NORMAN — Thirteen Football Bowl Subdivision programs — and counting — will have new head coaches next season.
Only one has filled its opening so far; considering recent trends and the eye-popping offensive numbers being recorded nationally, Kentucky's hire — former Florida State defensive coordinator Mark Stoops — seems like an anomaly.
Over the past decade, spread offenses have taken the nation by storm and helped elevate several offensive coordinators into head coaching gigs. But where does that leave talented, ambitious defensive coaches?
Fourteen-year Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops views his brother's hire at Kentucky as evidence that athletic directors still believe defensive gurus are capable of running entire football programs.
“There's enough quality guys that have defensive backgrounds that are out there,” Bob Stoops said.
“People are still realizing that and seeing that.”
Last season, Arizona fired another defensive guy from the same family and replaced him with offensive whiz Rich Rodriguez.
Mike Stoops got the Arizona gig in 2003, after he'd led dominant Sooner defenses for four years.
Even after his first head coaching experience — and all the offensive changes over the past decade — Mike Stoops remains staunch in his belief that defense is ultimately what wins championships.
“I guess people like all that scoring, so those guys are all very good and were great coordinators and certainly have become great head coaches,” said Mike Stoops, who returned to his old job in January.
“But I still think you win with defense.”
The Southeastern Conference's run of six consecutive national championships would seem to bolster that argument; Alabama coach Nick Saban is a former defensive coordinator, and he's won three career national titles.
But the reality remains: Spread offenses reign supreme right now in the Big 12 Conference; West Virginia beat Baylor 70-63 earlier this season.
Oklahoma has survived back-to-back shootouts with West Virginia and Oklahoma State, winning 50-49 and 51-48, respectively.
“If you're a defensive coordinator or defensive coach, you're pulling your hair out,” said Mark Mangino, one of five OU offensive coordinators under Stoops who became FBS head coaches.
Bob Stoops said there's no reason college football programs can't have it both ways if they hire a defensive-oriented head coach.
Stoops, who was a defensive coordinator at Florida and Kansas State, said the key is hiring good offensive coaches.
“You hire a good offensive coordinator, like I feel I have through the years, and you're in good shape,” Bob Stoops said.
Some teams may be in good shape; for the most part, though, the same can't be said for defensive coordinators with head coaching aspirations.
“I knew as football was speeding up on offense, it would create some problems on defense,” Mangino said. “But I never thought we'd get to a point where we'd have games like (West Virginia-Baylor).
“But I think we will, until the defenses catch up. ... It may take a couple years, but they will catch up, and the offense will come up with something else to try to keep them off balance.”