ARLINGTON, Texas â€” Standing an arm's length from the crystal conference football trophy, in the bowels of an NFL coliseum, Big 12 Bob was in his element Friday.
He joked about Youngstown days. Ruminated about the Big 12's future. Seemed looser than a saloon girl.
Big 12 Bob was comfortable. And why shouldn't he be?
That's not a derisive nickname, by the way, though Bob Stoops' detractors invented it as such, a spoof of the Big Game Bob we once called the Oklahoma coach.
Big 12 Bob is a noble title. Big 12 Bob is high praise. Big 12 Bob is the reason the Sooners should beat Nebraska tonight at JerryWorld.
Big 12 Bob owns the Big 12 like no other coach owns a conference. Stoops wins league title games like no coach ever in college football history. He's won six in this Big 12 Bob Conference. Win tonight, and it's seven of 15.
Big 12 championships are no big deal until you stop winning them.
But in this whimsical sport in which national championships are won as much with cosmic forces and happenstance as talent and grit, conference championships define excellence and sustained success.
Stoops has had his troubles in road games and BCS bowls. Big 12 Bob has disappointed the Sooner masses with this 10-year drought since that Florida State Orange Bowl.
Bowl wins are nice. A national title once a decade is not too much to ask.
But Stoops wins Big 12 titles, wins them with absolute regularity, and that's got to be the standard. Conference championships reveal quality and set up grander stages.
â€œThe players deserve the credit,â€ Big 12 Bob said. â€œThey've stepped up in this game. Guys have made plays when they've had the chance.â€
That's true. Josh Heupel. Quentin Griffin. Paul Thompson. Curtis Lofton.
But Stoops & Staff have guided them to such heights. Guided them to the title game, and guided them through the title game.
The Big 12 has staged 14 championship games, including three before Stoops even arrived in Norman. Stoops has won six Big 12 titles. No other coach has won more than two.
Stoops is 6-1 in conference championship game; the only coach with more than three conference championship victories, any league, is Bob Pruett, who went 5-1 at Marshall in Mid-American title games but achieved all five championships on his home field.
In Big 12 title games, Stoops has beaten teams of equal talent (Kansas State '00, Nebraska '06, No. 1-ranked Missouri '07) and outmanned foes (Colorado '02, '04; Missouri '08).
Big 12 Bob's only misstep, Kansas State '03, only goes to show that victory is not automatic and that a 6-1 record on neutral fields is beyond stellar.
â€œWe've had good teams,â€ said Big 12 Bob. â€œSometimes it's fair to say that overall we've had better talent than someone else and played that way. Other times they've been more evenly matched, we've played well.â€
Tonight, we come to perhaps the final Big 12 title game.
Some have said it's fitting that the Big Red rivals meet in this swan song. I say it's fitting that Big 12 Bob patrols the sideline.
Berry Tramel: Berry can be reached at (405) 760-8080 or at email@example.com. He can be heard Monday through Friday from 4:40-5:20 p.m. on The Sports Animal radio network, including AM-640 and FM-98.1. You can also view his personality page at newsok.com/berrytramel.