Transcript of new Clemson and former Oklahoma defensive coordinator Brent Venables interview with Toby Rowland on Sports Talk 1400 AM The REF. You can listen to the interview here.
Toby Rowland: Joined now by Brent Venables. Coach, how are you doing?
Brent Venables: Good, Toby. How are you?
Rowland: I’m sad today with the news that you’re headed to Clemson, but I’m happy for you. I know this must be an exciting move. Just tell us off the top here why you made the decision.
Venables: Obviously I have the same mixed feelings that you have. It’s an incredibly exciting opportunity, um, but to look in the rear-view mirror and to leave behind the relationships, um, you know, the attachment to the University of Oklahoma and all the people and support, staff and administration, and relationships with the players and the coaches, yes, it’s a sad day, one that you never really think about until you have to face it. So, um, but I’ve, you know, got an incredible opportunity. It was a really difficult decision obviously. Anybody like yourself when you made the decision to leave the news station — this is no different. There’s pros and cons, and plusses and minuses. You’ve got people and relationships that are pulling you. That’s just kind of part of life. I felt deep down that this was the right thing for me to do at the right time in my life.
I was incredibly happy. I’ve been happy at Oklahoma, and I thought that next year we had a chance to have a really, really good football team and a great future, and the side that looked into staying here … I’ve got a fabulous relationship with Mike Stoops, and I thought together we are better, and I thought we could really rekindle the old magic, if you will. I was really looking forward to the idea of that.
But just the pull of Clemson, it’s just from a timing standpoint. Everything does have a time, and I just felt that this was my time, you know, at Oklahoma, and it was time to make a move.
Rowland: Talk about the pull of Clemson and plusses and minuses. You know how cynical we are in the media. All we talk about are dollar figures. What were the plusses at Clemson, what is the pull to Clemson after you met with Dabo Swinney and saw the campus and everything that led you to make this decision?
Venables: I have a lot of friends in the business, particularly in the Southeastern Conference, that have always talked highly of Clemson. Of course a couple years ago I looked into the idea of possibly going there when they had an opening (for a head coach) and did some research. But everybody has always raved about the opportunity to recruit players that’s in a recruiting hotbed, and location is everything in college athletics. It’s a beautiful part of the country. I think they’ve got a young team that’s very talented and a really good group of coaches who believe in what they’re doing. Coach Swinney’s got a magnetic personality, very infectious, high energy, attitude and really he’s a very genuine, sincere man, father, coach. I just really was attracted to that and what they’ve got going there right now.
And again I thought that, I’ve never been one, I’m kind of a be-here-now kind of guy. I always have been. I always believe in that mantra of worry about the job you’re doing today and enjoy and respect and appreciate what you do have. But at the same time I think if we have the kind of success ultimately that we all want to have this could be an opportunity for me down the road to potentially become a head coach one day as well.
Rowland: You know what everybody said when Mike came back was that your feelings must be hurt. It sounds like from the opening thing that you said that that wasn’t the case, but expound on that a little bit. What were your thoughts when Mike came back?
Venables: Oh, I was really happy. When we went through some of the scenarios that was the first one that I was in support of and suggested. I thought that we know each other. It’s not a new system. We’ve got great respect. We talk almost on a weekly basis since he left eight years ago. He gave me the shirt off his back to get into the coaching profession. (I) lived with him for a year. We’ve got a very deep long history and relationship together both professionally and personally. (I have) great, great respect for him as a coach and as a friend. It was very comforting. The easy, safe thing for me to do was to stay at Oklahoma.
You know, contrary to the media, if I had stayed coach and Mike and everybody else administratively wanted to put me in charge. But at the end of the day like he’s always said it’s going to be a collective decision-making process. It’s just how you do it, whether it was Mike here or Willie (Martinez) here or Bobby Jack or it was Bo (Pelini), it just doesn’t matter. That’s how you put together a game plan. You go through all the situations, scenarios for game day. “What do we want to go to in these different scenarios?” You get way too much credit when you win and probably a little too much criticism when you lose. But somewhere in between is probably about right.
It’s always a collective deal, and you work through all those situations and share in the success as well. The dynamics were going to be really just how they were when Bo and I were together, and really that’s how they insisted that it be. Oklahoma, I’m very humbled. I felt they moved mountains to change some philosophical approach on financial, on how they pay you — multi-year opportunity with virtually the same amount of money that Clemson was offering. At the end of the day it came down to feeling like really it was time for me to go pursue a really unique opportunity, one I didn’t know would maybe come up again.
Rowland: So OU was able to get close to matching the dollar figure?
Venables: Oh yeah. Years and dollar figure. So I couldn’t have been more humbled. Really, again, their actions and what they were willing to do for me and my family to keep me in Norman … believe me it was a really gut-wrenching process for me.
Rowland: So the fact that your name started popping up for these other positions (and) coincided with Mike’s return was coincidental more than anything. It wasn’t a fact that you were upset and started seeking other positions.
Venables: Absolutely not. I don’t have anything to be upset about. I’ll say this: I was very sad to see Coach Martinez go. He’s a terrific coach and an even better man. I thought he was really good for us. That’s part of the profession, but the flip side was I was incredibly excited about the idea of Mike coming back and being back here in Oklahoma and us working together. And I knew without question that we would do great things and get out on the recruiting trail and kick butt and just do terrific things on the field. And again, he and I both totally agree, along with Coach Stoops, that in he and I supporting each other is better than the alternative by a long shot. I know Mike is a high-energy, real aggressive personality, but he is transparent. He wants to win. He actually doesn’t have an ego. He’s just hard to please, just like myself, just in regards to really pushing and wanting the best and striving for excellence. I know, without reservation, that together it would have been a great dynamic situation for all of us. So again I felt I needed to make a decision based on what I wanted to do for the next 15-20 years of my career and the opportunities that may or may not come. And the other opportunities weren’t nearly as appealing as this one. Let’s face it, I have to always look at financial security for my family when it’s there. You’ve got to strike while the iron’s hot. At the end of the day too, you can’t make these decisions based on finances. I firmly believe that.
Rowland: Just a couple more questions. I know you’re incredibly busy. Take us inside your world a little bit. What’s the last week been like with, I know West Virginia came after you, I don’t know how much you can talk about that, but the Clemson thing and you’re recruiting out with Mike on the road. And I’ve got to imagine the last six or seven or eight days, however long it’s been, has been a complete whirlwind. And in between all that you’re sitting down with your wife trying to figure out what’s best for your family and everything. As much as you feel comfortable with, what’s your world been like the last week or so?
Venables: Well, it’s been really emotional to be honest because you have to look at it from these are some life-changing decisions and there’s a lot of people that are affected. Again, in a very selfish way, you don’t want to leave these relationships behind. And although the friendships won’t ever go away, it’s just that everything changes. So the idea of turning your world upside down is actually pretty scary. But again, I think you can’t get to third if you don’t take your foot off first, so, as they say. I guess it’s something I felt pulled, and like I needed to do. A lot of sleepless nights. I’ll be honest I don’t ever have a hard time sleeping. I mean I pass out — and it is easy for me to sleep. I have not been able to, as you can imagine. There’s a lot going on. I got great support and a lot of people look at it as “Whoa, what a great problem to have.” I actually thought it was a nightmare, to be honest with you.
I don’t know, just very emotional. I’m very much a people person and relationships matter to me, and a very loyal person, so yeah, a lot of traveling and a lot of sleepless nights. A lot of phone calls. I tried to, you know, all the while, go recruiting for Oklahoma because I gotta plan that’s where I want to be and at the end of the day if I’m going to be there I want to make sure we’ve got a loaded gun too. Until things were final and I found some clarity and a peace of mind at what I was going to do, things need to go on as though I was going to be here. And I’ll be honest, (the) couple days that I was with Mike was awesome. It brought up a lot of old times. It was good to be with him. I know this, Oklahoma is going to be in great shape. I really felt we’re going to have a great team. There’s a great deal of youth, but a bunch of talent and a bunch of coaches who are fired up and ready to get things back on track.
I know we were 10-3, not 3-10, but I do know a lot of guys around the office and the players to aren’t satisfied and are really looking forward to better days.
Rowland: Well, you’re going to knock it out of the park, man. I don’t have any doubt. I know you’re going to be a head coach in the very near future, and who knows, you may be the head coach at the University of Oklahoma someday. The one drawback to this is, well, there’s two drawbacks: The one is we’re losing a fabulous coach and a dynamic personality in Brent Venables. The second drawback is you realize that orange is a part of the color scheme at Clemson. You’re going to have don some orange shirts in the not-too-distant future.
Venables: I’ve heard. I’ve heard that that’s the case, so – and also purple (laughs). I think I’ll wear it just fine. I can’t thank you enough. Everybody associated with Oklahoma has just been first class. I’ve had my highest of highs professionally. I’ve had my highest of highs personally in my life and also the most difficult times of my life, both personally and professionally, it’s really had a profound impact on my family, and we’re incredibly blessed and associated with this great university and all the people and players. All my children are Normanites (long pause) and it will always be great memories, so, believe it or not I will still call this home.
Rowland: Well, we’re going to miss you man. I’ll be pulling for you big time. And you better keep in touch. We’ll be rooting for you. You know we love you and we’ll be pulling for you. Thanks for joining us for a few minutes today.
Venables: Love you, too. Thanks Tobe.