Nobody knew what exactly was going to happen, but rumors had run rampant about this being a program-changing week at OU.
Not quite sure you can go that far, but Stoops offered his version of the State of the Union address in talking for more than 40 minutes to local media.
One of the first words he said was anger. He was angry and disappointed about the way the 2014 season unfolded for the Sooners. Picked in the top five by just about everybody and expected to contend for a spot in the college football playoff, OU finished 8-5 and will be unranked.
And it wasn’t just the 8-5 mark, but the way it got there. The Sooners lost their final two games of the season, lost three games at home and punctuated the season of disarray with an uninspired 40-6 thumping at the hands of Clemson in the Russell Athletic Bowl.
Every time Stoops has addressed the media, it has felt like he has been too defensive about things. Too busy reflecting on past accomplishments. It has become a running joke among OU fans about Stoops bringing up OU’s win against Alabama in the Sugar Bowl last season.
It was last season. It didn’t explain 2014, which was a complete train wreck based on OU standards. The fire fans have been waiting for with Stoops was there Tuesday.
“I just want to say I’m more determined than ever to get Oklahoma back in the position to competing for national championships like we have so many other times,” Stoops said. “I promise you I’m as dedicated and committed as I ever have been since the day I walked in here.
“I have a lot invested in this program and no one cares about it more than I do. I’m anxious and excited moving forward to make improvements and get us back in the position where we’re competing for national championships like we have so many other times.”
In order to do that, tough decisions have to be made. And Stoops made a couple of them Saturday. News of longtime assistants and friends Josh Heupel and Jay Norvell being fired have become public in the last two days, but Stoops said he talked to both of them Saturday and relieved them of their duties.
A lot of OU fans would point to the offense as not being the No. 1 reason for OU’s demise in 2014, but Stoops was clear he felt it was time to go in another direction.
He’s not looking to bring somebody in to run OU’s offense. He’s looking for an established coordinator to bring in what he does and run it and bring the offense back to life in Norman.
That doesn’t mean it wasn’t a tough decision for Stoops.
“They’re great people, great family men,” said Stoops about Heupel and Norvell. “I can’t thank them enough for what they have contributed and their dedication and hard work through all these years, and I’m sure they’ll continue to have successful coaching careers as they move forward.”
Stoops confirmed he met with OU president David Boren on Monday and said the administration is in full support of Stoops and what Stoops believes needs to be done to turn the program around.
One of those changes was also announced Tuesday in the promotion of Jerry Montgomery from defensive line coach to co-defensive coordinator for the Sooners.
Montgomery has done everything that has been asked of him and then some since he arrived in Norman two years ago. He has brought a physical mentality to OU’s defensive line and continues to be OU’s top recruiter among the coaches.
Stoops said no other coaching changes are expected at this point, but he also said Heupel and Norvell aren’t the scapegoats for what happened in 2014.
“All of us are responsible for it,” Stoops said. “It starts with me.”
This type of statement is something OU fans have clamored for and was incredibly necessary with OU trying to close hard on the recruiting trail here in this final month before signing day.
The dead period for recruiting ends Jan. 15, and it was imperative Stoops set the record straight so recruits aren’t wondering what’s going on so parents aren’t confused and so other schools cannot use the uncertainty in Norman against it on the trail.
After 16 seasons at OU, it would be easy for Stoops to get complacent. Most would agree he has on some things and has been stubborn and too loyal to a fault about other things.
Tuesday could mark the beginning of a new era at OU. With the program at a crossroads, Stoops is doing what he believes is best.
“I’ve had a lot of sleepless nights over the last week or so,” Stoops said.
Sleepless nights in January can be tolerated if it means bringing the proud OU winning tradition back on the field next season.
Tuesday was the first step toward making that happen.