In Big 12 men’s basketball, there’s Kansas coach Bill Self.
In Big 12 women’s basketball, there’s Baylor coach Kim Mulkey.
In Big 12 football, there’s Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops.
Those prominent coaches have won national titles, numerous conference titles, and have put their schools in the NCAA championship hunt nearly every year.
Now Stoops is gone after Wednesday’s stunning announcement that he’s stepping down after 18 seasons as the Sooners’ head coach.
That isn’t good news for the conference.
The Big 12 needs schools battling for national titles in high profile sports to compete with the other Power 5 conferences. Especially football. With Stoops gone, can Oklahoma stay at the same level?
Though Lincoln Riley appears to have everything in place to sustain Oklahoma’s success, there’s no guarantee.
He’s only 33 and has two years under his belt as Oklahoma’s offensive coordinator after a five-year stint as East Carolina’s offensive coordinator.
Like Riley, Stoops had no head coaching experience before he took over at Oklahoma following the 1998 season. But he had been an assistant at four colleges, including three seasons as Florida’s defensive coordinator under Steve Spurrier.
In 1996, Stoops helped the Gators win the national championship. In 2000, he nailed down Oklahoma’s first national title since Barry Switzer’s Sooners won it in 1985.
Since then, Stoops has dominated the Big 12 by leading the Sooners to 10 titles. He’s the winningest coach in Oklahoma football history, which is saying a lot with luminaries like Switzer and Bud Wilkinson.
Though the Sooners haven’t won the national title since Stoops’ second season on the job, they’re usually at least in the conversation.
With Stoops gone, only four active coaches have Division I football championships on their resume: Alabama’s Nick Saban with five, Ohio State’s Urban Meyer with three, and Clemson’s Dabo Swinney and Florida State’s Jimbo Fisher with one apiece.
The 56-year-old Stoops said he didn’t retire because of health reasons. His father, a prominent high school football coach in Ohio, collapsed on the field during a game and died en route to the hospital. He was 54.
Oklahoma had its share of players with off-the-field issues, including former running back Joe Mixon who had physically assaulted a woman. Stoops was criticized when Mixon was allowed to remain in the program.
Stoops is leaving because he feels now is the right time to walk away from coaching. Shocking but not unprecedented. Texas coach Darrell Royal retired in 1976 when he was only 52.
It’s a tough, burnout profession. Maybe Stoops just wanted to leave on his own terms and enjoy life away from the incredible stress that comes with coaching a college football monster. But the Big 12 just lost the most high profile coach it ever had.