Final press conference prior to FedEx BCS Natioinal Championship Game.
Q. Given that you're from a family of coaches, all four of you are coaches, you and your three brothers and your dad, what's the one piece of advice that he gave you that you think has stood with you since that time?
COACH BOB STOOPS: You know, my dad died young, so I can't say that he gave me any real particular direct advice as far as coaching. But I took his example, I believe, as a man, as a father, as a husband, in how you live, in not letting wins and losses, not letting the game define you and what really matters in your life. And I have a strong base with that.
Q. Can you talk about your team and whether they're having any real cabin fever? It's been a long time since you've played the game, and are they on an edge right now do you feel?
COACH BOB STOOPS: I feel good that it's building the right way. I think you can it's true, if you get too excited early in the week, you want it to be at the right time. But I feel they're very anxious and excited to play. I get that sense, yes.
Q. Could you address the growth of Travis Lewis and what he has had to go through this entire year and to play a very pivotal role right now, and as a whole your linebacking corps as it has progressed with injuries through the season?
COACH BOB STOOPS: Yeah, Travis has been an exceptional player for a young guy, a red shirt freshman to play the way he has. He's been very consistent. He'd made a bunch of big plays when you look at the turnovers he's forced and been a part of, and he's turned into a leader as the year has gone on, as well. The whole linebacker group, as you said, has made improvement, fought through some injuries, and the more those guys have played and been on the field, they've gotten better.
Q. Could you address Oklahoma's great success here in south Florida, in Bowl games, their great tradition going back to the '30s, the dominance here, and the impact it's had on your career at Oklahoma, the 2000 championship?
COACH BOB STOOPS: Yeah, it's exciting when you look at the history of the Big 12 from the Big 8 and the Big 6 and the champion in our conference coming down here for so many years for the Orange Bowl and being a part of so many different championships. It's pretty special. And again in 2000, being able to do it. And we've showed our players those old clips, too, of those years and of our history here, and it's pretty special.
Q. How do you approach Mike Balogun getting his first start in a National Championship game? Do you talk to him about it at all or treat it like any other game?
COACH BOB STOOPS: Yeah, just build him up, have confidence, and it is, it's another game. You played well in the last game you're in, and you'll be excited to play, but focus on what you have to do. We don't have to have any special conversation.
Q. Florida has talked about how they hope to be able to win the field position battle by putting you deep with their kicking game and things like that. Talk about your return game both on kickoffs and punt return, how you hope to maybe turn that around as a weapon in your advantage?
COACH BOB STOOPS: Well, of course kickoff return through the year, we have been pretty successful for the most part. We are without DeMarco Murray, a guy that has had a lot of big plays for us, but again, we hope we'll be able to execute, block people, Juaquin Iglesias, Mossis Madu, those guys have been good returners for us. But it's a factor. Same thing punting the ball; I think returning it, a lot of it depends on the kind of ball you get to return. If it's hanging and up there a good while, it's hard to get your extra time. But if they let a low one, you've got an opportunity.
So again, we're very aware of the field position game, as well, and hopefully we'll be able to execute and have it be in our favor.
Q. The winner of this game will be the BCS champion, but there are other teams like Utah at 13 0 and Texas and USC that also have claims for a National Championship. Could you comment on those teams' claims for a national title?
COACH BOB STOOPS: Not really. I mean, that's not for me to do. They're all good football teams; everyone realizes that. So again, that's for you guys to choose.
Q. Could you just talk about do you have a hard and fast philosophy when it comes to talking to kids who are underclassmen that may want to come out for the NFL draft? Do you go strictly by the feedback the NFL is giving that they must be a first rounder? And how much does financial hardship play into it in terms of what advice you would give that player?
COACH BOB STOOPS: My advice is whether financial hardship or not, you need to get your value. If you leave school, there are very few kids or young guys that leave early and get their value, at least is my feeling. If you're going late, if you're going in the second round and after and there's even argument I'll give you an example, Jammal Brown. If he comes back for his senior year, wins the Outland Trophy, has a good year, was projected second or third round as a junior, comes back and he's the first lineman taken the following year. The following year he's the first lineman taken. He made probably eight, ten times the money he would have if he would have gone the year before. And that money never comes back to you. And he has an opportunity to leave with his degree, or he's a year closer to that degree.
Everyone says you can always come back and get it. Well, life changes. You've been in the NFL for five years, now you might be married, you have children, and now you're going to go back and go full time to school? My point is you're giving up too much, I believe, if you're not getting your value.
And then you end up my point, Jammal Brown had gone out earlier and went in the second round, everyone says, well, he's still making a bunch of money, well, he's not making the kind of money as a first lineman taken, and he doesn't have his degree, and he's going to play for that team for four years at a discount. My whole philosophy, and I believe more and more of our kids are getting it, you need to get your value.
Again, in that league, what they all say is that it's not for long. That's what the NFL stands for, and you look at the average career is three and a half years. You need to maximize those three and a half years.
Q. Late start on Thursday, 8:30. How does that change your preparation, what you do with the kids, all day long as excited as they are for the National Championship game?
COACH BOB STOOPS: It gets later every day. I thought it was 8:10 (laughter). You know, you just pace yourself from the time you get up, when you're going to have your meetings, go out and stretch out. You've just got to pace yourself. Heck, once you're on your way to the stadium, no one knows what time it is or cares. You just know you've arrived at the stadium two hours before you've got to go take the field, and you get in your routine.
Q. Back to the kicking game, the kickoff coverage, it's so important in the Bowl games, and you haven't had much luck this year. A couple of Florida guys who have said in looking at the tape they see Oklahoma being undisciplined. Does the fact that you have three or four weeks leading up to it help you as much in being prepared for that type of thing as much as it does on offense and defense?
COACH BOB STOOPS: Yeah, hopefully we could not have worked it more than we have. Guys have worked it and practiced it, and I feel like we do have a better sense of where we need to be and how we need to do it. So hopefully that's the way it shows up.
Q. Players often have personal goals when they sort of start their careers. When you started your coaching career, did you sort of set out some personal goals, "I want to be a head coach by a certain time," and what was that like when you started that?
COACH BOB STOOPS: Yeah, I've never been one of those type of people to, I guess, have it all regimented that way or to have it all laid out. I pretty much go by feel and by my gut. I don't think when I started off as a young assistant coach that I I don't know that I ever thought about being a head coach or at what time I would be one. I kind of loved what I was doing as an assistant coach and was fortunate to be around some great, great people, and then it just grows on you. And then after a while having some success and getting opportunities to be a coordinator, so after a while you start to feel, you know what, I could see myself as a head coach.
But I never had any timelines or dates; I just always tried to do the very best job I could in whatever position I was in and then tried to improve the team and whoever I was with. Fortunately things little by little, good things happened and I had more opportunities. But I can't say that I ever was very regimented on timelines or anything like that. I always in my heart I kind of feel that everything has its time, and I've never been one to push that time. I've always felt I've let it come to me.
Q. Whoever wins this game will be the first head coach to win two BCS National Championships. What does that mean to you?
COACH BOB STOOPS: Well, nothing unless we're the one that wins it (laughter). In the end, I'm just proud of our program, I guess, overall and what we've been able to do the last ten years, and when you compare it to what was happening the ten years prior to what we've been able to do. It isn't just me; it's a great administration, it's a bunch of great assistant coaches that we've had there and good character of players that have helped build and get the program back in a strong position.
You know, other than that, you're just on to the next season after that, still trying to build.
Q. Your kids take a step each weekend to get to this point. Do you really feel there's much more that needs to be said to your kids about what this all means?
COACH BOB STOOPS: Not really. They're very aware and excited for the opportunity, and I think as much as anything you want them to almost don't make more of it than it is; play within yourself. I think sometimes guys can get in these big games and try and do too much, and just play within do the things that we ask you to do that you're used to doing all year, and do it as hard as you can.
Q. There is some great anticipation for expected offensive fireworks between the two teams. What likelihood do you think that the game will be won by defensive play?
COACH BOB STOOPS: Defense is always going to have a factor in the game, and it will in this one. It's always an issue. Again, Florida has played really good defense. We have at times. We've been inconsistent. But again, I think I'm excited the way we've practiced and prepared coming in, so I don't think there's any question defense will play a major role in this game.
Q. A lot of defensive coordinators who have become head coaches are conservative on offense. Can you explain why and how you've developed your wide open offensive philosophy?
COACH BOB STOOPS: Yeah, well, I've always been a great believer in being able to throw the football, but I've never left the fact that you try and be physical. We've always wanted to be really good and successful at both. And then I guess you're talking about going more to the speed of our offense and no huddling and snapping it more. I've felt with the emergence and the cool and calm nature of Sam, and having a year of experience and the way he handled everything a year ago, I felt he would handle it really well. The experience of our offensive personnel I felt was a positive.
I just felt as a team I wanted to snap the ball more or every bit as much or more than whoever we're playing. I thought if we were, our opportunities would be better to be successful and score points. I realized as a defensive guy that it's going to give the other team more opportunities so our statistics would change some. But I was willing to do it. I felt I still felt it would play to our advantage, and for the most part it's probably been that way. And I also felt that more and more teams as they're doing it, it would help us defensively going against it in the spring, the summer, constantly going against it, it would give us more of a comfort level when we faced those type of teams.
Q. You've got a lot of relationships at the University of Florida and a history there. What are the elements in place there that you think help make that a special place, an elite program?
COACH BOB STOOPS: A lot of the same things that I feel strongly about at Oklahoma great people, great leadership. When you look at the presidents they've had, Jeremy Foley, their athletic director, and the people throughout their department, just a great administration, great people, great fan base, great recruiting base, you know, all of that, and great passion for their football teams and basketball teams. You look at what Billy has been able to build basketball wise, you know, it's exciting.
Again, more than anything, just great people.
Q. This game seems to have become a referendum on whose conference is better more than any other Bowl game than you've been in?
COACH BOB STOOPS: You know, I don't monitor the media waves maybe as much as I should, but I've gotten that feel from just the questions that have been asked. But yeah, it just seems to be more of a theme every year. I hear it and then some of the other Bowl games we've been able to see it here and there, that there's a lot of comparing teams by conferences. I don't know, it just seems to be a good discussion.
Q. I have a question on transfers: When a player decides that he's transferring from Oklahoma, what restrictions does Oklahoma place on that player in terms of what school he can attend?
COACH BOB STOOPS: I can't say through my ten years, but I always just say let him go wherever he wants to is pretty much all I can remember saying. I don't much care where they go.
Q. You've had a coaching lineage of Hayden Fry, Coach Snyder and then Steve Spurrier. Can you talk about maybe something you took from each one of these guys to build your base of what's your philosophy?
COACH BOB STOOPS: Yeah, and it isn't just you talked about the head coaches I've been with, but I've been with some great assistant coaches, too. My young formidable years as a volunteer and a graduate assistant I was with Dan McCarney, Kirk Ferentz, Barry Alvarez, great D coordinator in Bill Brazier, just around a lot of just quality coaches that I learned from.
You take something from everybody. To say one thing from each guy, that's kind of hard to Coach Fry I thought was a great leader and did a great job with his assistant coaches. Coach Snyder, a very determined guy and was at the ground floor at Kansas State and I learned a lot from that experience.
Coach Spurrier, just an amazing competitor, and I felt I learned to really love the competition of it all from watching him, being around him. And again, all those assistant coaches were great recruiters, very professional in how they handled their business. So as a young guy I got to see that all the time.
Q. With that in mind, the history of Oklahoma football and Barry Switzer, what he had accomplished, how aware are you of where you are in relation to where he was up to this point in your career?
COACH BOB STOOPS: It's funny you asked that, and maybe it's been passed around, but I got a text from a close buddy of Coach Switzer's, Danny Wright, a good buddy, and I don't know if this is true, but he said that I said something to Coach Switzer yesterday, we were talking, just getting them lined up for a field pass, and someone said that at one point in his career he was 109 23 with two National Championships no, he was 109 23 and then he was 110 23 with two National Championships, and I didn't know it, but I guess I'm 109 23 right now with one National Championship.
Hopefully it's correct. I think they said there were a few ties in there that they threw out. But whatever. It's pretty amazing, though.
Q. You talked about having no timetable when you began as a head coach at Oklahoma, and yet you won it all in your second year, so when you won that were you surprised at how quickly the national title came, or are you surprised now that it's taken so long to win another one?
COACH BOB STOOPS: Yeah, initially I thought they were pretty easy (laughter). Actually you do get a little sense because the previous one I was in, I was at Florida and we beat Florida State, also, for the National Championship. And then you lose one and you realize they're not that easy. So one and then another one, we lost back to back ones.
So it is tough; it's really hard. But it's exciting, always chasing them, always pursuing it. It's incredibly exciting going after them. We've got another opportunity.
Q. Specifically going back to the question of superiority of conferences, there's been a lot of speculation about the quality of Big 12 defenses. I wonder if you could speak to that. And also if the quality of the quarterbacks has anything to do with that?
COACH BOB STOOPS: Well, it's always a debate, and sure, you can speculate on the quality of defenses; that's fair. I don't think there's any question when you look at the quarterbacks and the quality that's there that we do have a lot of excellent quarterbacks in our league. You know, it's up to you guys to discern if it's because of quarterback, if it's because of poor defenses, and again, I've been a long time defensive coach, and I know a lot of times people thought our defense was a heck of a lot better than it was because we weren't playing against some offenses that weren't very good. It's just however you want to see it.
Q. Could you see yourself coaching into your 70s like a Paterno
COACH BOB STOOPS: No way (laughter). I don't need it. I love what I do, I mean, I absolutely love it. It's exciting, it's everything you want. You know you're alive every day. But there's a lot of other things to me that outside of this game that I want to do, and a lot of it even just time with family. I won't be doing that.
Q. You said there's a lot of things you want to do. You mentioned your family. What else would you like to do?
COACH BOB STOOPS: Geez, travel, golf a little more, whatever. Again, I just know you value your time, and a lot of times you want it to be your time, what you decide to do, when you do it. And again, I'm nowhere close to that. Again, I love what I'm doing, but I know I won't be doing it when I'm in my 70s. I don't know if I'll make it to 60 (laughter).
Q. Keenan Clayton said on Monday that he felt like this defense has not lived up to the standards of past Oklahoma defenses, and he said that if the entire defense does not play with a chip on their shoulder Thursday night, he would think that there's something wrong with them. How much do you sense that your players are using all these little jabs, or whatever you want to call them about the Big 12 defenses, as motivation for this game?
COACH BOB STOOPS: Well, I'm sure that it hits home for them, and I think it's pretty obvious, the standards of defense that we're used to playing that we haven't been this year, that what we've consistently been for most of the time we've been there. I'm sure it does sink into them or it has put a chip on their shoulder to some degree. If they have any I mean, they're a prideful group no matter what, so I'm sure it has bothered them.
Q. Knowing the grinds of being a head coach in college football, are you amazed at the Paternos and the Bowdens who are still doing their thing at their age?
COACH BOB STOOPS: Yeah, but just very respectful and appreciate what they've given to the game, the guys that they are, the way they've done it and the energy they still bring to it. I am, I'm very again, very respectful of what they've been able to do.
Q. Your quarterback Sam Bradford has matured not just as a player but as a real role model, especially in relationship to being a citizen of the Cherokee Tribe in Oklahoma. Can you comment on that?
COACH BOB STOOPS: Yeah, the guys, much like I've seen, I haven't been around Tim Tebow a whole bunch but just what I've been able to watch on TV, and I'd say, again, Sam is maturing in that role of just being a model student athlete. The guy is a straight A student, a finance major, a leader in the community, just everything. He handles himself just wonderfully, and he's embraced the fact that now even being a Heisman winner and all this attention that, hey, I've been blessed with a great opportunity to maybe project and give something to other people, and he's embraced that; this is what I'm going to do. I couldn't ask for a better guy to do it.
Q. How much does what Florida does on offense, the single wing, how much of that did your dad run across in high school and even you? Did you see much of that when he was coaching?
COACH BOB STOOPS: Yeah, single wing or triple option, wish bone principles, you get it all with all the different directions. You've got half your defense needs to defend this part and the other half needs to defend if you pull the ball coming back the other way. It's fair to say there's a lot of similarities.
Q. How would you describe your in game strategy or emotion versus calling the game, and in a game like this, obviously you've been through these kinds of things, has that changed? Do you do something different for yourself?
COACH BOB STOOPS: No, you just remind yourself, again, not to you don't want to be too emotional. You focus on what you're used to doing and you get into game mode, and that's usually the same, and you just remind yourself to be like you always are, be consistent.
Q. When you talk about Sam and the pressure out there that he's handling real well, he's got pressure in a couple of ways here. He's looking at the National Championship, NFL, won the Heisman, and then the pressure on the other side, he's had too much time to throw and a wonderful pocket which he may not have in this game. Could you address those pressures with him?
COACH BOB STOOPS: I've addressed for the most part, yes, being a Heisman winner, what it means, and hopefully the mindset you have about it. We've talked about his NFL possibilities before we got here to the site. You know, we've talked about all of that, and I'll be sure to remind him going into the game to play like he always does. We always say, don't try and be Superman, just do what you're used to doing, play within the framework of what we ask you to do as an offense, and let it happen.