NEW ORLEANS — Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops was a hot name around the country just a few years ago, when he seemingly could've had his pick of a number of NFL jobs or high-profile college jobs like Notre Dame and Florida.
That had somewhat died down in recent years, though, as the OU program declined a bit and the Sooners fell out of regular national contention. But after Thursday's 45-31 victory in the Sugar Bowl over preeminent college football powerhouse Alabama, could Stoops become attractive again to potential suitors?
Reports this week indicated Stoops was a candidate for the vacant Cleveland Browns head coaching position. Friday morning, when Stoops met with writers at the team hotel in New Orleans before returning to Norman, he declined to discuss any other jobs, but also didn't deny interest.
Asked specifically about the Browns' opening, the Youngstown, Ohio, native said, “You never know.”
When asked if the rumors are just speculation, Stoops responded, “There's a lot of that.”
So is that all it is?
“Sure,” Stoops said.
The Browns fired coach Rob Chudzinski after only one season. Stoops — who became Oklahoma's all-time winningest coach this season — was considered a candidate for the Browns' opening in early 2001, when Cleveland hired former Miami coach Butch Davis.
Despite Stoops' mysterious answer about the Cleveland job this time around, he spent the rest of the interview session speaking excitedly about the future of Oklahoma's program.
Stoops' performance in 2013 could be considered the best of virtually any season in his tenure as head coach. The Sooners were left for dead nationally after a 41-12 shellacking at Baylor in early November, but ended the regular season on a three-game win streak, including a 33-24 upset at Oklahoma State.
Oklahoma also lost senior captains Trey Millard and Corey Nelson to season-ending injuries, plus the team's best defensive lineman, sophomore Jordan Phillips.
The Sooners entered the Sugar Bowl a heavy underdog, with no one giving them a chance to compete with the mighty Crimson Tide, winners of three of the last four national championships.
“Obviously, we play with anybody,” Stoops said. “This was our down year according to everybody, and we win the Sugar Bowl and beat Alabama, a team that's been No. 1 in the country for three years, so how bad could it be?”