Joe Castiglione’s phone wouldn’t stop buzzing on the morning of Nov. 2, 2015. The Oklahoma athletic director was in the middle of a meeting when he had to step out to see if the texts and images he was seeing were true. He stared in disbelief at pictures of a 10-foot tall statue of Bob Stoops, still then Oklahoma head football coach, sitting on the back of a trailer and being paraded down I-35 in Fort Worth and Lindsey Street in Norman.
Castiglione was at a loss for words.
“I was so angry and so disappointed at the lack of sensitivity, respect, decorum — it’s mind-boggling to think someone, or a group of people, were actually consciously making a decision to put that statue on the back of a flatbed trailer without any covering or protective shielding,” Castiglione said. “It just makes no sense whatsoever.”
Two years and four months later, Stoops’ statue will finally be unveiled — the intended way — at the spring game April 14. Today, Castiglione remains frustrated, Stoops’ friends relate it to Bigfoot and Stoops himself just shakes his head. It’s become one of the biggest mysteries in recent Sooner history, with a number of questions still surrounding it today: Who was driving the car? Why didn’t they cover it? Where did it come from?
And, most importantly, how did this happen?
To this day, no one — at least anyone that is willing to talk about it — really knows what exactly happened that day. The following is an oral history of the mysterious Bob Stoops statue that appeared on Nov. 2, 2015, and will finally be unveiled to the public at the spring game. The story includes six individual interviews with six different people that were completed over the course of a week. All titles of the interviewees are current.
The statue was bronzed at the Deep in the Heart Art Foundry (whose representatives declined to be interviewed due to the amount of attention they have already received for the incident) in Bastrop, Texas, at approximately 6 a.m. CT and was first seen on I-35 in Fort Worth between 9:30–10 a.m. KFOR’s Nate Feken was the first to tweet a picture of the statue at 12:43 p.m., breaking the original news.
Nate Feken (KFOR sports reporter): It was a Monday after a press conference, so the driver’s timing couldn’t have been worse.
Carey Murdock (publisher of SoonerScoop): Bob had actually let the cat out of the bag, I think actually the press conference right after or before he was about to break (Barry) Switzer’s record for all-time wins, when he said, “Yes, there was a statue that they made,” but he wouldn’t let them put it up yet.
Stoops confirmed there was a statue being built in 2012 after tying Bud Wilkinson for all-time wins, saying, “They’ve asked and have it ready to go ... I don’t want that at all. It would be weird to me. Not until I’m done. Who knows when that will be?” Stoops claimed the all-time wins record the following season and retired five years later in June 2017.
Feken: I was on the phone with my dad, who went to OU, and it went by me, and I said, “I think I just saw a 10-foot statue of Bob Stoops drive by,” and he goes, “You probably ought to go chase that.” You could see the visor on it clearly, you knew right away it was Bob Stoops ... I probably broke a few laws trying to catch back up to it.
Clarke Stroud (OU dean of students): We joked like it was the sighting of the Yeti.
Feken: I was definitely shocked it was just kind of out there and uncovered — a pigeon could make a mess on it or a rock could chip up and hit it. I was just kind of blown away it was out in the open.
Castiglione: We weren’t even aware the statue had to be relocated at that point in time. Not to say we didn’t have a time frame in mind (of when they were going to relocate it), but it certainly wasn’t then.
The artist of the statue, Paul Moore, declined to be interviewed for the story, saying he thought everyone should move on.
Feken: I caught it as it went through the light at Lindsey and Classen, and then it pulled into what I guess is an OU facility on the northeast corner of Lindsey and Classen ... So I just kind of pulled up right behind it and started taking pictures. I don’t think the guy driving ever caught onto the fact that a giant Channel 4 car was right behind him.
Castiglione: I learned about it through text messages I received when I was in another meeting, and as incredulous as it sounded, I stepped out during a break and called somebody to see if the story had any truth to it. I didn’t believe it.
Matt McMillen (director of football operations): I was kind of disconnected that day, but I heard about it and thought, ‘What the heck is going on?’
Feken: I just sat there and called my director, Brian Brinkley, and was like “This is our top story now.”
Murdock: I saw that (tweet) pop up from Nate, and I was like, “Oh my God, that’s it.”
Castiglione: By then, (Feken) had tweeted a photo of the statue on the back of a flatbed trailer ... I immediately contacted (Stoops) to let him know what I had just learned, and to apologize even though we had nothing to do with it. I just felt so badly about the whole situation.
Stoops: You know me, I’m the kind of guy — no big deal.
Castiglione: He took it a lot better than I thought he would, maybe even better than I did.
Stroud: If I remember correctly, (Stoops) just shook his head.
McMillen: I saw a picture and started cracking up, then I showed it to Bob, and he just shook his head, kind of smiled and walked away.
Stoops: I kind of chuckled at it. I thought it was pretty funny. Someone made a mistake, so be it. Not a big deal. So, I didn’t think it was a big deal.
Castiglione: The embarrassment that it caused — it was just beyond disrespectful.
Murdock: I can see why Joe’s pissed ... From an administrator thing, you want to have a big reveal.
After tracking down the foundry and the artist, I was unable to find anyone who knew who was to blame for the incident. To this day, not one person at OU claims to know who was responsible, making it a widely known mystery among Sooner Nation.
Murdock: What was it doing here? I immediately contacted the sports information office, and when we started to find out this was not supposed to be here, we don’t know why this is here ... I just knew this was a horrible mistake, they were really pissed off about this.
Castiglione: I still, to this day, don’t know who all was involved in it. It’d be hard to say they did that intentionally, but to be so short-sighted — I can tell you I’ve never been driving down any interstate in America and seen a statue on the back of a flatbed trailer uncovered.
Feken: I mean, it was on a flatbed trailer with no cover or anything, just wide open.
McMillen: To be real honest with you, I don’t know what happened. I don’t know how it got on a truck, where it was going — I have no idea.
Murdock: You come to find out it came all the way from Fort Worth, and you’re just like, “God, that was insane.”
Feken: I think it fooled everybody at OU that it was even out and about, alone and uncovered.
Stroud: Was that really the Bob Stoops statue? There’s grainy pictures on the internet ... but it’s kind of like Bigfoot or the Yeti, where we’re just not sure.
Stoops: That’s exactly right. That’s what it’s like.
Feken: It went literally right through campus, and I know I wasn’t the only one that saw it.
Stroud: I cannot even confirm to you that there is a statue.
Castiglione: There is a statue.
McMillen: It’s like the Yeti. It’s a Bigfoot sighting. Some people have seen it, but no one’s really seen it.
Stoops: I’ve seen it.
McMillen: Conspiracy: I think there’s one, but are there two statues?
Stroud: As far as I know, it’s like that picture of Bigfoot walking down the river. It’s right up there with Noah’s ark, some of America’s greatest legends — the Bob Stoops statue.
Today, most look back and laugh at the situation, but all of them understand the type of honor it is to have a statue of oneself.
Murdock: I remember they made such a big deal out of Sam Bradford’s Heisman Trophy. They had this big thing at the fairgrounds, an unveiling, his parents were there, this whole big deal, and then Bob’s statue is revealed that way to the world — you’re just like, “That’s funny.”
Castiglione: I’m a progressive thinker, and I like to think of strategies and projects that are cutting-edge, but I’m also old-school values. I just can’t imagine why someone was that short-sighted.
Murdock: The funny thing about it is that Bob thought it was funny — Joe was pissed off about it.
Castiglione: Obviously we’ve moved on, but no, I don’t think I’ll ever laugh about that.
Stoops: I thought it was funny then, I still do. Not a big deal to me.
McMillen: I think when it’s unveiled, and people actually see it, they’ll even think it’s funnier.
Murdock: Lincoln (Riley) told us recently they used to rip (Stoops) about it all the time in the office. It’s just one of those funny little stories.
Castiglione: Let’s face it, this is a very unique honor, for anyone, to have a statue of yourself.
Murdock: Bob doesn’t care about that stuff. I don’t think Bob ever really cared that he had a statue, it’s not in his nature to be like, “Oh, I’m going to have a statue.” He’s not embarrassed by it, that’s just not his nature.
Stoops: I’m very grateful, and I feel incredibly fortunate and humbled by it all. It’s just kind of hard to believe that that is actually going to happen.
Castiglione: It’s a very humbling honor. When somebody is in a process like that, you certainly want to handle it with dignity and class.
Stroud: It cements his place in the rich history of Oklahoma football. Having your statue next to three legends in Bennie, Bud and Barry — there aren’t any other statues over there unless you’re a Heisman winner.
McMillen: Bob is so humble, he hasn’t said much about it. I know he’s humbled by being in the presence of Bud and Barry and Bennie. There’s been a lot of coaches here, but there are only four guys that are going to have statues.
Before ending the interview, I asked Stoops one last question: "Does the statue look like you?" Stoops proceeded to give the most Bob Stoops answer ever.
Stoops: I wish (I) was better looking. How’s that?