The American Football Coach's (AFCA) convention continues this week on the banks of the San Antonio river walk. Although the meetings officially began Sunday, the real show starts today with the arrival of Oklahoma's Bob Stoops.
If you think the ‘big Bob goes to Florida' was a big topic in Oklahoma, think ‘huge' in San Antonio. Since Saturday delegates have gathered to renew old friendships and swap tall tales and half truths about conferences championships and how close (or far), they were from winning it all this year. And, in nearly every cluster of coaches Bob Stoops, Florida and Oklahoma eventually came up.
Sure, almost to a man the coaches were convinced that ESPN and Orlando reports were true and Stoops was now a Florida Gator. ‘How would he do, how soon would he do it' and ‘could anyone now beat Florida?' Speculation and rumors were more common than $ 2.00 burritos as coaches hoped anyone who knew Stoops might pass along their name as a willing (and capable) assistant. Expectations of personal pay raises were fueled by the rumored three million Florida offer.
‘The King' even got into the act. Sunday one could see Barry Switzer suited and looking like a million bucks chatting with old friend Larry Smith, temptingly close but just out of reach behind a cordoned off display for fake turf. Amazed younger coaches would observe ‘the king' from a safe distance, much like they would a dominat male lion at the zoo. But the few old timers who had managed not to cross Barrys' path to the Football Hall of Fame were eager to shout salutations and encouragement. As they day wore on the King's cell phone continued to ring. Almost every other call was about Stoops and the latest rumors. Dean Blevins dialed in more than once and swapped information and rumors with Switz every few hours, fueling speculation that even Switzer was a possible replacement for the vacant Sooner job.
With this jolting news Texas' joy suddenly was replaced with sobering expressions of disbelief. Would this exorcised demon of the past be resurrected to once again haunt college football from Norman? The Hall of Fame boys huddled quickly. It wasn't fair that they allowed Switzer in and now as an inducted member he would return to the battleground. ‘Was it even legal?' they asked. But the King said nothing, silently grinning at their torture as disguised concerns rolled from their tongues in twisted feeble questions.
Head 'horn Mack Brown deftly chose late Monday morning, cloaked in this quagmire of speculation and confusion, to make his entrance. Enough of this frenzied Stoops infatuation. But the trick didn't take. Coaches cleared the way for Mack to stroll down the main street of the convention floor dressed in blue jeans and the obviously familiar Texas starched white shirt, (stained with a slight smudge or two of what might be tobacco, or perhaps the residue from a zealous Dr. Pepper break). But if this was the time for Mack to grab the scepter and begin to rule the Big XII, (and all of college football for that matter), no one rushed up with the crown. There was no applause, no clammer for autographs or even a Kodak moment. Except for the brief looks of disbelief and comments over the Applewhite-Simms debacle, all eyes quickly returned to Switzer and conversation reverted to Stoops.
Mack was left to meander the aisle with his wife and his numerous recruiting titles, unknowing that he only had a few hours before the damn broke, when the universe would once again right itself and he would be forced to re-enter the purgatory known as ‘Texas Football.'
Then at three o'clock it happened. The word quickly spread through the gathered coaches like a rolling wave of thunder: Stoops had spurned the Florida offer and would remain a Sooner!
Immediately stories of ‘how many millions over how many years' escalated. After an hour Stoops was up to $20 million over four years. And now his star shone even brighter, for Monday was the day dedicated to underpaid high school and junior college coaches. Stoops had gone for legend to hero. He was escalating the salaries of every football coach in America. Adoration would be paid to Stoops with every future pay raise.
The warm-up acts are all over today. Highschool, DII and junior college coaches retreat to the sidelines as all D1 coaches will arrive and take center stage by this morning. Later today Stoops will make his appearance. The hall of the Gonzalez Convention Center will erupt like Mt. Saint Helens as Stoops enters the room. Delegates, friends and foes alike will be forced to admit that Bob Stoops is still the King . . .in Norman. ‘Long live the King!'