Przybylo: OU's year of champions

Things couldn't be better in Norman following an incredible year of success for Sooners.

Oklahoma football coach Bob Stoops gets asked the question seemingly every year whenever some big job opening comes up. His answer hasn’t changed when asked why has he stayed at OU for so long and never flirted with the NFL.

Stoops talks about the leadership of the university with president David Boren and athletic director Joe Castiglione. The support they give. The intelligence they show. There’s never been a reason to look around.

Following the conclusion of the 2015-16 school year, that couldn’t be more emphasized after an incredible nine-month run for the Sooners.

National champions

Men’s gymnastics (back-to-back, widest margin of victory ever)

Women’s gymnastics (second title since 2014)

Softball (second title since 2013)

National championship appearance

Men’s outdoor tennis (third straight final)

College Football Playoff/Final Four

Football (first Big 12 appearance in playoff)

Men’s basketball (first appearance since 2002)

Elite Eight

Men’s golf

All in one year.

“It’s great to see so many teams doing so well,” said Stoops last week at the OU caravan in Tulsa. “Really is exciting and rubs off on everybody.”

The last part of that statement might be the truest thing you’re going to find, and don’t doubt Stoops’ commitment to the university.

Wednesday evening featured Game 3 of the Women’s College World Series in a winner-take-all contest vs. Auburn. First pitch was scheduled for 6 p.m. CST. But OU was holding an elite football camp, starting at 5:30.

A number of top prospects were in town, and Stoops spoke with the recruits before and at the beginning of the event, but then he was headed to ASA Hall of Fame Stadium to watch the final game.

What he watched was behind one more brilliant pitching outing by sophomore Paige Parker, the Sooners won their softball championship under head coach Patty Gasso.

The prevailing thought is athletic success only matriculates to programs like football and basketball because those are the big money makers. But success only breeds success, and that’s in all sports.

“Certainly used that in recruiting,” said women’s gymnastics coach K.J. Kindler about university’s success. “Athletes want to be around the best. They want to compete with the best. They want to support the best. It’s a great recruiting environment. Everybody is pushing each other.”

It’s not just team success, there are individual stories, too. Former wide receiver Sterling Shepard led another strong group of football players selected in the NFL Draft, picked in the second round. OU pitcher Alec Hansen and shortstop Sheldon Neuse were both selected in the second round last week of the MLB Draft.

But the cream of the crop will occur next week when Wooden Award winner Buddy Hield will most likely be a top-10 selection in the NBA Draft and, along with Lon Kruger, helped galvanize the men’s basketball program.

With what the programs and the student-athletes did this year, it’s hard to imagine what could be in store for an encore for 2016-17. But it should be one fun, wild ride.


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