OU football: Bob Stoops keeping 'low profile' while helping Lincoln Riley & Sooners' coaching staff
NORMAN — Bob Stoops doesn’t take a backseat to anyone when it comes to Sooners’ football history.
That comes along with being the winningest coach at a program like OU’s.
But Stoops took a backseat to Lincoln Riley on Tuesday — and maybe even extending to Saturday’s scheduled game against Baylor (7 p.m., Fox) — when he returned in a new role.
With “all parts” of the program, including assistant coaches, affected by a COVID-19 outbreak, Riley called on Stoops to help out with Tuesday’s practice and potentially beyond.
“It was great,” Riley said. “It’s kind of been in our hip pocket this whole time. If we had any staff member who fell off, we have a Hall of Famer sitting on the bench. It’s a pretty good bench when you can call that guy up.”
Stoops’ last game as an assistant was more than 22 years ago — Nov. 21, 1998 — when No. 5 Florida State beat Stoops’ No. 4 Florida squad 23-12. Less than two weeks later, Stoops was hired as OU’s head coach.
Riley said he remained hopeful Saturday’s game could be played. The Sooners need to play at least one of their final two games in order to remain in contention for a berth in the Big 12 Championship Game.
- Related to this story
- Article: How Torrance Marshall's winding road to OU football helped bring Sooners the 2000 national title
- Article: Tramel: Bob Stoops' psychology worked wonders quickly for Sooner football
- Article: Carlson: How OU football's 2000 national championship changed everything in the Sooner kingdom
- Article: OSU football: Five takeaways from the Cowboys' 50-44 win over Texas Tech
- Article: Carlson: OSU football scores high marks from Dezmon Jackson, defensive havoc against Texas Tech
- Article: OSU football: Dezmon Jackson, Tre Sterling and Tylan Wallace posted big numbers vs. Texas Tech
- Article: OU football: From early-morning film sessions to Orange Bowl after-party, 2000 was a special Sooner season
- Article: OSU football: Boone Pickens statue unveiled before Cowboys' win vs. Texas Tech
- Article: Carlson: What happened to Oklahoma State's defense? Jim Knowles and Cowboys must find the answer
- Article: OSU football: How unexpected star Dezmon Jackson helped the Cowboys survive against Texas Tech
- Article: Tramel: Most Big 12 football tiebreakers favor the Sooners
- Article: OSU football: Big plays a sign of Tre Sterling's continued development as a playmaker
- Article: OU football: South Carolina candidate Shane Beamer could be the first branch of Lincoln Riley coaching tree
- Article: OU football vs. Baylor: Broadcast info, betting lines, matchup breakdown
- Article: OSU football at TCU: Broadcast info, betting lines, matchup breakdown
- Article: Tramel: Why Big 12 football title race could come down to margin of victory for Sooners and Co.
- Article: OSU football: Teven Jenkins opts to prepare for NFL Draft
- Article: Will Ohio State or USC play enough games to warrant playoff inclusion?
- Article: OU football: Lincoln Riley says Sooners 'got a shot' to face Baylor this weekend after COVID shutdown
- Article: OSU football: How Chuba Hubbard, Tylan Wallace and Cowboys' NFL prospects stack up
- Article: Can West Virginia's defense hold up against ISU & OU?
- Article: OSU football: What made Dezmon Jackson's big day vs. Texas Tech possible?
- Article: College Football Playoff rankings: Iowa State jumps to No. 9 in playoff rankings, OU stays 11th
- Article: Playoff committee chairman Gary Barta explains why Iowa State moved from 13th to ninth
- Article: In a 6-way tie for second in the Big 12, West Virginia is the winner
- Article: Opinion: 5 burning questions as college football coaching carousel speeds up
- Article: OU football: In addition to Bob Stoops, a look at some other potential substitute coaches for Sooners
- Article: OSU football: Old pals Mike Gundy, Gary Patterson to meet for ninth time
- Video: OU Football: The last stretch
- Video: OSU Football: Current rankings, Bedlam and Boone Pickens
- Video: OSU Football: Dezmon Jackson, Tre Sterling and Tylan Wallace posted big numbers vs. Texas Tech
- Video: OSU Football: Wallace over 100 yards by halftime
Riley said he didn’t have to beg or cajole to get Stoops to jump aboard.
“When Lincoln asked me if I’d be willing to help in a coaching role while he was a little short-handed I didn’t hesitate to say yes,” Stoops said in a statement. “Certainly I’m happy to do anything I can to assist the team for however long I’m asked to. But obviously with me being away from the day-to-day activities of the program for a while now, my input will be minimal.”
Even in Riley’s fourth season leading the Sooners, he still leans on Stoops.
“This program is still very near and dear to him,” Riley said. “He’s obviously still a part of it. He’s been great for me.
“Some of these questions and things that you go through in this deal, if not for him, I don’t know who exactly I would go to. I just don’t really have anybody else quite like that that I have that much trust in that I know has my best interest or more importantly has this football program’s best interest (at heart).”
In his statement, Stoops said he was keeping a “low profile.”
“If I can add some enthusiasm or positive energy for these players — and I do know most of them — that’s a good thing,” Stoops said. “But let’s not get carried away. The people that will influence this game and the rest of our games this season will be Coach Riley, his staff and the players.
“I’m just going to do my best to help out however I can.”
Stoops was 190-48 in 18 seasons as the Sooners’ head coach, winning a national championship and nine outright Big 12 titles, before stepping down in 2017 and handing the keys of the program to Riley, who Stoops had brought aboard as offensive coordinator two seasons prior.
Though a handful of Stoops’ recruits remain on the roster, just two remain who played for Stoops — injured linebacker Caleb Kelly and defensive back Chanse Sylvie, who has primarily been used on special teams during his career.
Safety Delarrin Turner-Yell had seen Stoops around the facility, but about the only interaction he’d had with him before Tuesday was a quick few words.
“He didn’t jump in and try to take over or anything like that, but he did play his role,” Turner-Yell said. “I’m really looking forward to being able to play for him and seeing things he can do to help this program win.”
Riley wouldn’t say what coaches had tested positive or been caught up in contact-tracing protocol, other than to say he hadn’t tested positive, and said it was still unclear whether or not Stoops’ help would be needed Saturday.
But it certainly sounded like that might be the case, especially given the numbers.
The Sooners don’t release football-only COVID-19 testing numbers, but late Monday announced that in the athletic program as a whole there were 35 positive tests out of the 451 administered to players and staff last week with 9% of the 250 tests administered to athletes coming back positive. That’s the highest percentage of positive tests — by far — since the initial intake testing during the summer also had a 9% positivity rate. No other week of testing had yielded a rate above 4%.
“We’ll just have to see how the week plays out and what’s available as far as the current normal staff,” Riley said. “It’s certainly a pretty darn good option to have.”
Stoops might not be the only different face coaching Saturday.
While graduate assistants are already allowed to coach during games, quality control analysts, who generally are prohibited from those activities, could be called on to replace an assistant.
It’s not just the players and coaching staff that have been affected.
“It’s affected all parts of our program — staff, support staff. We have one branch of our support staff that’s pretty much been wiped out,” Riley said. “We have to bring in some outside help.
“Whether it’s an equipment manager, a trainer, a coach, you have to have plans. You have to have backup plans in case those things happen. We’ve had those.”
While Stoops might be on the sidelines Saturday, don’t expect another legendary Sooners coach who lives nearby to come out of retirement.
Riley quickly shot down the thought that Barry Switzer could join the staff as well.
“If I’m correct, I think they have to be an institutional staff member,” Riley said. “That’s where we’re able to use that with Bob.”
Stoops serves as a special assistant to athletic director Joe Castiglione.
Ryan Aber covers OU athletics, especially football. You can send your story ideas to him at email@example.com or on Twitter at @ryaber. Support his work and that of other Oklahoman journalists by purchasing a digital subscription today.