The day after the shocking but inevitable firing of OU defensive coordinator Mike Stoops, Oklahoma supporters should recognize the vital contributions the lightning rod Sooner assistant delivered. Sure, the tumultuous times of late are fresh and disheartening. But amidst the bashing and blaming, it’s only fair and appropriate to also appreciate the positive impact made on the Sooner program by M Stoops.
The redhead’s much-welcomed signature brand of fire and fury style helped deliver a new and improved era of Sooner defense. One resembling several of those vaunted defenses in the Seventies and under DC Gary Gibbs and HC Barry Switzer in the Eighties. Ones that fans went bonkers over and were just as entertaining to witness as the greatest of explosive Sooner offenses. Award-winning talent, playing with a smash-mouth ferocity with its front seven. Complemented by a ball-hawking secondary that excelled in blitzing and physical and fundamentally sound tackling. They’d sting you with stinginess.
As an ugly divorce now separates the two parties, supporters-turned-detractors should never forget and always admire the immediate defensive turnaround engineered by Coach Mike during the early years of the big brother Bob Stoops era. Sooner fans and opponents held Coach Mike and his K-State pal and co-defensive coordinator Brent Venables – whose undeniable passion and aggressiveness was the equal of his sidekick – in the highest regard in the early 2000’s; never higher than the unforgettable night of January 3, 2001, at the Orange Bowl. The BCS National Championship game. A night when Mike Stoops stood tallest in the saddle as his relentless defense produced one of the most remarkable performances in the long history of OU football – shutting out a talented and explosive undefeated Florida State team, to win the 2000 national championship. Fittingly that night, the only two points on the scoreboard for the Seminoles was a product of an intentional safety Oklahoma took to secure the landmark win. In just two years, the Stoops brothers had returned Oklahoma Football to its perch. And Mike Stoops was instrumental in the turnaround; a turnaround cemented in excellence that continues to this very day.
Equaling the adoration and respect OU supporters had felt for the three most previous national title defenses - led by the Selmon brothers in 1974 and ’75, and Boz and Casillas in 1985 – there was a thankful admiration for the newly-established elite level of defense produced under the leadership of by the vaunted and victorious duo of M Stoops/B Venables. Offenses are entertaining. But defenses are the guts of a team. There’s nothing like the pride in knowing you can trust a rock-hard tough defense led by a bunch of deadly and dependable dudes who are there to batten down the hatches. To say, ‘enough is enough.’ And one Mike Stoops will long be remembered for spearheading those early Stoops era defenses. Grounded in fundamentals and recognized as relentless, physical, and respected winners.