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Why Oklahoma Again Turned to Bob Stoops

The Hall of Fame coach will guide the Sooners as an interim coach for the bowl game, but he's likely to have some input again on who Joe C. hires as the next coach.

NORMAN — Bob Stoops doesn’t plan to interject in the Oklahoma coaching hire.

But if Joe Castiglione needs him again, Stoops will be there to lend a word of advice on any candidates — even if those candidates might be some of Stoops’ close friends.

“I got a lot of friends,” Stoops said Monday. “A lot of friends I'd never hire.”

Retirement has been good to Stoops, who stepped away from pregame shows and tequila temporarily and laughed and joked and gestured and actually got pretty serious when talking about the program into which he’s put more than 20 years.

Stoops was introduced Monday by his old boss, Castiglione, and OU president Joe Harroz, as the Sooners’ interim coach for the upcoming bowl game — or however long Castiglione needs him.

“I’m gonna be here as long as they need me,” Stoops said, “until they find their next new head coach. Whatever that may be.”

Could that include beyond the bowl game?

"Joe won't take that long."

As for Castiglione’s timetable, he said there is none, other than “appropriate expediency.” He also said there’s no set formula for hiring an established head coach or an up-and-coming assistant. He’s open to either possibility.

“My benchmark is hiring the best head coach,” Castiglione said, “and always will be.”

For now, that’s Stoops, who was out golfing when he got the call from Castiglione that Lincoln Riley had abandoned his post for USC.

“I wasn’t playing well,” Stoops said. “That’s the only reason I answered.”

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But Stoops always answers the call. He’ll be inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame next week in Las Vegas, but he’s certainly not above coaching a bowl game and trying to get some recruits back and being a pitchman again for the OU program.

“Well absolutely, because of my love for the program first,” Stoops said, “but I also do personally care about all those guys, care about the players. I want to be, hopefully for them to be able to finish out here in the very best way they can, that's already a great year at 10-2, hopefully to be 11-2.

“So it was nothing to think about for me. I mean, I said ‘If I can help, that's what's best for the program that I'm in,' you know, and I'll do the best I can.”

Castiglione said he’s already gone to work on his famous “list” to find the Sooners’ next coach.

“I absolutely do have a list,” Castiglione said. “Didn’t necessarily know when I'd have to activate it.”

Stoops, who’s been Castiglione’s “special assistant” since he retired in June 2017, remains an invaluable resource for Castiglione.

“Let's think about it,” Castiglione said. “Got a great student-athlete. Understands that. Understands assistant coach, then a coordinator, then highly successful coach with 18 seasons, College Hall of Famer. Now back in coaching. And a member of the media. I don’t need to have anybody else. I got everybody represented in one guy.

“There isn't a thing that we would ever be afraid to talk about or reach out to really share a lot over the years. I trust him. I love the guy, you know, love him as a friend. Been a great blessing to work with him all those years. … He's always been open if I ask him.”

And as Castiglione should need to run anything by Stoops once again, such as vetting any candidates, Stoops will be there.

“Joe's the boss,” Stoops said. “Joe's the picker — he and Mr. Joe Harroz, the two of them. And I'm sure our board (of regents).”

It’s a certainty that Stoops will have many friends who throw their hat in the ring, maybe even someone like longtime lieutenant Brent Venables or former quarterback Josh Heupel.

“That doesn't have anything to do with it,” he said. “It's who fits here the best, who brings the most and fits the best and, as Joe said, wants it the most. This is a great job and he's gonna have his share of candidates. And if he wants to run some by me, you know, obviously I've got feelings, or I know maybe some things other people don't know about guys that, ‘You might stay away from this guy, or, ‘This guy I think you can go along with. I might have some basic comments like that.”