Forever Immortalized

John Rohde
By John Rohde Contributor

NORMAN – Bennie, Bud, Barry and now Bob.

Despite a blustery wind chill with temperatures in the high 20s Saturday morning, thousands fans gathered for the unveiling of the Bob Stoops statue prior to the annual Spring Game.

Known as a determined, no-nonsense coach, Stoops kept the festivities light-hearted.

"Wow, look at all of you," said Stoops, the program's winningest football coach in history with a career record of 190-48 (.798) in 18 seasons at OU. "I thought there'd be like 50 people here."

"It's been the privilege of a lifetime to be the head football coach here. I couldn't have asked for more."
- Bob Stoops

The bronze 9½-foot sculpture was the creation of Oklahoma City native Paul Moore, who has commissioned more than 150 projects.

"It (the statue) looks exactly like me. I just wish it was more handsome," Stoops deadpanned. "Really not a very good-looking statue."

The statue occupies the newly constructed area known as the "Coaches Courtyard" outside the south end zone of Gaylord Family — Oklahoma Memorial Stadium. Stoops joins the relocated sculptures of OU's three other 100-win coaches in Bennie Owen (122-54-16), Bud Wilkinson (145-29-4) and Barry Switzer (157-29-4), which previously stood across Jenkins Avenue south of the Heisman Park statues.

"To have this happen, it still hasn't really hit me," Stoops said. "I don't know when it ever will. It's like it's not real."

Under Stoops, the Sooners captured the 2000 national championship (the program's seventh since 1950) and claimed 10 Big 12 Conference titles in his 18 seasons. OU advanced to the postseason every season under Stoops, who is the only coach to win all four major bowls games in the Rose, Sugar, Orange and Cotton.

"I'm one of you. I'm an Oklahoman," said Stoops, who was hired on Dec. 1, 1998 by athletics director Joe Castiglone and retiring president David Boren. "I used to say when people asked where I was from, 'I'm from Youngstown, Ohio.' Not anymore. I've been here longer than anywhere in my life - 19 years. I'm an Oklahoman right now — forever. We'll always be here.

"It's been the privilege of a lifetime to be the head football coach here. I couldn't have asked for more. I've been so incredibly blessed. And just feel so fortunate all the time for this opportunity and grateful for it."

Stoops expressed his gratitude to OU fans, who have delivered 19 straight seasons of home sellouts since his arrival. "Great crowds," Stoops said. "You guys are the best fans in the country. No one else is doing that. … You helped us do it, you really did."

Stoops thanked his entire family for its never-ending support — wife Carol, daughter MacKenzie and twin sons Drake and Isaac.

"A coach's life is different," Stoops noted. "Our hours are different. We're up late and get home late and (we're) gone a lot. In fact, one time I came in from a recruiting trip. I had been gone a week and I had to knock to get in the house because everybody was eating dinner and I didn't have my key. Isaac, at 5 years old, opens the door, looks at me and announces to everybody at the dinner table, 'Hey, everybody. Bob Stoops is here.'"

Several dignitaries were on hand for the unveiling, including Heisman Trophy winners Steve Owens, Billy Sims and Jason White, a multitude of other past greats, plus Switzer, who donned a fur coat in the frigid temperatures.

The Switzer and Wilkinson statues are on the east side of the courtyard and Stoops joined Owen on the west side.

Stoops concluded his remarks by paying heed to his self-appointed successor, Lincoln Riley, who led the Sooners to a national semifinal appearance last season after Stoops announced his retirement in June.

"There's plenty of room in here for another statue, and I believe in 25-30 years, Lincoln Riley will have another one sitting right here with the rest of us," Stoops said to thunderous applause. "We're really excited about what the current staff and Lincoln are doing right now and really believe we're on our way to continued great success. Again, I look forward to that time when his status is up here."