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Sunday, January 13, 2013
Bob Stoops talks state of Sooners

By Jake Trotter
SoonerNation

NORMAN, Okla. -- Bob Stoops was given a hypothetical last week.

If Stoops had to give president David Boren and athletic director Joe Castiglione a state of the program address, what would he say?

Bob Stoops
Bob Stoops is still winning plenty of games, but not at the rate some Sooners fans desire.

"Well, let's see here," Stoops answered before rattling off the program's accomplishments, one after another.

"Last three years, we've won two of the last three Big 12 championships. We just were 15th in the country. We've won more games overall than any other Big 12 team in the last three years. We've won more Big 12 games than any other team in the last three years. I think in the last three years, there's only five teams in the country that have won 10 or more games; we're one of them. In the last five years, there's only two teams that have won more games than us. So, pretty good."

After another season in which Oklahoma failed to emerge as a bona fide national championship contender, that's probably not what Sooner Nation wanted to hear from the old ball coach. Sure, those facts checked out. But they hardly ease the sting of a 28-point loss to Texas A&M in the AT&T Cotton Bowl.

And they don't ease the sting of other facts, either.

The fact the Sooners haven't won a national title since Stoops' second season 12 years ago. Or the fact that since 2008 they haven't even contended for one, at least past October. Or that with several key players declaring for the draft or graduating, they don't appear any closer on paper to doing so in 2013. Chances are, the Sooners won't even be Big 12 favorite next season.

Still, Stoops saw positives in the past season, which included a co-Big 12 title with Kansas State, even though the Wildcats knocked off the Sooners in Norman early in the season.

"We're back to winning the championship again like we did in 2010, and we caught a couple great teams," he said. "We played one team (Notre Dame) out of conference that was undefeated up until the last game. I don't need to tell you. In the end, we weren't quite good enough to win 11, 12 or 13 games. We were good enough to win 10 and have a part of the championship once again, for the second time in three years. That's where we're at."

Stoops, however, eventually conceded that "pretty good" isn't quite good enough, either. At least not in Norman.

"What's ever good enough? Nothing, unless you win them all," he said. "People get bored with just winning the Big 12 championship.

"You've gotta win the national championship."

Then, Stoops also offered up a little fire and brimstone OU backers have been craving since he famously declared in August of 2011 that it was "about time" the Sooners won another national title.

"This is the first time in four years we're not competing for the national championship, since I got here," he said. "Every four years, within four years, we're competing for the national championship. In the game. I don't mean just part of it. In the game. You know, that's not good enough if you don't win it.

"I hate it. We've been pretty used to it. I helped create that, and to me, it's the pulse here. I don't like it. But that's me."

But while the pulse remains the season, the climb appears to be even steeper in 2013. The Sooners have to replace the majority of a defense that was an open sieve in November and December. And for the first time since Sam Bradford's freshman campaign six seasons ago, OU will have to go through a quarterback derby.

For those reasons, the Sooners could start the season outside the Top 15 in the rankings for the first time since 2000. Of course OU emerged out of nowhere to win the school's seventh -- and Stoops' only -- national title that season.

"You never know," he said. "We didn't seem very close when we had a shot at it in 2000. You never know when it's coming.

"Notre Dame was that story this year. They weren't projected real high, but hit it right, had real good team chemistry, I'm sure, won some tight games and played well.

"We're gonna work hard for it, and we'll try and make some improvements through the winter and spring and hopefully have a chance to be better next year."