One of the toughest things for any successful college coach to do is to walk away in his prime.
The temptation is to stay too long the way Joe Paterno, Bobby Bowden and Woody Hayes all did.
Bob Stoops didn’t make that mistake. He coached at Oklahoma for 18 years from 1999 to 2017, won a national championship in his second year and kept the Sooners a force in college football while going 190-48 before stepping down on top as an icon.
He chronicled his career in his autobiography, “No Excuses, the Making of a Head Coach,” which was published by Little Brown and Company.
Even though It was published last fall, it is very timely because in the last page, he mentions that he decided to return coaching in the XFL with the Dallas Renegades.
He will make his debut Saturday when the new league kicks off its first season.
He ends the book by writing, “Two years ago, I got to write my own ending. I needed that time to decompress and recharge…Now I get to do something even better. I get to write my own beginning.”
It will be interesting to see what his new beginning is like. Is the XFL a springboard to him returning to big time college football? He did decide not to pursue the Florida State job at the end when FSU appeared to have him at the top of their list.
It remains to be seen if the XFL will scratch his coaching itch or whether he whether he will decide to go back into the pressure cooker as the coach of a big-time college time to cap off his career.
Either way, he is already had a fascinating career and his bio is one of the best I’ve read because it is so candid.He admits that it was almost a football miracle that put him on the road to becoming a successful coach.
He grew up in Youngstown as the son of a coach, but was not heavily recruited. The only Division I school (now known as FBS) to offer him a scholarship was Bowling Green. He was recruited by an assistant but when coach Denny Stolz met him, he wasn’t impressed, and rescinded the offer.
That left his options as staying home and playing for Youngstown State or going to Southern Illinois.“I would have been fine. But I am not sure I would have been happy,’’ he said.
Then came the miracle. The Iowa coach, Bob Cummings, offered him a scholarship. He was from Youngstown and played at the same high school his dad did.
But the team went 2-9, he didn’t play as a freshman and Cummings was fired at the end of the year.
He was ready to transfer, but his dad told him that he would wind up like one of those guys who go off to school, come back and amount to nothing.
That was the end of his transfer talk and he returned to Iowa where Hayden Fry had been hired as head coach.
He says that Cummings bringing him to Iowa was his first big break. The arrival of Fry and his defensive coordinator Bill
Brahler at Iowa was the second one.
They turned the program around and Stoops wound up playing in the Rose Bowl, becoming a team captain, making first team All-Big Ten honors and even honorable All-American mention.
And he not only met his future wife there, but Fry offered him a job as a graduate assistant coach.
That started him on the road that eventually led to Oklahoma and he entitled the chapter about his arrival at the school as “Lonely.” You don’t often hear coaches talk about being lonely at a new job when their family hasn’t joined them.
He said when he was visited by an old friend, he hugged her like she was his wife.“I made his go to lunch with me,’’ he writes. “I just needed to talk so someone with a connection to my past. It surprised me that I reacted that way, but that was the depth of my loneliness.”
That is the kind of candor that makes it such a good book. It is more than about football and gives a lot of insight into his life.
Now he begins the next chapter of his life in the XFL.