NORMAN — Bob Stoops didn’t pull any punches last week.
“I’m a program guy,” Stoops said last week in Oklahoma’s press release announcing the departure of Lincoln Riley and Stoops’ appointment as OU’s interim head coach.
“Whatever I can do to help OU and to support the players, of course I’m glad to do it.”
The Sooners have always valued stability. Stoops coached his entire tenure under the same athletic director and university president, making for a harmonious 18-year tenure for Stoops.
Lincoln Riley only lasted five seasons as the head coach in Norman before bolting to the West Coast, insinuating OU’s administration didn’t want to back the program to the extent you need to win.
All week, University of Oklahoma president Joseph Harroz and athletic director Joe Castiglione have reinforced that they’re willing to do what it takes to win, and that Oklahoma has never been in a better spot to win.
All the OU brass needed was a head coach who wanted to be a Sooner.
Enter Brent Venables.
The newly appointed head coach is no stranger to Norman, as he spent 13 years as a member of Stoops staff until he departed for Clemson ahead of the 2012 season.
And while he’s been away from OU for a decade, he said he’s never stopped checking in on what the Sooners are doing.
“You feel like that’s a part of your fiber,” Venables said during his introductory press conference on Monday. “It’s not just a job, for me. It’s not just a job. You pour your life into it. You don’t just walk away and forget about it, good or bad. You try to learn from all of it.
“So for me, absolutely, always paying attention. Coach Stoops and his family, Joe Castiglione and his family. Our children were Christened together. We’ve done it all. We’ve changed diapers together.”
Every indication points to Venables patrolling the OU sideline for years if he finds success, because that’s what he’s done at every single stop in his career.
“I have a career, almost 30 years, of being loyal,” Venables said. “Just look at my career. If I've been something I've been loyal. I haven't been a coach that's just jumped all over.”
Once again, Venables is about to have the strength of the Oklahoma brand working for him. Outside of his own resume, the Sooners have had vast stretches of incredible stability and success, something Venables hopes will help attract recruits to play for him in Norman.
“It’s much more than just one person,” Venables said. “I recognize that being the head coach has a very important place in all of that. But again, for me for example, if they're looking for a program with stability, a program of success... This is a program first of all that's displayed that on its own.
“And then my career has been exactly that as well, on the biggest stages, in the biggest games. I have that kind of experience to sell.”
Venables’ tenure in Norman will ultimately be measured in success on the field, and his ability to continue to win big games and keep Oklahoma in the hunt for a National Championship.
But his loyalty to the program will rarely be questioned, as Venables is overjoyed to be back in Norman and to be presented with the chance to continue to put down roots and grow the Oklahoma program.
“I’m a very connected person,” Venables said. “I feel like relationships – you have business relationships, but I’m not really like that. I’m deeply connected, whether I say that outwardly or not.
“You pour your life into something, pour your heart into it and truly passionate about it then you don’t just close that door. Absolutely, looking on, pulling for (Oklahoma), it’s been a lot of fun.”
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