Bob Stoops is a very public figure who doesn't always let the public in on what makes him tick. As Stoops begins his 10th season as the Oklahoma football coach, The Oklahoman talked to a variety of people who offered insight into the man who rebuilt the monster.
A new way to practice, and no more picking up chicken bones
You've seen the new east side of the stadium. The new giant indoor facility. The expanded Switzer Center.
But the improved facilities started on a far less grand scale.
“When I walked out here for the first time with (athletic director) Joe Castiglione and president (David) Boren, the (practice) fields were going all kinds of ways,” Stoops said.
“And they use to park cars during games on our practice fields, and fans would leave chicken bones out there and we would go to practice on it on Monday.”
Ah, yes. The old tradition of parking cars, usually donors, between the stadium and Lindsey Street. Seemed like a quaint convention. Some might miss the sight of Ford Rangers and Cadillac Eldorados on the other side of the south scoreboard. But Stoops saw it as an impediment to success.
And his new administration concurred.
“Right off the bat they started changing all of that, and improved our facilities right off the bat,” Stoops said. “That was a big factor for me because it was the space that we get to work in.
“So the things that they were able to change right away they changed, and then they had a vision for the future that happened fairly quickly ... the administration jumpstarted those things for us early in our tenure here to give us the best chance possible.”
Now, there are no cars — or chicken bones — on the OU practice fields.
It's ... Visor Man
Play word-association with every Oklahoman, give them “visor” and the runaway response will be: Bob Stoops.
The visor is Stoops' signature symbol.
Where did Stoops pick up the visor look? All signs point to his old comrade, Jim Leavitt.
Now the South Florida head coach, Leavitt was co-defensive coordinator at Kansas State with Stoops.
Stoops began wearing a visor at KSU.
“Feels better than a hat,” Stoops said.
Stoops remembered that Leavitt wore a visor at KSU. Leavitt joked that he wore a visor at K-State “because we couldn't afford the rest of the hat.”
Leavitt got to K-State 19 years ago but says he's been wearing a visor for 30 years. So if Leavitt wore a visor when he arrived at KSU, and Stoops began wearing a visor at KSU, stands to reason that Leavitt was his mentor.
Which Leavitt considers a good trade.
“I've learned a great deal from Bob in the time I worked with him,” Leavitt said. “Bob's a hell of a coach. He's a great coach."
Built Iowa Tough
Bob Stoops' first college game was played at Owen Field, where in 1979 OU beat Iowa 21-6. Stoops was a safety from Youngstown, Ohio, who wasn't particularly talented but still made his mark with the Hawkeyes.
“I was a young player who played the same position Bob played, strong safety,” said Jay Norvell, now Stoops' receivers coach.
“Bob was always a coach on the field when he played. He was just tough. Clear-eyed before the game.
“His senior year, he played the whole year with a broken foot. I've never seen that done.
“He used to limp around all week, then he would play on Saturday.
“That taught me the difference between pain and injury. An injury, you can't play with. But pain, you can play with.
“Bob would hobble along, then he found a way to play and never complained. I learned a lot from Bob.”
Getting His Message Across
In Bob Stoops' second season, he addressed his team the night before training camp started.