NORMAN — Bob Stoops isn’t exactly one to run from a fight.
Growing up in Youngstown, Ohio, where factories hardened the people like they harden the steel, Stoops certainly participated in his share of tussles. He has regaled tales of childhood boxing matches in his garage. Fighting was fun.
When Stoops was asked Monday during his weekly press conference what he learned about what the annual Bedlam game and OU’s growing rivalry with Oklahoma State meant to the citizens of the state when he arrived in 1998, Stoops declined to pay homage specifically to the Cowboys.
“Bedlam, Nebraska, Texas — about everybody, right?” he said. “When we show up, stadium’s full and everybody’s ready. So they were right there with everybody else.”
That’s the chip that’s always on Stoops’ shoulder, and Monday — six days ahead of the Sooners’ 11:30 a.m. game against the Cowboys — he was in rare form, a particularly feisty mood.
But when it comes to the Oklahoma-Texas rivalry — in the news today because the Longhorns fired their coach over the weekend and replaced him with a brilliant a young stallion named Tom Herman — Stoops may have an entirely new fight on his hands.
Stoops said he’d prefer to stick to talking about OSU and his own team, but said he has great respect for both Strong and Herman.
On Herman, “what he’s done and his track record” commands respect, Stoops said. “I’m sure he’ll do a great job.”
If Herman does great and beats the Sooners with any regularity, it may signal a shift in the Big 12’s balance of power, and that may ultimately signal a shift at OU.
Hey, it’s history.
- Bud Wilkinson’s success against Texas eventually led to the Longhorns hiring Darrell Royal.
- Royal’s success against OU helped push Wilkinson out the door.
- Barry Switzer’s success against Texas helped convince Royal to retire.
Even the greatest coaches in the history of the OU-Texas rivalry have been devoured by the game’s young lions.
If Herman does at Texas what he did at Houston and in his time as an offensive coordinator at Ohio State, history may repeat itself.
And that wouldn’t be a shock. Stoops currently is wrapping up his 18th season and is certainly closer to retirement than not. His daughter is in college, and his sons are juniors in high school. The end of the Stoops era may be nigh whether Herman is the next legend on the Forty Acres or the next Texas coach to be fired.
The guess here is that Herman will succeed and Texas will be good again and hey, maybe even the Big 12, with UT as its flagship, will be able to compete for national titles again.
Stoops said a coach of Herman’s pedigree can certainly bring something new to the Big 12. He also said he’s looking forward to competing against Herman.
“Sure,” Stoops said. “Always.”
Columnist John E. Hoover is co-host of “Further Review with Hoover & Rew” and can be heard on The Franchise Tulsa from noon to 3 p.m. every weekday with co-host Lauren Rew and most mornings on The Franchise in Oklahoma City. Listen on fm107.9, am1270 on the 107.7 Franchise app, or click the “Listen” tab on The Franchise home page.