NORMAN - The best part of the 21st-century Oklahoma football Renaissance was not the from-out-of-nowhere emergence by the Stoops Troops. Not the gambling, daredevil tricks that almost always paid off. Not even the sudden surplus of all-stars after OU went more than a decade with barely an all-American. The best part of the Stoops saga was the pristine nature of Sooner football. Oklahoma football has a glorious history. Glorious, but also sordid. Scandal, rule violations, multiple trips to the NCAA hoosegow. Under Stoops, the Sooners not only won, they won the right way. Oklahoma football could hold its head far higher than ever before. Good while it lasted. The Rhett Bomar dismissal is the latest in a string of dubious events that have rocked Sooner athletics. OU’s reputation is retreating; the gains of recent years have been lost. That is no small thing. Don’t get the wrong idea. These aren’t the Deadwood days of 1989. No bullets flying around the Bud House. No huge trials in the Cleveland County Courthouse. No Sooners in orange jumpsuits on the Sports Illustrated cover. But Dusty Dvoracek cracked a skull and Adrian Peterson drove a Lexus he didn’t pay for and now Bomar and J.D. Quinn were ghost workers at Big Red Sports & Imports. The NCAA certainly will parachute in to open a file on Sooner football, and the bloodhounds should know their way around, since they just dropped the hammer on OU basketball. The guilty have been identified. But some accomplices must be named. Bob Stoops and Joe Castiglione have been asleep at the wheel. Stoops and his boss are not to blame for any single discretion. Truth is, they played bad cop with Bomar and acted decisively. Perhaps their terrible swift sword will sober up many a Sooner. But collectively, there can be no question that something is amiss in Soonerville. That standards have gone lax. A spirit of permissiveness - either through lack of oversight, or recruiting the wrong kinds of players, or general boredom - has come back to a program must at all times fight to eradicate the same. “You have no idea how much this distresses me,” said Castiglione. “This is not who we are and what we’re about.” Not so long ago, Joe C. was as good a candidate as any for nation’s best athletic director. That’s a ladder he’ll have to reclimb in the national perception. This is who the Sooners are. A program whose two marquee players now have swam in scandal with the same Norman auto dealer. Peterson escaped trouble - for now - by returning the Lexus. Bomar fell into the pit. Again, Bomar is mostly to blame. He’s a goofball. But I assumed elementary monitoring of summer jobs was standard. Apparently not, lest why would any Sooner be working at Big Red? Football programs and car dealers have had a queasy alliance for more than 50 years; local car dealers have been involved with probations at both OU and OSU in the past. Cars and 20-year-olds are a combustible mix. Diligent compliance would include severing ties with all car dealers, much less one as volatile as Big Red. Anyone who’s been around Norman more than 15 minutes would question Sooner players’ involvement with the previous Big Red management. More from as the Car Lot Turns: Nelson Peterson, Adrian’s father, recently was released from a Texas prison to an Oklahoma City halfway house and landed a job at a Jackie Cooper dealership in Edmond. Jackie Cooper is a past subject of NCAA investigations. The NCAA will find that all very interesting. Get out of the car business, OU, get out now, and every other athletic department in America should follow suit. Coaches like their car deals, but this isn’t 1963; assistants aren’t making $16,000 a year. They are making 10 times that much. Go buy yourself a set of wheels. Stoops joked Thursday of coming to OU in 1999 and finding it difficult to land a car deal for his staff. “I told Joe I was getting ready to walk to work,” Stoops said. Stoops spoke last week how a sense of entitlement has crept into his players. How some of them feel like they deserve status they haven’t earned. Yet there he was Thursday, talking about how it was hard to get a free car before he ever coached a game, and talking about how now, making $2.5 million a year, Ferguson Pontiac/GMC outfits him in a Yukon. Hey, Stoops works hard. Coaches hard. He’s driven to succeed and he has succeeded, and you can make the argument he’s worth his salary. Oklahoma should be glad to have Stoops. But that sense of entitlement might start in the mirror. Both Stoops and Castiglione talked about OU’s high standards and following the rules and how they will not tolerate violations. Which is exactly as it should be. But here’s the question I had for Castiglione. Rhett Bomar broke NCAA rules and was shipped out immediately. Kelvin Sampson broke NCAA rules and was not asked to leave. “Fair question,” Castiglione said. His defense was that by the time the OU basketball case was settled in May, Sampson already had an Indiana address. In defense of Rhett Bomar, let’s point out that his case has not even yet gone to the NCAA. Holding everyone to the same standards would be a good place to start. Bomar was high up the food chain. Sampson was higher. Look, I think Stoops and Joe C. want to do things the right way. But the right way, especially at Oklahoma, especially now, includes due diligence. It means staying on top of the program. It means knowing where Rhett Bomar is working and what Adrian Peterson is driving. It means reviving that spirit that anything short of pristine is unacceptable. Berry Tramel: 475-3314, email@example.com; Berry Tramel’s radio show, the Writer’s Block, can be heard Monday-Friday from 4-7 p.m. on KREF-AM 1400, KADA-AM 1230; and KSEO-AM 750.
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