John Hoover

Firing Mike Stoops Was Necessary, But At OU, It Also Makes Good Business Sense

Firing Mike Stoops Was Necessary, But At OU, It Also Makes Good Business Sense

Multiple reports out of Norman Sunday night indicate a new direction for the Oklahoma defense.

OU reportedly has parted ways with defensive coordinator Mike Stoops, per reports from long-time OU reporter James Hale, 247Sports and Sooner Scoop.

If true, this signals a major shift — not just on the Sooner defense, but higher on the OU campus.

Much higher.

New president Jim Gallogly is running a school that is operating significantly in the red, and he can’t afford — literally — to have potential big-money boosters aggravated over what happened in Saturday in the Cotton Bowl.

Let’s be clear. This isn’t strictly about money. The harsh reality is that Mike Stoops’ defenses have been lousy or worse every season since his big brother threw him a lifeline and rescued him from his failed attempt at being a head coach at Arizona.

Mike Stoops is a good football coach. But he’s not a good defensive coordinator. Not any more. Not when the job description of coordinating a defense includes putting together a plan that is fundamentally sound going into a game and includes effective adjustments on game day.

Stoops’ last three games have been a perfect illustration of flawed game planning and a lack of in-game adjustments — particularly the near-debacle against Army and the abomination against Texas.

Lincoln Riley stood resolute in the postgame press conference, saying he liked Stoops’ game plan and thought the in-game adjustments were good.

But that’s because Riley is too smart and has too much class to publicly trash his defensive coordinator.

But Riley also knows he really had no recourse. Not any more. Saturday’s loss to the hated Longhorns was a tipping point for him. The decision was no longer his to make.

And Gallogly — the Sooners’ new president, who replaced the politically powerful former president who always yielded to his head football coach’s wishes, even in the few times when they didn’t see eye to eye — has made it for him.

Boren figured the football business was best left to football coaches.

But Gallogly, a businessman with a business mind, is now in charge of a corporation that is $1 billion in debt, is losing $36 million a year and has debt services of $70 million a year. Debt at OU has more than doubled in the last 10 years, Gallogly said, due to Boren’s building boom.

He’s held executive positions with ConocoPhillips, ChevronPhillips and Phillips Petroleum. He took over for Borenlast year, coming out of retirement from LyondellBasell, a refining company that he guided out of Chapter 11 bankruptcy.

At OU, tuition and student fees and, yes, even ticket prices are up.

Remember, Gallogly was appointed by the OU Board of Regents, who brought him in to fix the school’s debt crisis.

Now, imagine you’ve been hired to put OU’s ledgers in the black, and imagine your football team just got embarrassed by an exceedingly average Texas ballclub in the Cotton Bowl, and imagine your bosses and their millionaire (and billionaire) friends are calling you every five minutes because their oil buddies deep in the heart of Texas keep giving them the business about Saturday, and imagine your bosses and all those millionaires (and billionaires) are suggesting that if the current defensive coordinator isn’t replaced, they’ll have a hard time sending you their annual donation next year.

And now imagine that your defensive coordinator got a $30,000 raise this year to $950,000 a year to run a defense that can’t tackle, can’t cover and can’t rush the passer. This OU defense ranks 96th halfway thru the season and then gave up 501 yards and 48 points to a Texas offense that just isn’t that good.

That’s the hard lesson that Lincoln Riley is learning for the first time as a head coach, that sometimes football isn’t always about football. At a blue blood program like OU, sometimes football is about making money. And Stoops ran out of whatever cachet he and his big brother and their famous name might have had when Cameron Dicker’s field goal buried them at the Cotton Bowl.

Riley has a burning loyalty to all things Stoops. Mike probably needed to go two years ago, and for sure last year when his big brother unexpectedly retired 16 months ago. But Riley kept him around for Year 6 and Year 7, declining the opportunity to find his old boss’s defensive coordinator another job. He could have committed to a clean break with the Stoops legacy then. Instead, he chose to honor the coach that hired him, and how Riley’s own legacy, new and promising as it may be, has a small stain.

That’s OK. What’s done is done. The problem has been addressed — at least, what virtually everyone outside of the program perceived as the problem. And that’s what really counts, isn’t it? Perception?

The Sooners’ defense isn’t going to be any worse under new defensive analyst Bob Diaco or second-year defensive line coach Ruffin McNeill, whichever lieutenant Riley chooses to promote to the job of defensive signal caller.

One source tells The Franchise that McNeill, 59, wants nothing to do with the job. Another source says the job will indeed go to Diaco, whose defenses at Nebraska, Notre Dame and Cincinnati were less than underwhelming.

Whoever takes over to finish the season will do something different, will run different schemes, will blitz more and stack the box and drop eight and take chances and live dangerously and make in-game adjustments, and so things will be better.

And in this case, different is better.

John Hoover

Hoover wrote for the Tulsa World for 24 years before joining The Franchise, where he's now co-host of "Further Review" on The Franchise Tulsa (weekdays 12-3, fm107.9/am1270) . In his time at the World, Hoover won numerous writing and reporting awards, including in 2011 National Beat Writer of the Year from the Associated Press Sports Editors for his work covering the Oklahoma Sooners. Hoover also covered Oklahoma State, Arkansas, Oral Roberts and the NFL as a beat writer. From 2012 to 2016, Hoover was the World's lead sports columnist. As a columnist, Hoover won national awards in 2012 and 2014 from the National Athletic Trainers Association for reporting on sports medicine and in 2015 won first place in sports columns from the Oklahoma Society of Professional Journalists. After receiving a journalism degree from East Central University, Hoover worked at newspapers in Ada, Okmulgee, Tahlequah and Waynesville, Mo. He played football at Ada High School and grew up in North Pole, Alaska. Hoover and his family live in Broken Arrow.

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