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Oklahoma football: Readers respond to Bob Stoops’ ‘excuse-making’

by Berry Tramel Published: November 2, 2012

Lots of feedback from my column on Bob Stoops making excuses. You can read the column here. I think fans enjoy seeing what other fans say, particularly when they write in thoughtful manners, not shotgunning on a message board. So here you go.

Gene: “It looks like he has gone from Big Game Bob to Alibi Bob. Just an opinion, and I could be wrong, but as my grandmother used to say, ‘the proof is in the pudding.’”

I repeat. I don’t see a lot of change in Stoops. But giving in to excuses, I see.

Jake: “Berry, I normally enjoy reading your stories but here, does it not only seem that your storyline is thin, in my opinion, this is a very cheap shot.”

Hmm. I don’t know which one I disagree with more. The thin theory or the cheap shot allegation. I don’t think it was a cheap shot. But I don’t think it was a thin storyline, either. Seems like a lot of people have noticed.

Craig: “Stoops has always rubbed me the wrong way. Pat Jones is the same way when he spouts off on WWLS. Many of us played. I was calling offensive line calls 40 years ago. Directing guards, traps, etc. I have had theory of football. Do I have their experience ? Heck no. But we aren’t stupid.

“Two plays cost OU, in my opinion. The 62-yard run right up the gut and the 50-yard pass. Stoops is arrogant. Thank heavens Brent Venables wasn’t coaching defense. They would have wanted his head.”

I sense a great deal of displeasure with Stoops’ personality. Frankly, I think he’s always been this way. I don’t really see it as a big deal. He doesn’t suffer fools gladly; never has. I’ll bet most people from Youngstown are the same way. It’s part of what makes him who he is.

Jerry: “I’ve been dying for you to write the ‘no excuses’ article simply because I’ve noticed the same thing. Stoops is turning out to be such a whiner and extremely sensitive when asked tough questions. I was floored when he got so irritated about the toughness question he was asked earlier in the year and how he didn’t like the question. It was a fair question. I was also appalled at his reaction to the question at halftime of the Notre Dame game, when asked about what the deal was on the call where the Belldozer touchdown was called back. He said it was ‘a setup question.’ Geez Bob, take a valium.

“I think someone needs to sit him down and explain to him that as long as he is cashing the checks, he is accountable whether he likes it or not. I do realize that some people go overboard in their critique of some things, like Landry Jones, but please don’t come off as thinking that everyone is stupid about football and you have it all figured out – he obviously does not.

“I was also bewildered that he was ticked off because he had been doing the radio show and answering questions and then found out no other coaches were doing it. I know he’s human like everyone else and wants it both ways, but for 5 million bucks I think I could train myself to be thick skinned and answer tough questions. His players would learn a lot from it and so would everyone else.”

Stoops has a bad reputation with the media — the TV halftime reporter, press conference questions — and I don’t think it’s deserved. I think he’s just fine with the media. I really do. His bedside manner isn’t pristine, but what do I care. He answers most questions well. He doesn’t answer bad questions well. And he doesn’t do well at halftime. There’s no doubt about that.

Mark: “You have been in this business long enough to know and realize that in a close game like the one we are referring to that there is a thing called momentum. The officiating was inconsistent at best in this game. It was very lopsided. The holding call that called back the TD by Bell at the end of the first half was a no-call. That was a game changer. Notre Dame held all night and didn’t get one holding call. OU had at least two that I remember. We both know Stoops long enough to know he doesn’t make excuses for bad calls. But he had a beef in this game. It was horribly inconsistent. The reaction when the ref made the holding call that nullified the TD by Bell, is something that we haven’t seen. He was livid. And had every right to be. There was a major holding no-call on the long pass by ND that led to the winning TD in the second half.

“The game was close all the way up to the end. The final score was not indicative of how close this game was. A few calls here and there differently WOULD have and DID have a bearing in the final outcome of this game. One thing I cannot stand in sports is when the refs have a say in the final outcome of a game. This was a perfect example of that very thing.

“I’ve always liked your columns and listening to you on the Sports Animal, Berry. You are very good at what you do. But, I have to disagree with you on this one. I think you are being a little harsh on Bob. Yes, this is out of character from him, maybe because he’s right?”

No. He’s not right. And Stoops gets livid all the time. He and Mike are like basketball coaches, the way they ride the refs. Sure, a few calls here and there can turn a game. But the losing team often focuses on the calls. The winning team rarely does. The refs could have made a few decisions that would have made Notre Dame’s victory even more decisive.

David: “Nice article on Bob Stoops – I could (not) agree more! He is tired of getting his butt whipped and the image of Big Game Bob.”

I think Stoops is frustrated. That’s what I think.

Dennis: “Just a short ‘atta boy’ for you. I follow the Sooners and cheer for them against anyone except the U of Arkansas (my alma mater). I agree that Bob Stoops was making excuses after the Irish loss, even with the TV reporter as he left the field at halftime. He should watch the tape and see how the Irish coach talked calmly and courteously before and after the game.

“This is not the first time he’s been more than prickly about questions that don’t suit him. Perhaps you can inform him for me that shooting the messengers rarely is an effective management tool and only serves to alienate your supporters, much less those inclined to hate on OU anyway. May I submit Joe Biden’s latest debate debacle as exhibit A, your honor.

“In addition, you may pass along my concern that his standard criticism of ‘ignorant’ public comments about football place him squarely in the viewfinder of those ‘ignorant’ commenters who form the base of his Oklahoma support, and and whose public and private support allow his exalted salary.

“Someone says, ‘be careful not to criticize him, he may take his talents elsewhere.’ To which I say, there are dozens, nay hundreds, of qualified coaches who would catch the next plane to Norman to apply for his job. It may be time for David Boren to muzzle his outrageous and offensive behavior. In the meantime, your not-so-gentle jabs will serve nicely to pluck him from his daily walk across Lake Thunderbird.”

Dennis got more worked up, the longer he wrote. He was sort of stingingly witty by email’s end.

Wayne: “Really, Berry? No big bowl win in 12 years? We won the Fiesta Bowl in 2010.OSU wins it in 2011 and you guys act like it was the greatest thing ever. When we lost to Boise State and West Virginia, they were big losses, but I guess if we’d won them they wouldn’t have counted. As an OU Alum and someone who lived out of state most of my life but chose to come back after I retired, if it weren’t for OU football, the geese would fly upside down over this state. The main thing we Oklahomans have to brag about is our football team. We know the university is a good thing as a whole, but most people don’t care about anything on campus other than the football team. It’s sad but it’s true. I do agree things have slipped a little,and other than recruiting better players, I don’t know what the answer is. I don’t want them to get in a bidding war for good players, ala SEC teams. We only have so much to offer,and some kids aren’t in to tradition,or the great past we have accomplished.”

I didn’t say big bowl. I said Big Bowl. National championship game.

Paul: “Great article about ‘I’m not supposed to lose Stoops.’ A lot of people have two favorite teams, including me. OSU and whomever is playing OU. From what I saw, Stoops spent a lot of time screaming in the face of his players at the Notre Dame game.”

Thanks for writing, Paul, but I’m afraid most people reading this are not going to care what you think.

Sean: “I am confused. You began your article by stating that Coach Stoops has changed his rhetoric and may be giving excuses. Then in the same article you state that the program is in good shape. Then you bat around the idea that the program needs to get better to challenge for the national championship and could use some reinforcements at key positions. Berry, you can’t have it both ways. As I have stated earlier, there is something wrong in Norman. Even if they have ‘missed’ on some recruiting, this is enough. Try putting yourself all the way out there next article, you will feel better. You are almost there.”

Yes. You are confused. A program can be in good shape AND still lack a few blocks in building a national title team. You can have it both ways, because most elite programs are that way. LSU, for example, right now has no quarterback, which is strange but virtually indisputable.

Mike: “Enjoy your columns a lot. However, to suggest that Stoops has resorted to excuses, I think, is a little strong. He didn’t say ‘that cost us the game’ or ‘the officiating was bad.’ He even backed up his statement saying he wasn’t complaining. I think he is spot on saying a close call or two came make a difference in a game. The hold was late, but legit most likely, but not any more than the call that wasn’t made. That took place right in front of me at the game and should have been an easy call. Still, you are right on that this wasn’t a ‘judgement-call’ game. It was as obvious as a balcony on an outhouse who the better team was. Maybe coach Stoops just wants to send a message to the guys in stripes that while he doesn’t use their calls as an excuse, he is watching.”

They know he’s watching. He’s been giving them an earful for 14 years.

Dallas: “Looks like you watched the same game I did. Good column and I hope you don’t end up in the Stoops doghouse for it.”

Stoops’ doghouse is pretty small. There’s no room for me.

Craig: “I am in total agreement with you that I don’t think the sky is falling on OU. But I will say this. Something has changed with Stoops. I don’t know if it’s coaching or just the attitude being brought around the program, but it’s changed from how when Stoops first arrived, he seemed to say, ‘Hey, I’m going to lay it all out on the table on every game and against every team,’ and I think that’s one factor that made that team champions. The players fed off of that nothing-to-lose attitude and everything to gain, so I’m gonna give it my all. But I’m just a fan so maybe I’m way off.”

I don’t think your way off. I think there has been a small but distinct change in Stoops’ attitude. Probably natural for a guy in the same job for 14 years.

Blake: “Well written article but not entirely true. Yes, making excuses to the public if you’re a coach making millions is in poor taste. No, it is not true those ‘judgement calls,’ if they were to go OU’s way, could not have changed the outcome of the game. Scoring an extra TD in the second quarter and not allowing an interception in the third (which might have resulted in another TD for OU) would have made it highly likely Blake Bell would have had 86,000 screaming reasons to score right at the at the end when we were on the 1-yard line. That erases one TD by Notre Dame and gives us at least two more and maybe three. Momentum is a precarious thing when two heavyweights go head to head. One judgement call erasing points can beat you. We get a few of those calls and the final score could have easily been OU 27 ND 23. I know some very bright Stanford fans who would most likely disagree with your assessment of the Big East referees’ performance this year as well.”

Let me get this straight. You have just offered up a scenario by which OU scored 27 points? But I never said judgment calls couldn’t change a game. I said this game was decided by Notre Dame’s superior play. If someone wants to argue that, they’re ice fishing in April.

John: “Excellent article. I, too, am an admirer of Bob and concur that he has not fundamentally changed. As a Notre Dame alumnus (’09) and despite being a current OU law student, this was one of the best Notre Dame victories I have seen in person (seen some tough losses: Nebraska 2001; USC 2005). Growing up as a Sooner fan (my father was there Saturday as a Notre Dame dad although he was present in ’53 and ’57 as a Sooner fan) and only rooting against them under one condition, I think that OU would be better off, recognizing as you have suggested, that Notre Dame just did what it had to do to win. And Stoops is right — the breaks went against them (at least as far as Dan Fox getting in early; I watched the tape which doesn’t show it but in person it was early I’ll admit).”

Thanks.

Nancy: “I agreed with your entire article with the exception that Bob Stoops is ‘no redneck.’ If you were to listen to him speak and not know and see who he was, you would hear redneck in his speech patterns. He is either dumbing down his interviews or maybe he is really not that smart. It’s clear that he is frustrated with his team, and he probably doesn’t want to look around for another job at this stage, but I agree, why blame it on the calls, especially Notre Dame? Notre Dame deserved to win as they played a better game.

“I can’t believe I am emailing you about this matter, as I swore I’d never speak to you again after using the word ‘s–t’ when describing what was knocked out of the Thunder last spring! I know you come from an educated, book friendly, magazine friendly home, and to think you couldn’t come up with a better word than ‘s–t’ is, well, troubling. However, I remain a loyal reader, because although I am not a sports fan, I enjoy a good story, and you seem to produce them regularly.”

Thanks, Nancy. We are talking about the word, snot, right?

Justin: “Berry, I’m a long time fan of your writing. I’m also a long time and fierce supporter of Stoops. Those things being said, I’m writing to tell you that you’re dead on in the article about Stoops and the implication he made that those calls changed the game. Bottom line is that Stoops is better than that, he’s better than those comments. Maybe it’s the pressure, maybe it’s frustration, maybe he just thought it was a good idea to jump on the we-got-robbed bandwagon.

“We lost that game as a consequence of multiple things, some of which had to do with coaching decisions. I travelled from St. Louis with my girlfriend to be present for that game. On the first drive, before the bad snap, while my breath made bourbon scented fog as a consequence of the Oklahoma fall, I looked at her and said, ‘It’s going to be hard for us to win this game.’ What I meant by that was it’s going to be hard to win this game if we’re not even going to try to establish a running game. I understand the bubble screen and similar plays designed to simultaneously get your quarterback in rhythm while taking the defense off guard, but we have to get back to what wins ball games. To me, that’s one of the main downfalls to OU in the Notre Dame game as well as the K State game. I hate to sound like a 1950′s replica of Woody Hayes, but establishing a run and keeping the defense honest wins games. Second-and-6 wins ball games, 2nd-and-10 makes a kid from New Mexico look bad. I applaud you for taking a tactful and professional stand against Stoops and his excuse making. He needs to look within the program. I don’t care how good Notre Dame’s front four and linebackers are, run a veer, run a slant, run a trap, throw enough against the wall to see what sticks. Twenty-four rushes isn’t an effort, it’s leaving work for a ‘meeting’ at noon on a Friday and not returning. And when there’s five minutes left in the fourth quarter and you’re down seven, and you need a drive, that’s where a total of 24 rush attempts kills you. Because the other team knows exactly what you’re going to do, so it makes it easier for interceptions to happen, with or without ‘questionable’ calls.

“The point is that the coaching staff set OU up to fail, not the refs. I think Stoops is top notch, I have thought this, I do think it, and I will continue to think it. But you’re right on the money with this one, he’s better than the comment he made. Notre Dame flat out managed the ball game better, that’s why they won.”

Justin is miscast. He needs to be a college football analyst.

Bill: “Today’s article, ‘Excuses!,’ my friends and fellow Sooner fans agree. Let me add this tidbit. It is apparent that we are paying way too much for mediocre. Coaches, staff, tickets, etc… are too high if this is the product. Our brethren to the North seem to have it right, recruiting, ticket prices, fan excitement and so on.

“I would like to recommend that Sooner Nation rise up and demand more, expect more, be more vocal and show this by reducing our annual donations. Last year we, the donors, were insulted by the Sooner Club and others asking for an increase to 110 percent of the previous year’s donation. When will we see 110 percent from this coaching staff and administration?

“I’m not a fair weather fan. I attend every game and have been a season ticket holder since 1971! So, I’ve seen some really good coaching and recruiting and some really bad coaching and good recruiting, John Blake, and some really mediocre recruiting and mediocre coaching, Bob Stoops. Yes, Stoops has produced stars, Bradford, Peterson, Roy Williams and a few others come to mind, however, they were all surrounded by mid-level athletes.

“Remember, Stoops won a national title with a team mostly recruited by John Blake. No, I’m not a Blake fan and would never want to see him on our sideline again, but I would like to see better recruiting and coaching.”

Ouch. There is nothing mediocre about OU football. And nothing is more tired than the old “Stoops won with Blake’s players” bit. Some players who couldn’t even get lined up right before Stoops arrived, went on to win a national championship. Stoops got to campus without a solitary quarterback who could play low-level major-college football, much less Big 12. I might argue that Stoops winning in Year 2 is more impressive than if he had won in Year 6.


by Berry Tramel
Columnist
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...
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