NORMAN – Bob Stoops showed up at his media luncheon Monday and did something totally outrageous.
Grabbed a paper plate and ate a little rice. Hadn't so much as snacked at his own luncheon in years.
And people say the man is inflexible.
But fear not, or rejoice not, depending on your disposition, this is not a body-snatching case.
Same old Stoops. He addressed the Oklahoma press corps and delivered an assortment of bad news. Yet Stoops did so without alarm or regret.
Yep, Brandon Williams is leaving and others might, too. Yep, Ronnell Lewis is ineligible for the Insight Bowl and almost surely has played his final OU game. Yep, getting the Sooners fired up to play Iowa will be a non-guaranteed process, both here on the prairie and out in the desert.
No matter. Stoops shows no signs of panic.
Leadership is his greatest trait, you know. Schemes, motivation, organization, public relations. Lots of things are demanded of a head coach. He's good at most of them. But leadership is where he shines.
Knows what he believes in, knows whom he believes in, and doesn't deter. That's not inflexibility. That's commitment.
Stoops believes in determination. He talked Monday of coaches, no one in particular, who believe the grass is always greener somewhere else.
That's not his style. Stoops has changed employers twice in 22 years – Kansas State to Florida in 1996, Florida to OU three years later – and is nothing if not stable.
Just like his football program. These are rocky days, by OU standards. No Big 12 title. No BCS bowl. Discontent in the ranks, both among current and past players.
But Stoops offered no help in stoking the fire. Was his typical forge-ahead self.
Said he is satisfied with his staff, though admitting with the head-coaching turnover across college football, you never know when a job could come open for Brother Mike.
Said those focusing on the discontented and departing are forgetting the overwhelming majority of players who are pleased and proud to be Sooners.
Said he's recruiting the junior college ranks to shore up immediate deficiencies but says he's always done that, if needed.
Truth is, 2011 was a stinker of a season for the Sooners, and Stoops doesn't deny it. Even said a 10-win season and a bowl victory over his alma mater wouldn't erase the disappointment.
But a 10-win season is better than a nine-win season. Beating Iowa is better than losing to Iowa. Being in the Insight Bowl is better than being in no bowl at all.
Stoops hasn't had a problem winning minor bowls. He's 3-0 in non-BCS bowls since Y2K: 10-3 over Arkansas in the Cotton (2001 season), 17-14 over Oregon in the Holiday (2005) and 31-27 over Stanford in the Sun (2009).
And the Insight figures to motivate Stoops more than those others. He's playing the Hawkeyes. He's playing the school where he attended. The school that caused Carol Stoops to buy Hawkeye gear last December in Arizona and outfit the family to wear to the Insight Bowl, when OU was in the desert for the Fiesta.
I don't know if minor-bowl malaise ever strikes coaches the way it does players. Probably does. But it won't strike Stoops. Not this year.
He wants to show well for his old pals in Iowa City. Stoops will take this game seriously and do all he can to make sure his players do, too.
Berry Tramel: Berry can be reached at (405) 760-8080 or at email@example.com. 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.