Big 12: Billy Sims
See more on my criteria here.
Let's move on with the list:
No. 6: Adrian Peterson, RB, Oklahoma (2004-06)
Why he's on the list: I kind of hate having Peterson this low on the list, because he easily could have been No. 1 if injuries hadn't derailed his college career. Still, though you have to wonder what could have been, what was ... was amazing. He was robbed of the 2004 Heisman, and if he'd put together that kind of freshman season in a post-Manziel world, there's no way he wouldn't have brought home another Heisman to Oklahoma, even with Jason White stealing a few votes from Peterson, who lost out to Matt Leinart. Still, cracking 100 yards in his first nine games ever and finishing a freshman season with 1,925 yards is one of the best seasons ever. In the NFL he finally had a chance to showcase the potential he showed in college. An ankle injury limited him in 2005 and a broken collarbone in 2006 left him just 73 yards short of breaking Billy Sims' career rushing record at Oklahoma.
Peterson ran with anger back then and you still see it in the NFL now. He was drafted seventh overall in 2007, but Peterson is a rare back that runs like he's planning to score a touchdown every time he touches the ball. He's got the speed to break huge runs, but loved lowering his shoulder and leveling defenders. He was a can't-miss recruit from Palestine, Texas who Oklahoma grabbed from their rival Longhorns in a hyped recruiting battle, and he proved to be every bit the player the Sooners hoped. He was a unanimous All-American in 2004 but lost out on the Doak Walker Award to Cedric Benson.
The fact he never won one of the major national awards is a minor footnote on a career for a player who has a case for the best running back to ever play the game.
The rest of the list:
It didn't matter. This time of year brought one of college football's premier rivalries, and Stoops was watching. He wasn't alone.
"You have to admit, everybody was watching it around the country."
They saw the "Game of the Century" in 1971, when No. 1 Nebraska beat No. 2 Oklahoma, 35-31. From 1971-82, neither team entered the game ranked lower than No. 11. In the 1980s, the two teams met four consecutive times with both carrying top 5 rankings. That stretch birthed Oklahoma's "Sooner Magic."
Heisman winners like Johnny Rogers and Mike Rozier, among other legends like Turner Gill, Tommie Frazier and Roger Craig all helped build the rivalry across from Sooner legends like Steve Owens, Billy Sims, and Greg Pruitt, all Heisman-winning running backs.
The coaches littered throughout the series, including Nebraska's Bob Devaney and Tom Osborne and Oklahoma's Barry Switzer and Bud Wilkinson, are some of the best ever.
"I was always kind of an OU fan, their style of play, coach Switzer. And look at all the backs they had," Stoops said. "As a young kid, of course everybody’s watching those flashy guys, how fast they were. Couldn’t wait to watch the game."
The annual series died with the Big Eight and birth of divisions in the Big 12, but with Nebraska prepared to leave for the Big Ten in 2011, there's plenty of nostalgia for everyone building up to the last game ever in a 12-team Big 12.
Fittingly, Stoops said, between the Sooners and Huskers one more time.
"I feel fortunate to be a part of it. It’s exciting and it’s earned," he said. "Both of us have earned it through tough division fights."
And although the Big 12 had three Heisman winners during that time, the three most memorable players of the decade didn’t claim college football’s top individual award.
Here's a look at the top 10 players of the last decade in the Big 12.
2. Adrian Peterson, Oklahoma: Likely would have had a chance for a Heisman if he had stayed for a senior season or not had his junior season marred by injuries. Still finished with 4,045 yards to finish within 73 yards within Billy Sims’ school career record.
3. Ndamukong Suh, Nebraska: Destined to go down in history as the greatest Blackshirt of all time. Capped his career by winning the Lombardi, Bednarik and Nagurski Awards, finished fourth in the Heisman and became the first defensive player to win the Associated Press’ player of the year.
4. Sam Bradford, Oklahoma: First quarterback to direct his team to back-to-back Big 12 titles, capped by winning the Heisman Trophy as a redshirt sophomore in 2008. Injured early in his junior season, he still finished his college career with 88 touchdown passes against 16 interceptions.
5. Michael Crabtree, Texas Tech: Claimed back-to-back Biletnikoff awards as the most dominant and productive receiver of his era. Won the award in his second season despite being hobbled by a sprained ankle that limited his productivity.
6. Roy Williams, Oklahoma: Dominant and productive safety who was so good that Bob Stoops created a position, “the Roy,” to showcase his talents. Claimed the Nagurski and Thorpe Awards and was a unanimous All-American in his final college season.
7. Derrick Johnson, Texas: Two-time All-American earned the Butkus and Nagurski Awards in his senior season, capping a career as one of the most illustrious defensive players in Texas history.
8. Eric Crouch, Nebraska: Multi-talented runner/passer cemented his Heisman Trophy in 2001 with his pass-catching abilities against Oklahoma. That big effort helped catapult the Cornhuskers into the national championship game as a senior. Finished his career as the leading rusher quarterback and leader in total offense in Nebraska history.
9. Jason White, Oklahoma: Surrounded by a bevy of top talent, led the Sooners to the national championship game in back to back seasons and claimed the Heisman Trophy Award as a junior in 2003. Claimed back-to-back Davey O’Brien Awards, finishing his career with 8,012 passing yards and 81 touchdowns.
10. Colt McCoy, Texas: The winningest quarterback in college football history, finishing his career with an NCAA record 45 wins. He finished with virtually every passing record in school history winning the Walter Camp Football Foundation Player of the Year, Maxwell Award, Davey O’Brien Award, Johnny Unitas Golden Arm and Manning Award in a hard-luck senior season capped by an injury that didn’t allow him to complete the national championship game.
The decision made late this afternoon that Sam Bradford was canceling his news conference told me he still hasn't given up on the idea of playing for Oklahoma again this season.
Bradford was set to meet with the press late this afternoon to discuss his future. That news conference was set a day ago and seemed be the time when Bradford was going to say whether he was going to have surgery to take care of his sprained shoulder joint that was reinjured Saturday against Texas.
I would think the majority of Sooner fans would accept whatever decision that Bradford makes with little backlash. The team is 3-3 and there's little that Bradford could do to help salvage the season, return them to the BCS title hunt or even the Big 12 championship after those three losses by a combined five points.
Bradford is one of the most popular players in the history of the Oklahoma program. He's a humble player and a good kid whose legacy won't be tarnished if he decides to have the surgery and leave school for the NFL. It won't be a surprise if there's a statue of Bradford one day at Owen Field, along previous Oklahoma Heisman Trophy winners like Billy Sims and Jason White.
Returning to school will likely cost him several million in what he would have earned as a first pick in the draft to where he will be picked later in another draft. And that's on top of the delay in starting his contract as an NFL player. The really big money comes with his subsequent contracts. By waiting like he did, he pushes his starting date of his starting career back by at least a year.
He apparently wants to decide to take a little more time to make his decision.
Considering what he's meant to Oklahoma, he deserves it.
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
Another getaway day before I go back home this weekend. Big plans with my 12th wedding anniversary -- I think that's right -- set for Sunday.
But before I leave Oklahoma, here are a few lunchtime links to gnaw on as we head to the weekend.
- CBS Sports.com's Dennis Dodd has the definitive story on Baylor offensive tackle Danny Watkins, the former Canadian firefighter who will be protecting Robert Griffin's blind side.
- The Austin American-Statesman's Kirk Bohls profiles Texas defensive tackle Lamarr Houston, who hopes to follow his friend Sergio Kindle into a productive role with the Longhorns this season.
- The Lincoln Journal Star's Steve Sipple detects that Bo Pelini has brought a more purposeful attitude to practice this season.
- Oklahoma State's Derek Burton is making the most of his switch to defensive tackle, the Oklahoman's Brandon Chatmon reports.
- Iowa State coaches have been impressed with the determined inside running of bullish 5-foot-11, 232-pound redshirt freshman Jeremiah Schwartz, the Ames Tribune's Bobby La Gesse writes.
- Texas Tech coach Mike Leach tells the Associated Press' Betsy Blaney that Taylor Potts is better prepared in his first season than any of his previous quarterbacks who led the nation in passing.
- The Oklahoman's Berry Tramel analyzes the autograph phenomenum, talking to former Sooner Heisman Trophy winners Steve Owens and Billy Sims for their take on signing their names so many times over the years.
- Texas A&M wide receiver Jeff Fuller tells the Bryan Eagle's Robert Cessna that he's never had as close a connection with a quarterback as the one he has with Jerrod Johnson.
- The battered Missouri secondary is seeking growth after struggling as the conference's worst statistical unit last season, the Kansas City Star's Mike DeArmond reports.
- The Lawrence Journal-World's Dugan Arnett describes how Kansas tackle Tanner Hawkinson has bulked up by nearly 50 pounds since last season as he prepares for the Jayhawks' starting job.
- The Topeka Capital-Journal's Rick Dean writes about the growing confidence in Kansas State's young secondary. And the Manhattan Mercury's Joel Jellison writes about the secondary's new 4-2-5 alignment that will feature three safeties playing at the same time.
- CUBuffs.com's B.G. Brooks writes that Colorado running back Brian Lockridge has placed his modeling career on hold to continue his football career.
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
Back in my former life at the newspaper in San Antonio, there was a wildly popular weekly column we used to run every Sunday called "Where Are They Now." A veteran staffer with loads of institutional knowledge tracked down some of the area's most memorable athletes and found out whatever happened to them after their athletic careers finished.
The concept has always been intriguing. It's why the list I found today at lostlettermen.com was so interesting to me (hat tip to the wizofodds.com.)
And heck, it's even topical with today's stories highlighting all of our Heisman Trophy stories.
Lost Letterman lists what has happened to all 73 previous Heisman winners. It's fascinating to see what men who had such football success have done with the rest of their lives.
Here's a list of the Heisman Trophy winners from Big 12 schools along with what happened to them after their college careers.
1952: Billy Vessels (Oklahoma) -- Worked in the horse racing business and real estate in South Florida before dying of heart failure in 2001 at the age of 70.
1957: John David Crow (Texas A&M) -- Former college coach and athletic director, now retired and living in College Station, Texas (age 74).
1969: Steve Owens (Oklahoma) -- CEO of a real estate company, Steve Owens & Associates, in Norman, Okla. (age 61).
1972: Johnny Rodgers (Nebraska) -- Owns JetWear kid's bedroom store in Omaha, Neb. (age 58).
1977: Earl Campbell (Texas) -- Assistant to the vice president of student affairs at Texas (age 54).
1978: Billy Sims (Oklahoma) -- Owns a chain of Billy Sims BBQ restaurants in Oklahoma (age 53).
1983: Mike Rozier (Nebraska) -- Stay-at-home dad living in Sickerville, N.J. (age 48).
1988: Barry Sanders (Oklahoma State) -- Retired from the NFL in 1998. Currently resides in West Bloomfield, Mich. (age 41.) His son, Barry Sanders Jr., is currently a high school star in Oklahoma City.
1994: Rashaan Salaam (Colorado) -- Promotes martial arts fights in China. Currently resides in San Diego, Calif. (age 34).
1998: Ricky Williams (Texas) -- Member of the Miami Dolphins (age 32).
2001: Eric Crouch (Nebraska) -- Owns playground equipment business called "Crouch Recreation" in Nebraska (age 30).
2003: Jason White (Oklahoma) -- Owns memorabilia stores in Norman, Okla., and Oklahoma City (age 29).
2008: Sam Bradford (Oklahoma) -- Starting quarterback at Oklahoma (age 21).
It's hard for me to believe the Steve Owens, a player who I avidly followed when I was a kid growing up, is now 61 years old.
And in a way, I can see Mike Rozier as a stay-at-home dad. He was always one of my favorite players to deal with when I was covering the Houston Oilers back in the day. I'm sure he a great dad -- and a very colorful one at that.
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
Big 12 players dominated the Water Camp Player of the Year watch list announced Friday with eight players, including 2008 winner Colt McCoy of Texas.
The Big 12's number was double of any other conference. The Pac-10 and Southeastern Conferences were next with four players apiece.
Among the Big 12's nominees were quarterback Sam Bradford and tight end Jermaine Gresham of Oklahoma, running back Kendall Hunter and wide receiver Dez Bryant from Oklahoma State, McCoy and wide receiver Jordan Shipley of Texas, linebacker Sean Weatherspoon of Missouri and quarterback Todd Reesing of Kansas.
Oklahoma State, Texas and Oklahoma were among five schools to have two players nominated to the list. The others were Florida and Penn State.
McCoy became the fourth Big 12 winner of the award. Earlier winners included Ricky Williams of Texas in 1998, Josh Heupel of Oklahoma in 2000 and Nebraska's Eric Crouch in 2001.
Other winners from current Big 12 schools before the conference started included Oklahoma's Steve Owens in 1969, Nebraska's Johnny Rodgers in 1972, Oklahoma's Billy Sims in 1978, Nebraska's Mike Rozier in 1983, Oklahoma State's Barry Sanders in 1988 and Colorado's Rashaan Salaam in 1994.
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
I hope everybody is as recharged and ready as I am after my Fourth of July break.
Between the dinners with the in-laws, fireworks displays, wiffle ball games and even a 2-hour wait in 104-degree heat for the most quintessential of all Texas tourist trips -- a visit to the Blue Bell Creamery in Brenham -- I'm still kind of worn out from all my days off.
Thankfully, the links were waiting for me this morning with a lot of news that transpired over the last few days across the Big 12.
- The Oklahoman's Jake Trotter reports that heralded running back recruits Brennan Clay and Roy Finch are excited about playing in the same backfield when they arrive at Oklahoma in 2010.
- The Denver Post's Terry Frei writes about Dan Hawkins' insistence of maintaining balance between work and family in his coach's lives. Hawkins also plans to open his first 10 practices to the public when the Buffaloes start preseason practice on Aug. 7, Kyle Ringo of the Boulder Daily Camera reports.
- Former Nebraska quarterback Sam Keller tells the New York Times why he's fighting Electronic Arts Sports for using his likeness in NCAA Football video game.
- Despite much heated public outcry in his defense, the Topeka Capital-Journal's Austin Meek remains curious about Bill Snyder after an auditor's report linked his name, among others, to unaccounted athletic department payments at Kansas State.
- The Tulsa World's John Hoover checks in with former Heisman Trophy winners Jason White and Billy Sims for some insight on what Sam Bradford might face this season. Both White and Sims were awarded the Heisman as juniors and came back to school for another season, like Bradford has chosen to do.
- Antonio Burton, a safety from Guyer High School in Denton, Texas, has committed to Kansas in the 2010 recruiting class, the Lawrence Journal-World reports. Burton chose the Jayhawks over UTEP, Tulsa and Arizona.
- The Columbia Daily Tribune's Dave Matter ranks Colt McCoy of Texas as the best player in a Big 12 backfield.
- Texas A&M athletic director Bill Byrne told the Dallas Morning News' Chuck Carlton that he's seen inspiration to improve among his school's football team after the school's recent success with other athletic teams.
- Michael Sherfield of the Daily Texan writes of Mack Brown's emerging legacy as Texas' head coach.
- Newly arrived Kansas freshmen football players are getting a crash course at adjusting to Division I football, the Lawrence Journal-World's Dugan Arnett reports.
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
This is going to date me, but I can remember back when May 1 meant one thing.
That was the day I could always count on tuning on the evening news and seeing the newest collection of aircraft, tanks and other armaments being showcased in a huge parade in Red Square in Moscow. The Communists used to use International Worker's Day to display the country's military forces and to honor themselves.
Thankfully, the fears of that Cold War era have abated in recent years. But I've got to believe that some football fans view spring games of rival teams in much the same way.
Don't some Texas fans feel the way I used to when Oklahoma trots out its collection of athletes during the spring game to show off what they can do? Maybe a feeling of fear and dread, but still measuring up to what my team or country might have.
Or that Sooners have similar feelings when they watch the Longhorns conduct their spring game work? Or that a Kansas fan might feel that way if he happened to stumble into Bill Snyder Family Stadium tomorrow afternoon for Kansas State's spring game?
Fortunately, we won't see any military parades in Red Square today.
But we do have some tasty Big 12 lunchtime links. Enjoy them and the weekend.
- Guerin Emig of the Tulsa World had a great story this morning about Oklahoma scout team running back Derek Gove, who earned the highest cumulative grade-point average among Sooner seniors. Gove had a unique description of his job as a scout-team running back.
"Most of the guys wake up Sunday morning like they've been hit by a train," Gove told the World. "I woke up Monday morning feeling that way. And Tuesday morning, Wednesday morning and Thursday morning."
- Mack Brown won't be attending next week's Big 12 coaches' meeting in Phoenix where the conference's tiebreaker rule for conference titles will be discussed, according to Dallas Morning News Big 12 reporter Chuck Carlton. Brown's wife, Sally, will be undergoing surgery on her wrist next week.
- Despite his background as a passing game coordinator, don't expect new Colorado offensive coordinator Eric Kiesau to forget about the Buffaloes' imposing rushing attack, Boulder Camera reporter Ryan Thorburn writes.
- Former Nebraska center Brett "Bama" Byford has shed 80 pounds since the end of his football career and will run his first marathon Sunday, Lincoln Journal-Star columnist Steve Sipple reports.
- Former Iowa State standout Ellis Hobbs promised his mother he would get his college degree, even after leaving for an NFL career. Randy Peterson of the Des Moines Register writes about his upcoming May 9 graduation.
- Grant Wistrom told Rich Kaipust of the Omaha World-Herald that he was shocked after learning earlier this week that he would be inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame.
- One of Steve McMichael's most cherished college football memories came when Billy Sims didn't want to come out to play for the fourth quarter of the Longhorns' 1979 victory over Oklahoma, Suzanne Halliburton of the Austin American-Statesman reports.
- Bill Snyder isn't a big fan of spring games, but he's staging one to entertain Kansas State fans, according to Topeka Capital-Journal beat writer Austin Meek.
- Gary Pinkel is still awaiting word whether heralded defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson will be able to enroll at Missouri or will be steered to a junior college to academically qualify, the Columbia Daily Tribune's Dave Matter writes.
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
I got a lot of good feedback last week after I detailed a post that listed the top NFL player from each Big 12 school in the modern era.
ESPN Stats & Information went back through every draft of the modern era -- since the NFL-AFL merger -- to determine the players who accomplished the most during their NFL careers.
The rankings were based on the following criteria: Hall of Fame induction, MVP awards, All-Pro first-team selections, All-Pro second-team selections, Pro Bowls, offensive and defensive player of the year and rookie of the year awards and membership on a Super Bowl-winning or -losing team. A player scores on the ranking system when he earns at least one of those honors.
Specifically, this was the criteria that was used:
THE POINTS SYSTEM
Players received points based on the following criteria, coming up with rankings for the 13,808 NFL players who have played since 1967:
Super Bowl loss (1 point)
Offensive rookie of the year (2 points)
Defensive rookie of the year (2 points)
Pro Bowl (2 points)
Super Bowl win (3 points)
AP All-Pro second team (3 points)
AP All-Pro first team (4 points)
AP Defensive Player of the Year (6 points)
AP Offensive Player of the Year (6 points)
AP Most Valuable Player (8 points)
Hall of Famer (15 points)
After popular demand, here's how the formula calculated the five most valuable NFL players produced from each Big 12 school. I'm curious what some of your thoughts about these players and others might be.
Remember, this includes only players who were drafted. So free agents like Wes Welker were not included.
Mike Singletary 81
Mike Nelms 22
Vann McElroy 10
Gary Green 8
Thomas Everett 8
Dick Anderson 30
Cliff Branch 29
Mark Haynes 23
Chad Brown 15
Charles Johnson 14
Alfred Williams 12
Matt Blair 18
Keith Sims 9
Marcus Robertson 5
Otto Stowe 4
Karl Nelson 3
John Riggins 25
Dana Stubblefield 24
Nolan Cromwell 21
Leroy Irvin 15
Larry Brown 14
Larry Brown 34
Martin Gramatica 8
Barrett Brooks 3
Clarence Scott 2
Henry Childs 2
Terence Newman 2
Roger Wehrli 44
Kellen Winslow 40
Eric Wright 23
Russ Washington 16
Mel Gray 12
Will Shields 44
Roger Craig 30
Neil Smith 28
Irving Fryar 17
John Dutton 13
Lee Roy Selmon 46
Keith Jackson 28
Billy Sims 14
Roy Williams 14
Adrian Peterson 13
Greg Pruitt 13
Barry Sanders 93
Thurman Thomas 60
Kevin Williams 24
Leslie O'Neal 16
Dexter Manley 13
Earl Campbell 65
Doug English 21
Steve McMichael 21
Bill Bradley 17
John Elliott 16
Shane Lechler 31
Lester Hayes 29
Richmond Webb 28
Ray Childress 26
Sam Adams 13
Zach Thomas 40
Curtis Jordan 4
Dylan Gandy 3
Maury Buford 3
Ted Watts 3
Timmy Smith 3
Source: ESPN Stats & Analysis Team
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
Oklahoma's three legendary coaches made for an easy trio of anchors on my personal Sooner Mount Rushmore, leaving room for the greatest football player in school history as my fourth selection.
And you think it's easy to do that?
Here are my selections:
- Bud Wilkinson -- The father of modern Oklahoma football and a pretty good football analyst during my youth. He set the school record with 145 victories, including an NCAA FBS record 47-game winning streak from 1953 through 1957.
- Barry Switzer -- The lovable rogue who perfected the wishbone offense with scores of great Texas expatriates. It helped him finish with 157 career triumphs, three national championships and a share of every Big Eight title from 1973 to 1980.
- Bob Stoops -- The most successful coach in Big 12 history has claimed six Big 12 titles, including an unprecedented current streak of three straight championships. Recent BCS title games haven't been kind to him, but he still claimed the 2000 national championship in only his second season as the Sooners' head coach.
- Billy Sims -- He still makes Heisman Trophy presentations a lively affair, particularly when an Oklahoma player wins the award. He won the Heisman in 1978 and finished second the following season, leading the nation in rushing and scoring in both seasons.
I had many potential nominees for the Oklahoma football Rushmore. A case could be made for Bennie Owen, Billy Vessels, Tommy McDonald, Jerry Tubbs, Bob Kalsu, the Selmon Brothers, Brian Bosworth, Tony Casillas, Prentice Gautt, Granville Liggins, Keith Jackson, Roy Williams, Tommie Harris, Rocky Calmus, Josh Heupel, Adrian Peterson and Jason White.
I could go on and on.
And if he has another Heisman-winning season, it might be especially hard to argue with that Sam Bradford fellow, too.
Anybody I've forgotten, or grossly underrated or overrated?
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
It wasn't a surprise that Oklahoma was ranked as the No. 1 team in the ESPN Prestige Rankings. The Sooners have been a consistent, dominant program since the end of World War II.
Oklahoma's football history has been dotted by success crafted by larger-than-life characters and memorable teams. Hall of Famers like Bud Wilkinson, Bennie Owen and Barry Switzer roamed the sidelines en route to the College Football Hall of Fame. Legendary players like Tommy McDonald, Jerry Tubbs, Lee Roy Selmon, Billy Sims and Steve Owens all have been key Sooners over the years.
But the recent return of Sooner mystique has only come since Bob Stoops took over the program in 1999, which came about after the hiring of Joe Castiglione as athletic director a few months earlier.
Sure, the Oklahoma program has endured a run of big-game struggles in recent seasons. But it has gotten to the big game with more consistency than any other Big 12 program with an unprecedented current streak of three-straight conference championships. Oklahoma has won 39 conference championships -- seven more than any other program in the country.
That recent run is a startling transformation since the start of the Big 12 era, which marks the starting point of my own close inspection of the Oklahoma program. I had followed it from a distance, marveling at their blowout victories and cocksure attitude under the charmingly roguish Switzer.
And to say the least, I was shocked at where Oklahoma was in the mid-1990s. Owen Stadium wasn't nearly the palace I imagined. The Sooners were a conference laughing stock under the direction of a less-than-stellar array of coaches like Gary Gibbs, Howard Schnellenberger and John Blake who all had struggled to match Switzer's "Sooner Magic."
I remember when Schnellenberger bragged that they would write books and make movies about his time at the school. After a 5-5-1 record during his 1995 season, I'm still waiting.
And Blake, a popular former Oklahoma player and assistant coach, also struggled mightily during his run from 1996-98.
Blake's 12-22 record during his coaching tenure featured three-straight losing seasons in the Sooner program for the first time since 1922-24. Blake changed his offenses three times in 1998, his final season, as the Sooners limped to a 5-6 season.
Castiglione had been hired as the school's athletic director only a few months before. He made the difficult but necessary decision to jettison Blake in favor of a transformation after only one season.
Stoops was his first major hire and the rest has been history. Stoops has claimed six Big 12 titles over the last nine seasons, a period where no other conference rival has won more than one.
To see the Oklahoma program at its current level compared to where it was only 10 years ago, it has been a remarkable transformation.
It's been one where leaders of a prestigious program have seen change coming and been willing to embrace it, keeping the Sooners ensconced at the rarefied levels of the past.
And it's the biggest reason why the Sooners program has maintained its prestige over such a long period of time.
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
MIAMI -- At least one former Sooner looked stoked for Thursday's FedEx BCS National Championship game, even though his career ended almost 30 years ago.
When former Oklahoma Heisman Trophy winner Billy Sims was introduced before the game, he waved his hands in the air and even did some jumping jacks. His enthusiasm was a marked contrast from the other Heisman winners who were a lot more sedate when they were honored before the game.
Sims got in a little hot water after Sam Bradford's Heisman Trophy presentation last month when he punctuated Bradford's honor by yelling "Boomer" as he accepted the award. Sims even apologized for his action a couple of days later.
It looks like Sims is back in the good graces of the Sooner Nation -- at least if the reaction he received Thursday night was any indication.
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
When Sam Bradford was being introduced Saturday night as the next Heisman Trophy winner, I was mildly amused with the show that former Sooner standout Billy Sims was making by repeatedly chanting "Boomer" as Bradford walked to the stage.
But as it continued, Sims became more and more buffoonish. His outlandish display was greatly out of place for the show of dignity that I usually expect from the most hallowed of all individual trophies available in college sports. And I would expect more out of former winners who seemingly would respect their own achievements and those of other winners.
My sentiments were shared by others while reading message boards for other Big 12 schools and even by some Sooner fans over the last couple of days.
It even prompted a stinging response this morning when The Oklahoman wrote an editorial blasting Sims for his Heisman show of exuberance.
"You knew it was coming," The Oklahoman wrote. "Sims began this routine when Jason White won the Heisman in 2003, although that time he hollered it only a couple of times, and it was good for a laugh or two. There weren't many laughs Saturday night, especially not after the fourth, or fifth, or sixth, or seventh shout from Sims."
Sims obviously shows great pride in his old school. And he's always excited about having another representative from his school join the exclusive football fraternity.
But his old fans and particularly the opinion leaders back in the state where he played college football merely wish that Sims would just shut up.
"Sam Bradford deserved better," The Oklahoman's editorial said. "In winning the Heisman as the nation's top college football player, he represented his team, his school and his state with the sort of class we have come to expect from him. And unfortunately, so did Sims."
Maybe Oklahoma athletic director Joe Castiglione needs to deputize former Sooner Heisman winner Steve Owens and get him to lock Sims in the closet for a couple of hours at the next Heisman ceremony if he can't act with dignity.
Because Sims' foolish antics definitely upstaged Bradford's big show. And in the process it embarrassed his old school when it should have been basking in the national spotlight.
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
Sam Bradford's Heisman Trophy coronation almost turned into a pep rally for the school -- and his teammates.
Bradford paid homage to the Big 12 champion Sooners, a group that has scored more points than any team in modern-day college football, as he accepted the Heisman Trophy Saturday night.
"They are unreal," Bradford said. "I was surrounded by such a strong supporting cast. I feel like I'm up here representing them. This is an individual award, but I feel like I'm receiving it (the Heisman Trophy) for them. Without them, I would be nowhere. "
Good idea, in my opinion. The Sooners have been that dominant this season -- but particularly when the Sooners made history by scoring at least 60 points in their final five games of the season.
Former Oklahoma running back Billy Sims is already sparking the ire of the Texas message boards with his declaration that "Sooner or later we'll get you" as Bradford accepted the award. But it was all in good fun and just made the annual Texas-Oklahoma game next October in Dallas that much more interesting -- as if it really needed any more fuel after the BCS controversy that pushed the Sooners into the Big 12 championship ahead of the Longhorns.
It was the third- closest vote in history as Bradford garnered 1,725 votes, compared to 1,604 for second-place finisher Colt McCoy of Texas and 1,575 for defending Heisman winner Tim Tebow of Florida.
Tebow actually received more first-place votes than any other competitor. But Bradford received enough second- and third-place votes that boosted him past the rest of the field. He becomes the fifth Oklahoma player to win the award. The school's other winners were Billy Vessels, Steve Owens, Sims and Jason White.
The Big 12 was represented with four of the top five finalists. Teammates Graham Harrell and Michael Crabtree of Texas Tech ranked fourth and fifth, respectively.
Bradford's victory marked the second-straight season the winner accepted the trophy with a cast on his non-throwing arm. But he vows to be ready for the Sooners' Jan. 8 date against Florida in the FedEx BCS National Championship Game in Miami.
Watching Bradford and the Oklahoma offense was enough to make a believer of Florida coach Urban Meyer.
"It's as good an offense as I've ever seen on video," Meyer said.
And it was sparked the quarterback who led the nation in touchdown passes and richly deserved the award.
BIG 12 SCOREBOARD
Final Nevada 3 Louisiana-Lafayette 16 Final Utah State 21 UTEP 6 Final 22 Utah 45 Colorado State 10 Final Western Michigan 24 Air Force 38 Final South Alabama 28 Bowling Green 33
Final Marshall 52 Northern Illinois 23 Final Navy 17 San Diego State 16
Final Central Michigan 48 Western Kentucky 49 Final Fresno State 6 Rice 30
1:00 PM ET Illinois Louisiana Tech 4:30 PM ET Rutgers North Carolina 8:00 PM ET North Carolina State UCF
1:00 PM ET Cincinnati Virginia Tech 2:00 PM ET 15 Arizona State Duke 3:30 PM ET Miami (FL) South Carolina 4:30 PM ET Boston College Penn State 8:00 PM ET Nebraska 24 USC
2:00 PM ET Texas A&M West Virginia 5:30 PM ET Oklahoma 17 Clemson 9:00 PM ET Arkansas Texas
3:00 PM ET Notre Dame 23 LSU 6:30 PM ET 13 Georgia 21 Louisville 10:00 PM ET Maryland Stanford
12:30 PM ET 9 Ole Miss 6 TCU 4:00 PM ET 20 Boise State 10 Arizona 8:00 PM ET 7 Mississippi State 12 Georgia Tech
12:00 PM ET 19 Auburn 18 Wisconsin 12:30 PM ET 8 Michigan State 5 Baylor 1:00 PM ET 16 Missouri 25 Minnesota 5:00 PM ET 2 Oregon 3 Florida State 8:30 PM ET 1 Alabama 4 Ohio State
12:00 PM ET Houston Pittsburgh 3:20 PM ET Iowa Tennessee 6:45 PM ET 11 Kansas State 14 UCLA 10:15 PM ET Washington Oklahoma State