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Carlson: Mike Stoops at Texas would've been something for OU football fans — something bizarre

Oklahoma defensive coordinator Mike Stoops walks off the field after a 52-38 win against Tulsa on Sept. 19, 2015, in Norman. [Bryan Terry/The Oklahoman]
Oklahoma defensive coordinator Mike Stoops walks off the field after a 52-38 win against Tulsa on Sept. 19, 2015, in Norman. [Bryan Terry/The Oklahoman]

A member of the Stoops family in burnt orange.

Yep, a Texas Longhorn.

For about 12 hours, it was happening. A report surfaced Thursday night that Steve Sarkisian, the new Texas coach, was hiring Mike Stoops to be the Longhorns’ linebacker coach. But before mid-morning Friday, a new report was out saying Sark wasn’t hiring Stoops and was targeting someone else.

Well, it was fun while it lasted.

Or weird.

Or crazy.

Or bizarre.

Yes, bizarre. That’s it. Bizarre. The thought of a Stoops, any Stoops, being part of Texas football is just flat out bizarre. I’m not saying it shouldn’t have happened. I’m not even saying it couldn’t happen in the future. There are lots of Stoopses in football coaching, and they’re really good at what they do, so anything is possible.

But Mike Stoops at Texas?

That would’ve been bizarre.

Stoops was on brother Bob’s original staff at OU. He helped transform the Sooners, turning the defense into a force and catapulting OU back into national prominence. He didn’t do it alone, but before leaving to become the head coach at Arizona in 2004, he left a huge mark on Sooner football.

Bottom line, OU wouldn’t be where it is today, lording over Texas as the Big 12 behemoth, without Mike Stoops.

Of course, that part of his legacy has been tarnished by his second stint in Norman. Stoops returned in 2012, and when Bob gave him the title of co-defensive coordinator, that prompted Brent Venables to leave for Clemson rather than share duties.

The success he had with the Tigers — they won national titles in 2016 and 2018 — miffed lots of crimson-and-cream enthusiasts.

Those feelings were compounded by the nose dive the OU defense took.

The Sooners floundered because Stoops floundered, struggling to manage the high-scoring, oft-throwing offenses that had come into vogue in the Big 12 between his first and second go-arounds. He tried different alignments. He tried different schemes.

Nothing was all that successful.

The Sooners found themselves time and again hoping the offense could outscore the opposing offense — and in many instances, the OU offense did. The Sooners won a lot of games during Mike Stoops’ second stint because they had historic offenses.

But what could they have done with better defenses?

Might they have won another national title or two?

Sure seems possible.

When Lincoln Riley took over as head coach, everyone wondered how long a leash Mike Stoops had. His brother wasn’t his boss anymore. His employment wasn’t decided by someone who he shared a bedroom with as a kid.

Riley stood by Mike Stoops for more than a year, defending him to reporters and fans even as the results indicated the defensive problems weren’t going away.

Then, after his 20th game as the OU head coach, Riley had enough and fired Stoops.

The game that pushed Riley over the edge?

A 48-45 loss to Texas.

That day, with outward signs of defensive dysfunction, was a microcosm of the Sooners' problems.

To think Mike Stoops could’ve been on the Texas sideline next October in the Cotton Bowl, that would’ve been rich.

Listen, I have no doubt Stoops will land a full-time gig at some point. He’s been at Alabama for two years as a defensive analyst — that’s where he and Sarkisian got to know each other — and with Tuscaloosa becoming the launching pad for so many head coaches, Stoops will hook on with someone going somewhere eventually.

But that he could have hooked on with the Horns? That we nearly got to see a Stoops with a longhorn on his visor? That his Hook ‘Em Horns hand signal would’ve been turned up instead of down?

That would’ve been something.

Something bizarre.

Jenni Carlson: Jenni can be reached at 405-475-4125 or Like her at, follow her at, and support her work and that of other Oklahoman journalists by purchasing a digital subscription today.

Jenni Carlson

Jenni Carlson, a sports columnist at The Oklahoman since 1999, came by her love of sports honestly. She grew up in a sports-loving family in Kansas. Her dad coached baseball and did color commentary on the radio for the high school football... Read more ›