Oklahoma Sooner Fans Split On New Head Coach
It may seem like it has been weeks, but in the relatively short time since Lincoln Riley absconded to the University of Southern California, there has been no shortage of names tossed out there to replace him as head coach.
You know how rumors go... "I heard they were talking with __________" and so on. I've heard every name from Dana Holgerson to Mike Leach, even a random Josh Hueple, or however you spell his name... but the one that really stuck out was Brent Venables.
I'm a really casual Oklahoma State fan that doesn't follow college football or even my own team very much throughout any given season, but I know the name Brent Venables.
He was the Co-Defensive Coordinator at OU the last time the Sooners were good enough to win a national championship. He's also been back to the dance and won with Clemson twice. On the face of it, it sounds like a really good hire for OU, but not everyone agrees.
For whatever reason, some fans are upset with the schools' pick of a new head coach. They don't see what he's been able to accomplish with Clemson as something that could potentially benefit OU, they just remember what it was like in the days after Brent moved from Co-Defensive Coordinator to (Head) Defensive Coordinator.
It all goes back to the days after OU's last national championship when the Stoops brothers had to recruit a team of players themselves. Bob was head coach, his brother Mike was the DC. Coming off a win and an appearance in the championship game, fans were comfortable in the coaching staff leading the team in those days.
In 2003, brother Mike Stoops stepped down and left Norman to take on the head coaching job at Arizona. Like Riley's, his departure was fast and immediate leaving assistant DC Venables to step up. The Sooners lost the remainder of their games that year. A conference title game to Kansas State and the BCS National Championship to LSU.
Naturally, the toxic Sooner fanbase lambasted Mike Stoops for changing things up in the heat of a moment where they needed him.
There's always a curve when you have coaching changes.
As Brent Venables stepped into the DC title and started building his defense at OU, the Sooners found themselves with a star running back, Adrian Peterson, as the only memorable player on the offense for a few years.
2005-2006 was a veritable swinging door in offensive skill positions. As OU continued to lose games to opponents in tight, low-scoring bouts, the blame was put on DC Brent Venables in the court of public opinion regardless of the many undeveloped quarterbacks given their shots at glory, weak offensive lines, and less-than-stellar receivers. It was a bad rap.
Of course, when the offense did finally recruit some real college-level talent in QB's like Sam Bradford and Laundry Jones, those offenses started rising to the level of the defense and the Sooners were good again... just in time for the family bond to bring it all to a close.
While it's unconfirmed exactly what happened, the rumor is this... Mike Stoops ineffectiveness at Arizona earned himself a set of walking papers. As OU's head coach, Bob Stoops had ultimate power over the coaching staff. He opted to hire his brother back on as Defensive Coordinator, and whether he offered it as a cooperative position to be shared once again with Venables or not, Venables took his talents to Clemson.
The fans cried foul for the next seven years. Of all the coached OU has seen come and go this century, Mike Stoops might be the most unpopular among the base. He's been blamed for every loss from 2012 through 2018, and celebrations were had when he finally moved on.
The entire time Mike Stoops occupied the DC slot the second time around, OU fans talked about how the Sooners "should have never let Venables go." This came up a few times as we all watched his defense play at the highest level on the biggest stage at Clemson for the last couple of years...
Now that he's coming back, half of the fanbase thinks it's the wrong direction for the team and the other half is more or less silent about it.
From the outside looking in, in my own opinion as "Not A Sooner Fan," I think it's a good hire. If OU thinks they'll actually compete in the SEC against the heaviest hitters in college football, they'll need a head coach that has a knack for beating those teams when it counts.
Don't get me wrong, I can already envision the hoard of emails about OU playing Alabama that one game seven years ago... but in this century, the SEC's title-level teams have been the Achilles heel of the Sooner Nation. Brent Venables might be the guy that can finally see OU win a big game at the end of a successful season... eventually.
If you're hoping for instant success in the SEC, I wouldn't expect it to happen. I half-heartedly think OU will live up to the legacy Big12 heavy-hitter A&M has carved... A great team that entered a tougher conference to learn they don't have what it takes.
All the same, I'm not hoping bad things for the lesser Oklahoma team this year. OU has too deep of a legacy to see them become the SEC's Kansas Jayhawks... but it would be pretty hilarious to watch.