Rumored and discussed in Sooners circles for weeks, the Stoops brothers are again back together. Well, close.
Mike confirmed to The Oklahoman on Thursday morning that he will soon join brother Bob’s coaching staff as the defensive play-caller and secondary coach, even if the official university announcement has not yet been made. (That could come Friday.) The lingering question, hovering in the bitter winter air, is this: At what cost?
Not in financial particulars, mind you, but could Mike Stoops’ return lead to Brent Venables’ departure? It’s dangling there, threatening to break up the defensive brain trust that had dominating success at OU a decade ago.
Sources had said the past month or so that Venables would be fine with sharing the co-defensive coordinator title, just as he did with Mike Stoops from 1999-2003 — in the current regime’s heyday that included the 2000 national championship.
Things changed, though, when Venables started to recognize that this would be perceived by most as a demotion, since Mike Stoops would again be the principal defensive play-caller.
Venables has considered, and been considered for, a number of head coaching jobs the past few years. Bob Stoops has often talked about the need to be selective in choosing a head job. Venables has followed that philosophy, turning away from middling programs in need of a new boss and seeking to strive toward the upper echelon programs — just as Bob Stoops, himself, did when he landed at OU in 1999.
It’s left Venables in a waiting game, which continued long enough for another Stoops to circle back to the Sooners.
With some interest in recent days and weeks from programs such as Auburn and West Virginia, to be their defensive coordinator, Venables has been listening. A new opening, Clemson, could be intriguing, as well. Venables interviewed to be the Tigers’ head coach in 2008.
In the meantime, a school source said Thursday that OU officials — including Bob Stoops and athletic director Joe Castiglione — are working to keep Venables where he is.
Mike Stoops, for one, wasn’t sure what the outcome with Venables would be.
“There are certainly rumors and I’m sure there are possibilities for everybody,” he said. “Each individual circumstance is different. Good coaches are going to be approached by a lot of different people at different times. That’s just kind of what you go through at the end of a season.
“I’m sure Brent is going to do what’s best for him.”
As for Mike Stoops, he had spoken with Urban Meyer about becoming Ohio State’s defensive coordinator. He had talked to former OU offensive coordinator Kevin Sumlin about doing the same at Texas A&M. His name surfaced for other coordinator gigs, such as the openings at Nebraska and South Carolina. He had no shortage of opportunities.
Familiarity won out.
“I’m excited,” he said. “Obviously, Oklahoma is the one I felt the most comfortable with, trusted the most. I feel we can win at the very highest level, which is exciting to me.”