But three of Capel's McDonald's All Americans essentially ended up costing him his job when they left early last spring, putting the program in a deep hole.
After meeting with his men's basketball coach Monday morning, OU athletic director Joe Castiglione fired Capel with five years left on his contract.
Capel’s buyout is believed to be around $2.2 million. Castiglione said an ongoing NCAA investigation that began last May will not affect the buyout.
"This did not boil down to one or two points but the outcome of a very thorough and detailed review," Castiglione said. "I concluded it would be best to chart a new direction for our program."
Capel compiled a 96-69 record in five seasons. But back-to-back losing seasons, with no highly ranked national recruits signed for next season, the program is mired in a rebuilding phase.
It was a dramatic down turn for Capel, who signed a $13 million extension two years ago after the Sooners reached the Elite Eight.
"We had high hopes to build off that momentum," Castiglione said. "But we understand how sports can be, the departure of people with great talent and experience... Unfortunately were unable to sustain that momentum."
Castiglione said he will be diligent in his search for a new coach and might use a consultant to help with logistics.
The process should take at least a couple of weeks, especially if one of his top candidates is still playing in the NCAA Tournament.
But there also is competition with Arkansas and Georgia Tech and possibly other schools that have vacancies.
"We understand some of the things at play, affecting our ability to reach a coach," Castiglione said. "But we don't want to compromise the ability to find the best coach for our program."Blog: Who should replace Capel? Tramel: Readers sound-off on Capel Tramel: Firing was a business decision