I kept staring at the tweet from Berry Tramel of The Oklahoman reporting Bob Stoops is retiring.
And my head started spinning - the same way Texas football's head has been spinning the past seven years in a dizzy-bat-game stumble away from college football relevance.
A span in which Stoops won four more (of his 10) Big 12 titles and remained the standard by which all other Big 12 Conference winners (Oklahoma State in 2011, K-State in 2012 and BU in 2013-14) and challengers (TCU in 2014 and 2015) were measured.
Stoops retires with a 190-48 overall record in 18 years as a head coach. That's a .798 career winning percentage. Are you freaking kidding me?!?!?
Stoops was 101-9 at home and sold out each and every one of those games. I hope OU knows what it had the past 18 years. Heck, every time the Florida job opened after Stoops helped Steve Spurrier win a national title there in 1996 - then-UF AD Jeremy Foley would call Stoops to see if he wanted to come back to Gainesville.
For the past 18 years in the Big 12, there was one thing you could count on.
No, not realignment rumors. (That's only been the past seven years.)
For the past 18 years in the Big 12, the ONLY thing you could count on was Bob Stoops putting out another football team that would test itself against the best in non-conference play, and - win or lose - would always seem to get better each week.
The true mark of a well-coached team.
So by the end of the college football regular season, there was Thanksgiving turkey, the Christmas lights in New York for the Heisman Trophy ceremony and the Sooners with their double-digit wins, either hoisting the Big 12 crystal trophy or beating someone to finish in the Top 10 like they did against Auburn in last season's Sugar Bowl.
In the first decade of the 2000s, after Bob Stoops pole-axed Texas in 2000 and 2003 en route to winning the national title (2000) and playing for another (2003), the Red River Shootout between the Longhorns and Stoops' teams seemed to serve as a launch pad to the national title game for one or the other (in 2004 for OU and in 2005 and 2009 for Texas).
But Stoops' teams were so well-coached - and he so respected by his peers - that even after losing to Texas 45-35 in 2008 in the best regular-season college football game I've ever attended, leaving both teams at 11-1, OU still found a way into the national title game against Florida.
The respect for Stoops among those who voted in the final regular-season coaches' poll in 2008 moved OU ahead of Texas by .0128 in the BCS formula/standings - sending the Sooners to the Big 12 title game vs. Missouri after a three-way tie in the Big 12 between Texas, OU and Texas Tech reached the fifth tiebreaker.
OU smashed Mizzou and played in Stoops' fourth national title game.
After Texas' 5-7 collapse in 2010 and subsequent seven-year breakup with college football relevance, Stoops kept winning. Kept making games - and precious wins - against OU bigger and more meaningful, even as the Big 12 became the latin translation for "power league most likely to collapse."
Without Stoops and OU continuing to play "look over here ... not over there" as a top brand for the league while one school after another left (Nebraska, Colorado, Texas A&M, Missouri) or joined (TCU and West Virginia), the Big 12 would have REALLY been a laughing stock.
Yeah, if you don't think the Big 12 could've been MORE of a laughing stock than it was - or is or has been - think again.
In 18 years as the head coach at OU, Bob Stoops ran out of room for his 10 Big 12 crystal bowls, went to 18 bowl games, had 14 double-digit-win seasons and went 60-30 against the AP Top 25.
As a college football fan, the thing I admired about Stoops most was he ALWAYS made it about championships. Other coaches avoided making it about titles and instead made the bar of success 10-win seasons or going to a bowl game or even going to a BCS bowl game.
He was always about championship hardware.
And Stoops leaves the Big 12 as the two-time defending league champion who had two Heisman Trophy finalists last December, including his returning starter at QB (Baker Mayfield) - two years removed from a College Football Playoff berth.
We've heard Bob Stoops, 56, say he's not leaving coaching because of his health after having a father who died on the field coaching football. Stoops has said he never wanted to get to a point where the game started taking a grave toll on him.
He and his wife, Carol, a top saleswoman in Mary Kay cosmetics for as long as he's been coaching (they often vacationed on trips around the world earned by Carol), bought a $2.25 million mansion in Chicago in April, so maybe Stoops really was thinking more and more about life after football. And once you start thinking about the end - you're probably already there.
I hope rumblings that someone high up at OU approached Stoops about making Lincoln Riley coach-in-waiting - causing Stoops to step away - are dead wrong. Stoops saw how that ended for Mack Brown and would've wanted no part of it. Maybe highly successful OU athletic director Joe Castiglione is getting ready to take a new job? (David Boren can do that to you.) I always thought as long as Joe C was there, so would Stoops, and vice versa.
Stoops didn't sound like there was any friction in saying goodbye on Wednesday.
"I didn't want to miss the right opportunity to step away and hand this baton off to Lincoln Riley and to help keep this going in the right direction," Stoops said.
"When you look at all the positives, just coming off the last couple years, moving into a state-of-the-art building (after a $120 million renovation to its football facility), the coaches all being in place who have proven themselves, the recruiting class, an excellent team coming back - it was the right opportunity to have a seamless transition, and that was important to me."
Former Dallas Cowboys' personnel guru Gil Brandt told me three years ago Lincoln Riley was the next big thing. OU is betting the Sooner Schooner that plopping the 33-year-old on top of Stoops' already scooped sundae like a cherry will mean Owen Field is where opponents continue to get served.
And the rest of the Big 12 is hoping OU knows exactly what it's doing after whatever caused this surprise baton passing in Norman on Wednesday in a somewhat awkward press conference for both Stoops and Riley (dominated - surprise, surprise - by Boren).
If Riley can't maintain the level of excellence established by Stoops - and the odds, of course, are against it - the entire Big 12 will suffer.
Conferences are usually as strong as their biggest/best brands ... SEC/Alabama ... Big Ten/Ohio State ... ACC/Clemson and Florida State. The past seven years, the stability challenged Big 12 had OU.
Seven of Stoops' teams finished in the AP Top 5, including each of the last two seasons, while three more finished No. 6.
Texas fans would be shortsighted to cheer the exit of Bob Stoops.
They should realize a Texas win over OU with Stoops on the opposite sideline was a Red River Shootout truly worth celebrating in the greatest game-day atmosphere in sports - right in the heart of the State Fair of Texas.
Sorry, but wins over OU teams coached by Howard Schnellenberger and John Blake didn't mean as much. They just didn't. And how satisfying were the Red River Shootouts for Longhorns in 2005, 2006, 2008 and 2009 after the clubbings Stoops' teams administered for five straight years - from 2000-04?
I was worried for A LOT of Longhorn livers after those UT wins (and losses) in the Cotton Bowl!
And I was really looking forward to Tom Herman vs. Bob Stoops.
I felt like last year's victory by Herman's Houston team over Stoops' Sooners was one heck of an appetizer for a rivalry that was already reaching Tobasco heat after Herman swiped commitments from the two 2018 QBs offered by OU (Cameron Rising and Casey Thompson, son of OU QB Charles Thompson) as well as arguably the top 2018 defensive prospect in Oklahoma (OLB Ron Tatum III).
Now, it will be Herman vs. Riley, and it just doesn't create the same buzz.
Not now. Not yet.
With the blessings of the college football gods, the Red River Shootout featuring Herman-vs-Riley will become the next great coaching rivalry that helps define both men and their schools' successes a la Royal vs Broyles ... or ... Woody vs Bo. But those kinds of rivalries are as rare as living happily ever after.
For now, I'm already standing and clapping my thanks and respect to Stoops for making college football that much better the last 18 years and for driving everyone on his sideline - and opposing sidelines - to be better.
College football should put Stoops in its hall of fame tomorrow. As for the Big 12, both of its biggest brands (Texas and OU) have new football coaches. So does investigation-ravaged Baylor, while normally staunch TCU under Gary Patterson is coming off a 6-7 season.
A glamour shot of the Big 12 right now would feature the league looking over its shoulder or down at its shoes.
If you thought the short-sighted, asinine return of a league title game this year was a knee-jerk sign of a league with a poor self-image. ... Well, the one thing you could always seem to bank on - Bob Stoops' Sooners being a factor at the top of college football on behalf of the Big 12 at the end of a season - just walked out the door.
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