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OU football: Venables’ departure will hurt & help

by Berry Tramel Published: January 19, 2012

Brent Venables departure from OU will both help and hurt Sooner football.

Hurt? Immediately, the Sooners will miss Venables’ recruiting. He was an excellent recruiter who did nothing but impress high school players and their families. He was a tireless recruiter whose zeal for the often-weary vocation paid huge dividends over his 13 seasons. Bob Stoops can find someone to coach linebackers. Maybe even find someone to coach linebackers as well as Venables coached them. But can he find a linebacker coach who can recruit with Venables’ gusto and credibility. Absolutely not, at least not right off, and maybe not ever.

Help? Staff morale. The idea that Mike Stoops’ return would not come at a cost to staff cohesion, well, that was just silly. Bob Stoops was naive to think that Mike’s return would not have serious repercussions for Venables.

I know, Venables is taking the high road. Thursday morning in a KREF interview with OU voice Toby Rowland, Venables said “Mike and everybody else administratively wanted to put me in charge.” Uh, not even the Stoopses said that. They said the decision hadn’t been made. It was clear that a return to the old system — co-defensive coordinators, working closely together, but with Mike calling the final shots — was the plan. When Venables, and any other coach, says that the gameplanning during the week is much more paramount that any particular playcalling on Saturday, they are exactly right. And gameplanning is absolutely a community effort.

But the impression would not have changed. Venables needed help, so Mike Stoops rode back to the rescue. For that reason, Venables professionally needed to leave. Personally, staying at OU would have been a good thing for him. Make more money, stay where his kids had always lived, work in absolute security.

But professionally, Venables needed to move on. Needed to make a name for himself elsewhere, because his name had taken a hit in Norman.

Here’s how much Venables needed to move on. He went to a very good job, but one without great security. Clemson is an excellent football program, but head coach Dabo Swinney fired an offensive coordinator last year and a defensive coordinator this year. Not exactly a bastion of stability. And Swinney himself, despite winning Clemson’s first ACC in 20 years, is not a made man. It’s not crazy to think that Swinney could be out on the street in two years, if the Tigers don’t produce. I don’t think that will happen, but it’s not kooky talk.

Yet Venables thinks going to Clemson is a good career move — and I agree with him. The return of Mike Stoops meant that Venables’ had apexed in Norman.


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by Berry Tramel
Berry Tramel, a lifelong Oklahoman, sports fan and newspaper reader, joined The Oklahoman in 1991 and has served as beat writer, assistant sports editor, sports editor and columnist. Tramel grew up reading four daily newspapers — The Oklahoman,...
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