Bob Stoops diagrams at the greaseboard, and his players' eyes get big. Stoops isn't teaching football. He's teaching economics. Stoops writes down $3 million. An impressive NFL salary. Then he brings up taxes; the government getting 40something percent. And agent fees. Stoops' greaseboard has cut that salary in half.
"They got no idea,” Stoops said of his players. "You're done playing at 26 or 27. You don't have a degree. "You're going to take care of your mom? You're not taking care of anybody.” It's a stark message. An ironic message, coming from a man who makes $4 million a year, talking to players who often come from nothing and chase a dream. Doesn't really sit well. Doesn't seem kosher that a man of such means should discourage his charges from seeking their own pot of gold. But Stoops is right. Football players almost always are better off staying in college. Almost always better off delaying their professional career. The 2010 draft proved that. Four Sooners who could have turned pro in 2009 went in the first round. Three improved their stock dramatically; the fourth, tight end Jermaine Gresham, didn't hurt himself despite the worst possible scenario, a preseason knee injury that decked him all year. Sam Bradford became the overall No. 1 pick in the draft. Gerald McCoy went from a possible first-rounder to the No. 3 overall pick. Trent Williams went from some round below the first to No. 4 overall. Go that high, and you're not talking the kind of money that was on Stoops' greaseboard. "That's life-changing money,” Stoops said. "That's taking-care-of-your-family money. Second-round guys are lucky to be taking care of himself.” The key word here is value. Stoops likes to lecture on maximizing value. "To me, it's about maximizing that small window of opportunity you get in the NFL,” Stoops said. "That's my problem with my guys, when they don't maximize their value.” Here's the gritty truth about the NFL: It treats its players by far the worst of any major sports league. Short careers. High risk of injury. Non-guaranteed contracts. The exploitation of athletes is a common theme in college football. Right sport. Wrong level. The NFL exploits players far more than does the college game. Stoops knows that he's labeled as selfish. Fingered as a guy just trying to keep his good ballplayers around campus longer so he can collect all those bonuses in his fat contract and maybe win a BCS bowl game. And make no mistake, Stoops looks out for Stoops. But don't forget the attitude he's had since he arrived in Oklahoma. We'd love to have you, but we don't have to have you, he'll tell recruits. Says he tells his fledgling pros the same thing. "I tell 'em, 'you don't need to come back to save Oklahoma,'” Stoops said. "'We're all going to be here. You need to do it to maximize your window.