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. Teddy Lehman was a freshman linebacker fresh out of Fort Gibson High School. “He told us the night before at the team meeting that breakfast was mandatory,” Lehman said. “‘Everyone eat breakfast.'” The next day, the Sooners took to the practice field and stretched. Then Stoops called everyone around. “He goes, ‘Who all ate breakfast?'” Lehman said. “Everyone raised their hands. He said, ‘You liars, everyone on the line.'” And Stoops ran his team. “We were run into the ground,” Lehman said. “From then on, everyone said, ‘We got to do what this guy says.'” You know the rest; 13-0, Orange Bowl victory over Florida State. “That's how we won a national championship,” Lehman said. “You had the whole team buying in from then on. That set the stage for everything.” Smarts respected by Coach Synder Bill Snyder was on the Iowa staff when Bob Stoops played there. When Snyder became coach at Kansas State, he brought Stoops along and began what became the Manhattan Miracle. Snyder was a notorious taskmaster with his staff. Long hours. Skeptical of quick answers. Except with Stoops. Stoops “was the one coach, when coach Snyder asked him something, when he gave an answer, it was taken as golden,” said Brent Venables, who played for Snyder and Stoops, then coached with them and now is in his 10th season on Stoops' OU staff. “There wasn't a lot of debate going on,” Venables said. “Coach Snyder really respected his football mind. “We were getting ready to play Nebraska. Coach Snyder said, ‘What if they scoop the nose guard? What are we going to do then?' 'Mister Clean," just like his dad Ron Stoops Sr. was a high school coach in Youngstown, Ohio. He believed in a clean locker room, even if he had to do the cleaning. His son noticed. Bob Stoops picks up after himself. “That's one of his pet peeves,” said OU offensive coordinator Kevin Wilson. “He cleans up after himself.” A cluttered meeting room? A dirty locker room? “He doesn't handle that well,” Wilson said. “To me, of all the coverage we get, I don't think people understand what just a good guy, a good person, he is. I don't know if that comes across to the media. “He has some very simple, honest, moral values. He's a quality guy. Genuine.” Standing up to the 'Ol Ball Coach
In Bob Stoops' first game as Florida's defensive coordinator, in 1996, it seems Louisiana-Lafayette was moving the ball. Coach Steve Spurrier strode over to Stoops and said, in that half-kidding, half-not attitude, “Bob, we ever going to get the ball back?”
A day or two later, Stoops went into his boss' office and said, “Look, either I'm the defensive coordinator or I'm not.”
The story is apocryphal but explains Stoops' rampant popularity with Gator fans. Stoops stood up to Spurrier, Spurrier respected that and the two are fast friends today.
“He's one of the great ones,” Gainesville (Fla.) Sun sports columnist Pat Dooley said of Stoops. “Oklahoma-Florida is one game Gator fans don't want to see. They don't want to root against Bobby Stoops.
“People here still love him. And when he (and the Sooners) beat FSU (Florida State) in the national championship, that really added to it.”
“Coach Stoops doesn't blink. He didn't stammer around and give three or four half answers. He said, ‘If they scoop the nose guard all day, we're gonna get our butts beat. You want me to invent a defense? I can't without slipping a 12th player on the field.'”
The result? Nebraska scooped the nose guard and routed the Wildcats.