NORMAN — Hey, Bob Stoops, I know you’re busy. Know you’ve got your hands full, trying to patch together a line and teach the lads to catch the ball and find a few points here or there that can make a trip home much more pleasurable. But can we talk? And no, I don’t have any advice on this 2009 team. I’d have to take a number; plenty of folks stand ready to advise, and some of them have some decent ideas. Like using Dom Franks a little on offense. I’ve got something else, after that 16-13 loss to Texas dropped you to 3-3 and darn near out of the rankings, where you’re hanging by your bitten-down fingernails at No. 25 in the AP poll. Some of those around you tired of losing — I know, everybody’s tired of losing — will be in your ear soon. Whispering a solution to the problem. They’ll tell you to quit playing teams that can beat you. Quit playing the likes of Brigham Young and Miami before Texas. Don’t listen to them. Don’t give in. Don’t join the mob that embraces the lowest common denominator. Sure, you could be 5-1 and ranked, I don’t know, ninth or 10th today. All you had to do was play opponents who couldn’t possibly beat you. Fans would be happier. Voters, those lemmings, would like you more. But you would know the difference. You know that what you learned on the sandlots of Youngstown and in Big Ten stadiums, what has been reinforced on the Oklahoma plains, remains true. Pride still matters. Some things are more important than championships. Like honor and self-respect. There is honor in competition. Honor in building up your sport, instead of tearing it down. There is no honor in purchased victory or manufactured success. No honor in games decided before kickoff. Your players know it as well as you. Not one of them came to OU to play against Idaho State or Chattanooga. No one is a fan of OU because they saw the Sooners dismantle Arkansas State or North Texas. Oklahoma football stands for something. Championships, yes, but something more. Big stages and big games and big shoulders. Oklahoma football has a responsibility to the game, a responsibility some shirk. But Florida State doesn’t. Southern Cal doesn’t. Miami doesn’t. Georgia doesn’t. Virginia Tech doesn’t. Some others. And OU doesn’t. Which is why the Sooners played Miami, BYU and Tulsa this season and play Florida State, Cincinnati and Air Force next. Why OU not only has scheduled a marquee game every year between now and Kingdom Come but doesn’t sprinkle in three rumdums to fill out the dates. Playing a strong schedule has been good to you, Bob. A strong non-conference put you in the 2003 and 2008 national title games. Auburn’s pathetic non-conference schedule (Louisiana-Monroe, The Citadel and Louisiana Tech) gave the Tigers no chance to usurp the Sooners in the three-way logjam for the two spots in the 2004 Big Bowl. Don’t be swayed by this cursed season. I know these losses eat at you. I know you feel snakebit. Don’t let bad luck cloud your judgment. Don’t let an avalanche of injuries knock you off your moral center. Don’t listen to the whispers. Stay strong. Stand tall. Remember what you believe in. Remember that pride still matters. Berry Tramel: 405-760-8080; Berry Tramel can be heard Monday through Friday from 4:40-5:20 p.m. on The Sports Animal radio network, including AM-640 and FM-98.1.