Stoops' remarkable career as a player, assistant coach and head coach spanned nearly four decades
College football will not be the same with the retirement of Oklahoma head coach Bob Stoops. Formerly the longest tenured head coach in the FBS, Stoops announced his retirement on Wednesday saying, “the timing is perfect to hand over the reins” to offensive coordinator Lincoln Riley. This fall will mark the first season since 1978 where Stoops is not an active participant in a college football game.
I am not even going to devote one word to the criticisms of Stoops, because it is unwarranted on this day. As a four-year starter at Iowa, a rock-star defensive coordinator at Kansas State and Florida, and a head coach at Oklahoma who won a national championship and took his team to a bowl game every year, Stoops had more highs than lows. Here are the 10 greatest moments of his football life that stand out to me.
10. First Brush with Greatness
Sept. 28-Nov. 5, 1985
Stoops was a stalwart defensive back for head coach Hayden Fry during his first four seasons in Iowa City. After his playing career ended, Fry offered Stoops an assistant coaching position and he remained at Iowa until 1987. Fry’s best season as a head coach of the Hawkeyes came in 1985, when Iowa won the Big Ten and held the No. 1 ranking in the AP Poll for the entire month of October. A loss to Ohio State on Nov. 2 doomed Iowa’s national championship hopes, but it was a heck of a run.
9. College Football’s Highest Scoring Team
Powered by Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback Sam Bradford, Stoops’ Sooners averaged 51.1 points per game and played Florida for the national title. Although Oklahoma lost to the Gators, its 716 total points for the season was the most by any college football team at the time. (Florida State broke the record with 723 points in 2013.)
8. Kansas State’s First Bowl Win
Dec. 29, 1993
Kansas State was arguably the worst program in college football history when Bill Snyder arrived in 1989 and hired Stoops as his defensive backs coach. In 1991, Snyder made Stoops his co-defensive coordinator and in ‘93, the Wildcats went 9-2-1 and the won the first bowl game in the program’s 97-year history. Much of the credit in the 52-17 win over Wyoming in the Copper Bowl went to the offense, but Stoops’ defense held the Cowboys to 36 rushing yards and 302 yards of total offense.
7. An Unlikely Big 12 Title
After starting quarterback Rhett Bomar and offensive lineman J.D. Quinn were kicked off the team for violating team rules, Oklahoma proceeded to lose two of its first five games. The Sooners then banded together and won their remaining eight games, including a 21-7 victory over Nebraska in the Big 12 Championship Game. Although Oklahoma would go on and be upset by Boise State in the now-legendary 2007 Fiesta Bowl, the college football world applauded Stoops’ coaching for the season.
6. A Dominant Second Half
Jan. 1, 1997
After being embarrassed by Nebraska the year before in the Fiesta Bowl, Florida head coach Steve Spurrier lured Stoops away from Kansas State in 1996. The Gators’ defense immediately improved, holding opponents to three fewer points per game than the previous year. By season’s end, Florida faced Florida State in a rematch in the Sugar Bowl for the national title. The Gators avenged their regular season loss to the Seminoles, scoring a Sugar Bowl-record 52 points, while Stoops’ defense held Florida State to three points in the second half in a 52-20 win.
5. Three Consecutive Big 12 Championships
Only one team has won three Big 12 championships in a row and that team is Oklahoma. Stoops accomplished this feat en route to winning 10 conference titles during his career.
4. Iowa Team MVP
In 1982, Fry called Stoops the biggest playmaker Iowa had and that year, he was named the team’s most valuable player. When giving him the award, Fry said, “I don’t know who it was, but some fellow once told this young man that he couldn’t play college football. He pushed what I call the hot button.” Who knew that hot button would stay on for almost 40 years?
3. Putting OU Back on the Map in Three Weeks
After Stoops arrived in Norman in 1999, Oklahoma’s football program was in the doldrums. Over three straight games in October in 2000, he put OU back in the college football stratosphere. First, the Sooners blew out No. 11 Texas 63-14. Then, Oklahoma beat No. 2 Kansas State 41-31 in Manhattan. The Sooners capped off the run beating No. 1 Nebraska 31-14 the following week. No program has ever had a better coming out party.
2. Oklahoma’s All-Time Winningest Coach
Nov. 23, 2013
OU has had four legendary head coaches: Stoops, Bennie Owen, Bud Wilkinson and Barry Switzer, but Stoops tops them all in one important category. With a 41-31 victory over Kansas State in 2013, he surpassed Switzer to take the lead in career wins. Stoops retired with a record of 190-48.
1. National Champion
Jan. 3, 2001
Stoops’ only national title came in a dominating 13-2 win over Florida State in the Orange Bowl. Oklahoma’s defense completely shut down Heisman Trophy winner Chris Weinke and the Seminoles’ wide-open attack in a victory that was not as close as the score indicated. While it remains the only national title of Stoops’ tenure at Oklahoma, he did go on to win 10 or more games in 13 of his next 16 seasons.
— Written by Aaron Tallent, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Tallent is a writer whose articles have appeared in The Sweet Science, FOX Sports’ Outkick the Coverage, Liberty Island and The Washington Post. Follow him on Twitter at @AaronTallent.