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Brent Venables must consider what's beyond the ambience of Clemson

The Blue Ridge Mountains might be an attractive backdrop, but recent turnover inside the coaches' offices can be unsettling.
BY TRAVIS HANEY, Staff Writer, Published: January 16, 2012

NORMAN — It's a tough decision laid at the feet of veteran Oklahoma defensive coach Brent Venables.

Oklahoma? Or Clemson?

That's what the Sooners' co-defensive coordinator and linebackers coach is expected to decide early this week.

If Venables remains at OU, he would be surrounded by the same professional and personal comforts he's enjoyed for more than a decade. There aren't many name brands in college football, and Venables has been a part of one for a long time.

Don't underestimate that sort of continuity in an air of turbulence in the coaching business.

Venables has been second-in-command since 2004. But what now, with Mike Stoops' return? Is he still second to Stoops, Bob? Is he third? How are meetings run? Who makes the crucial blitz calls in the fourth quarter of the Red River or Bedlam games?

Mike and Bob Stoops insist those decisions have not been made. But does it matter, when it's obvious there will be some sharing or reduction of responsibilities?

Or, ultimately, does Venables care more about competing for, and potentially winning, national championships at OU rather than what he does during the course of a game?

Money is an issue, but likely not the primary one. Still, if he could make an additional $300,000 a year, it would certainly give pause.

Venables, too, once had designs of becoming a head coach. Would that become tougher if he's seen at OU as a decorated linebackers coach? Could Clemson be the path to finally have his own program? How important is that at this stage?

Family considerations, of course, are part of the deal. Venables and his young family have roots here after 13 years, and his home state of Kansas is a short drive away.

So perhaps that was significant for his wife, Julie, to be along for the Clemson interview Saturday night and Sunday.

There are few more attractive college campuses, and athletic complexes, in the country than what Clemson boasts.

It's nestled up against the Blue Ridge Mountains, and there is water all around the burg — including a lake adjacent to the football offices and stadium. It's a beautiful fall scene, with the campus's rolling hills, changing leaves and reveling tailgaters. (No offense to Norman, but there is no comparison in terms of aesthetics and atmosphere.)

Clemson has a good amount of tradition, between Howard's Rock and the players running down the Hill to enter the stadium. The school still talks up its national title, in 1981. (OU has plenty to reference, obviously, in the championship vein.)

Clemson has had a strange decade, or so, on the field. With Tommy Bowden, Bobby's son, it dominated rival South Carolina — that's important in that state — but it never could break through in the ACC, even when the conference seemed ripe for the Tigers' taking.

When Bowden was ultimately ushered out in 2008, chiefly because of that, Venables was part of a national search for a new coach. But, in the end, Bowden's receivers coach was promoted to the head job, a rarity — and a head-scratcher, perhaps — among institutions with big goals and deep pockets.

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