One of the weirdest sights on college football’s opening weekend will be the Oklahoma Sooners playing a game without Bob Stoops.
If you’re just tuning in, Stoops retired suddenly at the beginning of June. OU immediately elevated his offensive coordinator, Lincoln Riley, a 33-year-old who became the youngest head coach in the Football Bowl Subdivision. So Riley will lead the Sooners against UTEP on Saturday (3:30 p.m. ET, Fox).
Stoops, 56, exited Norman on his own terms — a rarity in modern coaching.
He was the longest-tenured head coach in the FBS (Bill Snyder’s Kansas State run included a hiatus in the middle, and Stoops was hired one day before Kirk Ferentz at Iowa).
Stoops’ first season was 1999, when he went 7-5. He was a 13-0 national champion in his second year, when quarterback Josh Heupel and the Sooners offense tore through the entire country. Stoops never won another title after that, but he built OU into the Big 12’s most consistent winner. He never missed a bowl game or even won fewer than seven games. His last game was a Sugar Bowl triumph against Auburn last January. His record was 190-48 over 19 years.
Stoops decided he’d had enough and that the time was right.
“I didn’t wanna miss the right opportunity to be able to step away and hand this baton off to Lincoln Riley,” Stoops says, “and to help keep this all just going in a great direction.” Riley was a handpicked successor, already in place.
Even coaching legends often get forced out. Maybe they aren’t fired, but they’re quietly urged that it’s time to give way to a new leader. The reporting consensus is that Stoops’ departure was really and truly of his own accord.
As sources told SB Nation’s Steven Godfrey when Stoops stepped down:
“That’s a pretty solid way to go out,” one head coach said.
Is it? To just up and leave a prestige job you’ve been at for 18 seasons?
“No booster tried to fire him. No one in the media talked about it. He didn’t have to coach a season where his status affected the players. And he went out on top. How many games did they win last year?”
Oklahoma won 11 games.
“Pretty damn good, man. That’s as good as it gets today.”
Stoops can get more rest now, but he hasn’t totally left Oklahoma.
Stoops was well paid, and he stayed in his job for almost two full decades. By the time he retired, he was above $5.5 million in annual salary, per USA Today’s coach pay database. He’s got reason and means to take lots of time off.
Stoops took a trip to Florida right after his retirement press conference, ESPN reported. He coached more years at OU than anybody else, and it’d be surprising if Oklahoma didn’t bring him back around for some sort of ceremony at some point.
In the interim, Stoops is still sort of hanging around. He stopped by a training camp practice in August, and his brother, Mike, is still the team’s defensive coordinator. He even still has a title: special assistant to the athletic director, Joe Castiglione.
“He may slide in,” Mike Stoops said at that practice. “You never know. I’m sure he’ll wander, possibly. I don’t know. I’m curious like everybody what it’s like for him, but I’m not worried about it. It’ll be interesting to see how he adjusts to life outside of what he’s done for such a long time.”