphy:
"They didn't look like it was a consolation game on that first drive when they scored a touchdown and everyone thought they were going to rout us," the Oklahoma coach said. "I've been in plenty of those [non-national title games]. We've played in a bunch of national championship games, right? ... That's a good one.
"So that means I've got a built-in excuse the next time we don't play for a national championship?"
An attack on Alabama is an attack on the SEC at large. So is a verbal dig at ESPN’s Paul Finebaum, whom Stoops once dubbed an SEC promoter who “doesn’t deserve that attention from me.” Finebaum, who’s indeed an SEC promoter, previously called Stoops “irrelevant.” Their insult volleying constitutes an unquestionable Stoops-SEC feud.
Lately, Stoops has been more conciliatory about the SEC
During a pre-Sugar Bowl conference with reporters in December, Stoops said, “Every league is pretty much the same. You got your top teams that are all very good. You got middle of the road teams that are really good, and then you got your bottom of leagues that are all kind of fighting to get really good.”
He said he had “great respect for all the teams in the SEC, as well as the Big 12, the Big Ten.” That’s a nice thing to say.
“Every league is good,” Stoops said that day.
If there was ever a time for Stoops to land a final blow, it was after the Sugar Bowl
Every non-Alabama team in the conference lost at least four games in 2016. Oklahoma, at least in theory, is better than 13 of 14 SEC teams this year given that logic. Auburn didn’t have a strong last month of the season and is a weaker team than the SEC would send to the Sugar Bowl most years. Now he’s 4-0 in the last four seasons against the conference.
Stoops had every right to take an oratorical victory lap at his postgame press conference, and he got one last jab in in what ended up being his final presser as Sooners head coach.
“Maybe just bury that narrative,” he asserted after one of his linebackers diplomatically answered a question about conference supremacy.
Well said, Bob.