PARADISE VALLEY, Ariz. — After spending an hour with him Wednesday, we wondered what was left for Bob Stoops to discuss. Toward the end of a half-hour news conference Thursday, Stoops was asked (hat tip to Carey Murdock of Rivals for asking) if he was “putting his foot down” or cleaning house with the recent departures.
Here’s what I just filed for our website.
By TRAVIS HANEY
PARADISE VALLEY, Ariz. – Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops said here Thursday that this December has been no different than past Decembers, in terms of ridding the program of players with poor attitudes.
On the eve of the Insight Bowl against Iowa, he said the handful of defections have been magnified due to the team’s 9-3 record.
“I have put my foot down every year this time of year,” Stoops said during the final news conference prior to the bowl. “There have always been guys that all of a sudden aren’t back, all of a sudden they are transferring.”
The only December transfer Stoops has acknowledged has been running back Brandon Williams, who he’s said is going to Texas A&M to be nearer to family.
He has said on a couple of occasions he will not talk about the others until after the bowl, but it became obvious at Monday’s partially open practice who was absent.
Receivers Justin McCay and Sheldon McClain are not here with the team. Defensive tackles Josh Aladenoye and Torrea Peterson, and defensive back James Haynes, are also absent.
He didn’t mention anyone by name, but said generally that the team’s attitude during bowl preparation has been improved.
“Yeah. You know why?” said Stoops, who spoke passionately on the subject for a couple of minutes. “Because that 2 percent of my team isn’t eating up 90 percent of my time. It’s pretty simple. You feel a lot better, that’s for sure.”
Each year, he said there are certain players who do not adapt well to the requirements of a football player at OU. They’re asked to leave in a housecleaning of sorts.
“If you’re not living up to those obligations, you’re not earning your way. You’re bringing the team down,” Stoops said. “I’m not saying it’s all these guys, but some of them. That’s what happens. It’s just noticeable this year … and we’ve had more this year.”
Stoops has been miffed in recent weeks about the number of players who have been suspended this season for academic or behavioral reasons. All-conference defensive end Ronnell Lewis will miss the bowl, and he couldn’t play in Bedlam, because of academic issues. Now he’s expected to turn pro.
“In the end, I think it is the right thing to do,” Stoops said, referring to the class attendance policy. “It sends a message to other players. They get it, usually. We’ll see. We’ll see where it goes from here.”
The fat-trimming isn’t a new thing, Stoops repeated.
“Every year at this time players understand, ‘Hey, have I been doing what’s necessary to be here or not?’” Stoops said. “‘And if I’m not, maybe I need to go somewhere where the demands aren’t as much. I can skip class. I don’t have to go to workouts. I can walk into class 30 minutes late. I can skip practice once in a while.
“If you go to some of these smaller East Handkerchief U’s, maybe you can do that. But not here.”
Stoops said poor attitudes weren’t the sole reason the Sooners underachieved. But he said it was a part of the 9-3 year.
“All of this goes together,” he said. “I have had more issues like that maybe than I have had in the past. That’s also a contributing factor. To say that’s the reason, though, no. All of it comes together.”
So, that’s some interesting stuff. And, really, it’s the way Stoops said it even more than what he said. He was fired up, talking about shedding the bad-attitude guys. He had been cordial and polite throughout the news conference, but he got going — and started turning red — on this subject.
Our Berry Tramel recently spoke with Stoops, and this subject came up then, also. Stoops told Berry that Lou Holtz once told him there are three ways to improve your program: find new players, develop current players and kick players off the team. (I don’t think Holtz has done enough of that over the years, but that’s another matter.) Stoops isn’t above housecleaning, and he admitted above that there has been more of an attitude issue this year than in past years.
But it sounds as if things are now better … Time will tell.