NORMAN — Easy decision for Joe Castiglione. Hard message to deliver, but easy decision.
Sooner basketball is better than this.
Better than 13-18 and 14-18. Better than giving NCAA detectives cause to investigate again. Better than hoping things improve to an NIT level. Better than looking up at Texas A&M and Kansas State and Missouri.
This isn't 1976. For the better part of the last 30 years, OU has run with the big boys of college hoops. This is not a program that should pretend bad basketball is acceptable.
So Castiglione did the right thing Monday and released Jeff Capel from his contract, which announced to the nation that the Sooners have no intention of surrendering their hoops status.
“There's every reason to believe we will be successful again,” the Sooner athletic director said.
OU is a top-25 program historically. Not top 10. Not top 15. But top 25. OU has 35 NCAA Tournament wins in its history; that's tied for 21st nationally. OU has played 61 NCAA Tournament games; that's tied for 23rd.
The Sooners won big under Bruce Drake and Billy Tubbs and Kelvin Sampson and even Capel himself. So back-to-back losing seasons for the first time since 1967, in a sport where power-conference schools have all the advantages, is not acceptable.
And the idea that OU should have held on to Capel because no one of substance would want the job, well, that's just silly. All kinds of quality coaches will be attracted to the position and the paycheck that goes with it.
Castiglione called the job “attractive. The University of Oklahoma is special ... great tradition, state-of-the-art facilities. It's a place where people can win.”
Joe C. isn't likely to go after a splash hire. That isn't OU's style. Never has been.
The Sooners' last three basketball hires were head coaches at Virginia Commonwealth, Washington State and Lamar. All three won big; Tubbs and Sampson sustained it.
Football, too. Going back to and including Bud Wilkinson, the Sooners have hired just one head coach to be their head coach: Howard Schnellenberger.
So Joe C. will beat the bushes and find a man (I don't think Sherri Coale will get the job). It's not likely to be a stealth candidate like 31-year-old Jeff Capel was five years ago, but don't go expecting Billy Donovan or Tom Izzo.
Castiglione will hire a coach with a solid pedigree and a will to win. That's what he did with Capel, and it worked until it didn't. Until Capel let the program hit quicksand with player defections and NCAA rule violations.
There is no reason Capel should be anything but an aberration. This program has been too good too long to stay down.
Berry Tramel: Berry can be reached at (405) 760-8080 or at firstname.lastname@example.org. 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.