<
>

Whatever happened to Stoops' big-game coaching magic?

1/14/2009

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin

There's some interesting banter among pundits about Oklahoma's recent loss in the BCS National Championship Game to Florida.

It marked Oklahoma's third-straight title game loss and fifth-straight BCS bowl loss. And it has helped continue the erosion from the once-sizable coaching reputation of Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops.

Remember that Stoops won his first national championship in 2000, in only his second season as a head coach. He had unquestioned early success at big games, winning his first eight games against top 10 foes and 11 of his first 12 against top 10 teams.

But some of that magic has seemed to have vanished since Mike Stoops, his fiery brother and coordinator of his early defenses, left Oklahoma for his coaching position at Arizona after the 2003 regular season.

It's prompted some interesting discussion in cyberspace since the Sooners' recent loss.

Peter Bean of Burnt Orange Nation believes that Stoops' coaching magic might be gone, particularly as he considers the Sooners' expected talent losses after this season. Bean notes that since Texas coach Mack Brown claimed his first BCS bowl game at the 2005 Rose Bowl, the Longhorns are 3-0 in BCS games with one national championship and Oklahoma is 0-4 with no national championships. Texas has claimed three of four games against Oklahoma in the bitter rivalry since then.

T. Kyle King of Bulldog Nation offers a contrasting theory, saying that Stoops' recent bowl struggles have come as he developed his own coaching identity rather than leaning on the one he learned from his coaching mentor, Steve Spurrier.

King states that Stoops is is no longer "Big Game Bob" because he is not the same volatile driven coach as he was early in his career when he didn't blink against major opponents, yet often lost his edge against inferior foes. Now, Stoops has evolved into a coach more like most others -- a C.E.O. who wins games he's supposed to but sometimes struggles in tough ones.

King also offers up one other point, putting Stoops' recent bowl-game misery in perspective. Although Stoops is in the midst of losing five-straight BCS bowl games, other coaches have struggled similarly through their careers.

Legendary Nebraska coach Tom Osborne, who lost seven-straight bowl games between 1987 and 1993, and Alabama coach Paul "Bear" Bryant, who went 0-7-1 in bowl games between 1967-74, struggled like Stoops in their biggest games at one point in their careers.

Both ended up in the College Football Hall of Fame and are judged among the top 20 coaches in history.

Will Stoops get there? We'll see over the next few years.

But it still might behoove him to start winning some bowl games to get the process started.