NORMAN — After a wild day of conflicting reports and clarifications in the Brent Venables saga, resolution finally arrived: Clemson had its new defensive coordinator, Mike Stoops assumed full control of Oklahoma’s defense and the Sooners landed in the market for a linebackers coach.
Venables, the longtime OU defensive coordinator, confirmed to The Oklahoman around 10:30 p.m. Wednesday that he had accepted the job he had been linked to for the better part of a week – since Clemson parted ways with its previous coordinator, Kevin Steele.
Formalities, such as the Clemson board’s final approval, remain, but Venables is expected to make between $750,000 and $1 million a year with the ACC's Tigers. His most recent contract at OU was for $440,000 a year.
OU officials, including coach Bob Stoops, were hopeful they could convince Venables to stay. But the draw of something new won out, compared to the idea of again sharing the defensive coordinator tag with Mike Stoops, who was rehired Friday.
Bob and Mike Stoops were adamant in saying Venables, who arrived with the staff in 1999, would still remain a part of the play-calling plan. But it was difficult to consider Mike Stoops’ return anything but a demotion for Venables, who had run the defense since Mike Stoops left for Arizona in 2004.
When they shared the coordinator title the first time, they had top-10-ranked defenses from 2000-03. Venables kept up the lofty finishes the following three years – with 13th-, 13th- and 16th-ranked defenses – but then the Sooners started to slip, with an evolving league and depleted talent level causing the OU defense to fall all the way to No. 68 in the country by 2008.
Oklahoma was ranked 55th this past season in total defense, allowing 376.2 yards a game. That was the second lowest final ranking in Venables’ time at OU, behind only the 2008 season.
Many wondered when Venables would leave for another job, but most figured it would be a head coaching position that would take him away from OU.
He interviewed for the lead job at places such as Kansas State (his alma mater) and Arkansas, but it never panned out for Venables. He even interviewed in 2008 for the Clemson head coaching position that went to his new boss, Swinney.
The Tigers went 10-4 in 2011, winning the ACC title and appearing in the school’s first BCS game. Things really went south for Steele, though, when Clemson went south to the Orange Bowl. The Tigers gave up 70 points to West Virginia, including 49 points in the first half. Among the early names mentioned for the new opening on OU’s staff are TCU linebackers coach Tony Tademy and former Miami head coach Randy Shannon. Shannon has put his name in for several jobs in this off-season, including the Clemson coordinator job that went to Venables.
Things went haywire Wednesday afternoon after reports from Clemson – and ESPN.com – had Venables accepting the job and Venables was texting Oklahoma reporters that he was “working through details.”
The question remained whether the details pertained to Oklahoma or Clemson. That answer came from Venables a few hours later.