NORMAN — We end our Stoops@10 series today by looking not back, but ahead. Will there be a need for a Stoops@20? What is Bob Stoops' future? Will he remain the Oklahoma football coach another five, six, seven years, which would elevate Stoops to the longevity level of Barry Switzer and Bud Wilkinson? Will he be here another 10 years, by which time he would be an icon unlike any in Sooner lore? Unanswerable questions, of course, because the only person who could possibly know probably doesn't know himself and wouldn't tell us if he did. But clues abound, which point in all kinds of directions. Earlier this year, Stoops told a small group of Tulsa boosters that the NFL might still be in his future. Last month in Kansas City, he told Big 12 media that the NFL "is not something today that's real intriguing to me, with my children the age they are (9-year-old twin boys and a 12-year-old daughter). But life changes.” Those are not conflicting statements. Stoops told it straight. Life does change. But we can guess. If you had asked me five years ago, would Stoops be around in five years, I would have said no. I would have been wrong. Ask me now if Stoops will be around five more years, I would say yes. "Everything has its time,” Stoops said the other day in a rare lapse into introspection. "I've loved what I've done, what I'm doing.” But sometimes, Stoops admitted, he thinks about wanting more time to himself. The best part of his job, he said, is being around the players. "The relationship with them. Helping develop them. The excitement of competing on Saturdays.” The worst part of his job is time demands, from media and other requirements. "It's necessary and important, but sometimes your time gets eaten up,” Stoops said. "It can be sometimes pretty consuming ... I notice it more with my kids starting to be older. "You start thinking, well, maybe you want to have more of your time. I'm no different than anyone else. Hey, gets to be a certain time, maybe it's time to do something different.” But life in Norman is good. Stoops and his family are not prisoners in their own home. He is able to live a semi-normal existence and is paid a handsome sum to compensate for those time constraints. "Do I think he'll be always at OU?” asked school president David Boren. "I used to think he would maybe some day take one shot at the pros, late in his career, kind of climbing the Matterhorn.” "I don't know now.” OU came closest to losing Stoops not to the University of Florida in 2002, but to the Cleveland Browns in 2001. Some close to Stoops thought he was gone when the Browns, 75 miles from hometown Youngstown, came calling. But a meeting with Boren convinced Stoops to stay, with Boren emphasizing the impact on the school and the state Stoops could make, and a year later, during another meeting with Boren after Florida came calling, Stoops told his president this wouldn't become an annual affair. It hasn't. Steve Spurrier, Stoops' friend and mentor, had a turbulent two-year run coaching the NFL's Washington Redskins, "Spurrier's experience with the Redskins made it less attractive” to Stoops, Boren said. "Hopefully, he's here for quite a while.” Stoops said the NFL "has been very volatile lately. I don't know that it always will be. "Everything has its time. Everybody wants to know, what are you going to be doing in 10 years? I'm a young guy. I'm only 47. "Life changes. Situations change. People you work with change. That's too long down the road. I'm too young to have everyone set what I want to do.” Ah, another clue. The people Stoops works with have not changed, at least above him. The two men who hired him, Boren and athletic director Joe Castiglione, remain in those same jobs, 10 years later. "Highly unusual,” Boren said. "Joe and I and Bob have been there together. It has been absolutely seamless.” Maybe we're asking the wrong guy. Maybe the key to Stoops' time at OU is Boren. In Stoops' contract is a clause that pays him a $3 million bonus if he stays on the job through the 2008 season; but under the contract, Stoops could have resigned after the 2006 or 2007 season and still collected the bonus had Boren left office. How long will the 67-year-old president stay on the job? "I plan to be here a long time,” Boren said. "This is a life's calling.” Is OU football a life's calling for Stoops? No. But he's now been in Norman 10 years, which is as long as he was at Iowa, his alma mater, and as long as he was at Kansas State and Florida combined. Will there be a Stoops@20? I don't know. But I didn't think there would be a Stoops@10.
No one knows for sure what the future holds for Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops. But that won't stop people from guessing. By NATE BILLINGS, THE OKLAHOMAN archive