Not many people know former South Carolina/Florida/Duke coach Steve Spurrier better than Oklahoma head coach Bob Stoops.
Stoops was the defensive coordinator under Spurrier for the Gators for three seasons where they won a national championship together. Despite being OU’s head coach since the 1999 season, the two have maintained a close, personal friendship.
It came a bit of a shock to the college football world when Spurrier announced Monday evening he was stepping down as the head coach of South Carolina, but Stoops said he sort of saw it coming when he addressed OU reporters Wednesday evening.
“Uh, a little bit,” Stoops said. “But I’m not going to go into that. We talk a lot. I sensed something Sunday maybe something was up. Obviously knowing him for so long, I could feel it pretty well that it just wasn’t quite working.”
Before landing the gig at Florida, Stoops was the co-defensive coordinator at Kansas State. Even back then he was impressed with what Spurrier was able to do on the offensive side of the ball.
Stoops said it went beyond that, though, saying Spurrier was a great leader and head coach through the whole program.
When Stoops came to Florida, Spurrier took a hands off approach to the situation on defense. When he knows he’s found the right guy for the job, he was going to leave it alone.
“He didn’t want anything to do with it,” Stoops said. “’You do it. Whatever you want to call, you call.’ That’s how he likes it. If he feels good about someone and trusts him.”
Stoops in recent years has been become known for his outspoken comments regarding the SEC. He’s never quite understood the big deal about telling what he believes, and no doubt a lot of that comes from spending so much time with Spurrier.
“Yeah, if you know him at all, the guy doesn’t have a false bone in his body,” Stoops said. “It may not be what you want to hear, but he’s going to tell you. That’s him. He’s not much in sugarcoating anything.”
That line of thinking came when it was time for Stoops to perhaps think about moving on from the defensive coordinator for the Gators.
Spurrier was honest with Stoops, then, as well. Stoops said Wednesday he was actually offered some job years before OU, but Spurrier felt it wasn’t a great one for Stoops to take.
Eventually it came down to OU and Iowa, and Spurrier again was blunt about Stoops’ position.
“He said, you probably have a chance at that Iowa job, but I don’t think you have a chance at Oklahoma,” Stoops said. “They’ll probably hire a current head coach.”
Stoops, of course, has become OU’s all-time winningest coach and led the Sooners to the 2000 national championship.
Who knows what might have happened for Stoops without Spurrier, but Stoops remembers full well the story of how he was offered the job at Florida.
“The story goes, and it’s true… I was interviewing one of my players before getting into spring ball and the secretary says, ‘Bobby, Coach Spurrier is on the phone and wants to talk to you.’ I go, ‘Coach Spurrier? We’ve never talked.’ She said, ‘Yeah.’ I couldn’t. ‘I’ll have to call back.’
“Then the assistant, Lawson Holland who used to coach at Oklahoma State. He called and said, ‘Bob, it’s Lawson.’ ‘Hey Law, what’s happenin?’ He says, ‘Coach Spurrier wants to talk to you.’ I said, ‘About what?’ I didn’t know they had a job. He said, ‘About the D-coordinator job.’ ‘Really? All right.’ So I said, ‘Have him call me.’
“Before that, he called one more time and he said, ‘This is Coach Spurrier.’ I waited a couple, five seconds like, ‘Really.’ Y’know, thinking it’s one of your buddies, how you call each other up. Like, ‘Who’s messing with me here?’
“Anyway, there were three calls within a day and a half. Finally we talked. Then he called me back the next day and I said, ‘I might have some interest.’ And then he called back the next day and we talked some more. And then called that evening. Within a couple days we both thought this was what we wanted to do.
“I said to him, ‘Don’t you think we oughta meet before we go ahead and do this?’ He goes, ‘That’s probably a good idea. Why don’t you come down this weekend?’ So I went down with Carol. Was there one day and night and part of the next day, and then actually flew to Ohio from there for a hall of fame banquet for my high school. So anyway, it was good.
“Neat story, too, ahead of him calling my office he called… this went on for two days trying to connect… He called my house. Carol goes, ‘Bobby, I got this message from Steve Spurrier.’ I said, ‘Yeah. I said earlier in the day that’s what we have to sit down and talk about.’ She goes, ‘Really?’
“Within two days there were probably four or five calls. We finally connected and worked it out. It was great. I had been at K-State seven years and figured it was time to get a different experience from a different head coach. It broadens you and shapes you a little bit. And it did in a major way.”