When Bob Stoops was introduced as Oklahoma’s head football coach outside of Evans Hall on Dec. 1, 1998, the expectations were high.
“It’s a program with the championships that should expect championships,” Stoops said that day.
Now 18 years later, Stoops has decided to end his legendary career.
“Where did 18 years ago?” Stoops said. “They flew by in an incredibly positive, great, great way for my family.”
Athletic director Joe Castiglione will never forget that day on the steps of Evans Hall.
“I remember that day as we introduced Bob and Carol Stoops to the Sooner nation,” Castiglione said. “We had such excitement in our minds, in our hearts, and what could be.”
Castiglione had high expectations for Stoops, but not even he could imagine the type of legacy Stoops would leave behind.
Stoops was stepping into a program experiencing one of its worst decades of football ever. Oklahoma hadn’t had a winning season since 1993, the same year it won its last bowl game. Stoops not only turned the program around immediately, but also put the Sooners back on top of the college football universe, winning the national championship in his second year.
“The coaching life is really equated to a relay race,” Stoops said. “I’m really grateful for my opportunity to run the race I have.”
But it wasn’t just Stoops’ immediate success that made him great — it was his consistency. In his 18 years, Stoops hit landmark after landmark, engraving his name in college football history.
He became the only coach to win the Fiesta, Sugar, Orange and Rose bowls along with a national championship. He dominated an entire conference, winning 10 Big 12 championships. In 2013, he passed the great Barry Switzer for all-time wins in program history with 190. He took an ordinary football stadium and turned it into the Palace on the Prairie.
“His success has defined our ability to put others in position to be successful,” Castiglione said. “He needs to be celebrated and recognized for the Hall of Fame coach that he is.”
Stoops, from day one, shared the success with those around the program, from assistants to fans.
“We’ve got the best fans in the country,” Stoops said. “Eighteen going on 19 straight years of sold-out stadiums. Anytime we’re on the road we always have a big crowd, always at bowl games we have a big crowd. They’re always following us, always passionate about us and you will continue to help this program move on and continue to win championships.”
The list goes on for Stoops’ on the field success, but his off the field actions cannot go unnoticed. His relationship with his players, coaches and staff have been remarkable.
“He’s changed a lot of lives,” said quarterback Baker Mayfield, who was among the many current and former players to turn out for Wednesday’s impromptu press conference. “Every single kid that’s even got on campus — he brought them here for a reason and they’re going to have their lives changed because of him. And so it was a gratitude, but more of a thanking him for doing all that he’s done over the years, and it’s not just this team, I mean he’s done it for 18 years now. (He’s) changed a lot of lives and we wanted to thank him.”
The hardest part for Stoops was having to say goodbye to his players, his “children.”
“I think the hardest moment — coming to terms with this — was seeing my players,” Stoops said. “I love them dearly. (You) look at them all as your own children, but I also know this is going to be great for them moving forward.”
“I feel like I’ve been absolutely the luckiest, most fortunate guy in the world,” Stoops added. “I’ve been incredibly blessed to have experienced what we have over the last 18 and a half years.”
Castiglione echoed that sentiment.
“I’ll remember, like everybody, your accomplishments,” Castiglione said. “But more than anything, I’ll remember you for the man you are and for the family that you have built.”