NORMAN — In six months on the job, one thing I've learned about Bob Stoops is to never question his loyalty to the staff.
Stubborn? Maybe. Bites him in the tail at times? Yeah, probably.
But, more, it's commendable in this disposable and replaceable era of college football, frenzied firings and hirings and whatnot. It's his style, regardless of what you think.
When I spoke recently with Hall of Famer Hayden Fry, Stoops' college coach and a mentor, Fry told me he never once fired an assistant — because he truly believed he was surrounded by winners, or else he wouldn't have hired those men. It's Stoops' prerogative to do business that same way, and I'd say he's done just fine in his coaching career with loyalty as one of his guides.
Take Oklahoma strength coach Jerry Schmidt, who just happened to be Stoops' first hire after taking the job in 1999.
In recent years, some players — not all, or even a majority — have whined about Schmitty's workout regimen. They've said it's too difficult, too demanding — too much, basically.
That got an eye roll from Stoops when we asked him about it the day after the Insight Bowl. He classified whatever displeasure there has been as a matter of kids changing, becoming more entitled and therefore wanting to create their own set of rules.
“We've had walk-ons that earned scholarships and won national championships,” Stoops said. “Now each guy is going to come in and tell you to level the time they're going to make, or what we're going to do?”
Stoops' face was turning red. Old Testament Bob, I've heard it called in recent weeks.
“I'm not going to have a bunch of guys every year that are going to come in with their idea of what things ought to be,” he said. “They can do to that some other place.”
In Stoops' mind, you let the students make the rules, you wind up with a broken system — and then you, yourself, are out looking for another job. The players should adhere to your standard, not set their own.
For the half-dozen at the table, Stoops then appealed to the parents. (I'm not one.) What happens, he asked, if you always let your kids get their way?
“They run all over you,” he said. “And you have two or three. Try 105 and see what happens. That (criticism) comes from a bunch of people that have never run a football program. I wonder what their children are doing when they're letting them set whatever curfew they want or whatever they want to do.
“Anyone who has brought that up, tell them all of that. Now, manage 105 guys. Everything with kids today is harder. With my own children, it's harder. And every year it gets harder.”
For the segment out there that think Schmidt's workouts are causing injuries, or not preventing enough of them, Stoops offers the point that the proper formula of stretching, running and lifting won't stop broken ankles (Dom Whaley), ACL tears (Ryan Broyles), or shots to kidneys (Jaz Reynolds) or spinal cords (Aaron Ripkowski).
“It's not like we've had a bunch of pulls, things like that,” Stoops said. A fair point, to me. Pilates doesn't curb those sorts of things.
Unrelated, but one other thing I took from Stoops this season is that he's good with the balance of football and, well, life.
I suspect that's something he got from Steve Spurrier, who has never been one of those 100-hour-a-week, grind-grind-grind guys. One of those workaholics in the crosshairs, Urban Meyer, even recently commended Stoops for his ability to be a football and family man.
“Every coach has to do it how he feels is best for him,” he said. “You guys know me well enough. I don't need this. I can do a lot of things. It's never going to be a … When it's all done, there'll be a record. So what? What's that going to do for me?
“My wife, my kids, my friendships, my close people … that's what matters. This stuff will go by the wayside at some point. The other stuff you'll keep forever. It will never consume me where I'm going to sacrifice my relationships with people, and relationships with (my) kids and faith, those things. That's what matters.
“This stuff, people get all at me. I know it's important. Shoot, nobody's more competitive. I'm competitive. I want to win. These people think I don't care enough? Try doing it. When I go inside the house, I'm not going to hang my head around for five days. That's not happening. So, sorry if someone wants me to, or they're going to get me to do it.”