NORMAN — Oklahoma linebacker Ogbonnia Okoronkwo was so disappointed on Wednesday to learn that Bob Stoops was retiring, effective immediately, as the Sooners’ head coach.
But “Obo” wasn’t disappointed in the way one might expect.
“I really wanted to give him a national championship this year,” he said. “That was one of the big things we stressed in the player meetings before he left. It’s my last year. We were all talking about, ‘Let’s all go out and get Bob a ring.’ He has 10 conference championships, but we wanted to give him a national championship.
“So that’s sad that we don’t get to do that for him. We really wanted to.”
Quarterback Baker Mayfield said, simply, he was “shocked.”
“Couldn’t believe it,” Mayfield said. “Because, you know, ever since I can remember, coach Stoops has been the face of Oklahoma football. And so, just couldn’t believe it was actually happening.”
“My stomach just dropped,” defensive back Steven Parker said. “I’ve been in Oklahoma for 21 years, my whole life. Born in Oklahoma City, raised in Tulsa, went to Jenks High School. I grew up watching Bob Stoops and all the players that came before me. It’s very surreal. But at the same time, it’s a blessing that I got a chance to play under a great coach.”
Stoops retired unexpectedly on Wednesday, leaving in his wake 18 winning seasons, 18 bowl trips, 10 Big 12 Conference championship trophies, a school-record 190 victories and a legion of players and former players pledging their fealty to the once and future king.
This year’s roster told him as much during a team meeting prior to Wednesday’s 5:30 p.m. press conference.
“He’s changed a lot of lives,” Mayfield said. “Every single kid who just got on campus, he brought them here for a reason and they are going to have their lives changed because of him. It was a gratitude, but more of thanking him for doing all that he’s done over the years. Not just this year, he’s done it for 18 years now. He’s changed a lot of lives and we want to thank him.”
Wide receiver Jeff Mead said he was working out and going to class per a typical weekday when he got a phone notification that Stoops was retiring.
He thought it was a prank. Fake news.
Eventually, it set in. The scheduled team meeting was pushed up an hour.
“They’ve never called me out of class for a meeting, so I knew something was important,” Mead said. “Then when people were saying Stoops was resigning, that sounded important enough for them to move out of class.”
Mayfield said when he was mulling a transfer from Texas Tech following his freshman season, Stoops was “almost every bit” of the conversation.
“I always thought I’d finish up my career playing under coach Stoops and being thankful for that,” Mayfield said.
“He runs a program the right way. He’s made this school into a great program over the last 18 years, and he’s done a great job. A winning tradition is something I wanted to do, so he was a huge impact if not all of it for me.”
Columnist John E. Hoover is co-host of “Further Review with Hoover & Rew” and can be heard every weekday on The Franchise in Tulsa from noon to 3 p.m. with co-host Lauren Rew. In Oklahoma City, catch him Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday mornings at 10:25 and every Friday afternoon at 4:05. Listen at fm107.7 in OKC, fm107.9/am1270 in Tulsa, on The Franchise app, or click the “Listen” tab on The Franchise home page. Visit his personal page at johnehoover.com.