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For Oklahoma football, coach Stoops is a renaissance man

| Wednesday, Nov. 14, 2012, 4:44 p.m.
Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops gestures as he answers a question during a news conference in Norman, Okla., Monday, Nov. 12, 2012. Oklahoma is scheduled to play West Virginia on Saturday. (AP)

When he accepted the job at Oklahoma, Bob Stoops was reminded of the bad ole days.

That, of course, preceded the good ole days when the Sooners ranked among the college football heavyweights under Barry Switzer and Bud Wilkinson before that.

“This was really a downtrodden program,” Stoops recalled this week. “When we got here in 1999, they hadn't had a winning season in five years.

“They were getting beat up. Some of the scores were pretty horrific the way we were losing to Nebraska (73-21 in 1996) and Texas A&M (51-7 in 1997).”

Times have changed. Oklahoma is 7-2, 5-1 in the Big 12 and ranked No. 13 entering Saturday's 7 p.m. game against West Virginia (5-4, 2-4) at Milan Puskar Stadium.

“Oklahoma is going to be a tremendous challenge,” West Virginia coach Dana Holgorsen said. “They are a very storied program that is extremely well coached. Bob has been there for 14 years and won many championships. They have great players, and they develop them well. They recruit well. It is a very structured program.

“The one thing that never changes is the effort that they play with, the nastiness that they play with. They play with a tremendous amount of energy.”

Stoops' solution was to repair belief in a program that went 157-29-4 with three national championships and 12 Big Eight championships from 1973-1988.

“The first thing we did was embrace the tradition,” said Stoops, who has gone 141-36 with one national title and seven Big 12 crowns.

“There's a common theme, too, that it couldn't be done anymore, to play at that level. We didn't buy into that.”

In his first season, Stoops guided Oklahoma to a 7-5 record and its first bowl appearance in five years.

His message to his players?

“This is what we're supposed to play like — those guys in the past,” the Youngstown native said. “I'm supposed to coach like those guys. You're supposed to play like all those different All-Americans. We're going to do all we can to live up to it and not hide from it.”

Oklahoma's playing in a bowl game in Stoops' first season — the Sooners lost to Mississippi in the Independence Bowl — set the stage for a 13-0 record and the school's first national championship in 15 years the following season.

“We didn't come in talking about a three- and four-year plan before we won,” said Stoops, who has never had a losing season at Oklahoma. “Players that were seniors and juniors, we told them we intend to win right away. We intend to be in a bowl game our first year. Fortunately, we did win seven games our first year and get to a bowl. Those kids hadn't done that, and they embraced us. They were excited about it, accepted us, and we got things going pretty fast.”

John Harris is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at jharris@tribweb.com.

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