Dec. 12, 2000
By RICHARD ROSENBLATT
AP Football Writer
NEW YORK - Bob Stoops didn't need long to prove he could turn awful
into awesome at Oklahoma.
In just his second season as a head coach, Stoops guided the Sooners (12-0)
to the No. 1 ranking, a perfect regular season and a shot at their first
national championship since 1985 when they play Florida State in the Orange
Bowl on Jan. 3.
"I feel a sense of pride for the way these players have worked," Stoops
said, "and for the guys who have been around for a few years who were told
they weren't very good. We are now a confident bunch."
On Tuesday, the 40-year-old Stoops was chosen as The Associated Press
College Coach of the Year in balloting by AP member newspapers, TV and radio
Stoops, who brought a wide-open passing attack to a school known for its
wishbone and option running game, received 41 of the 91 votes in the AP
balloting. South Carolina's Lou Holtz was second with 19 votes, and Oregon
State's Dennis Erickson was third with 16 votes.
"It's a great honor for Oklahoma," Stoops said. "It's an award that every
assistant coach has a piece of and it reflects on the players and their
attitude about working together, about the way they won. The trophy will go in
the coaches' hallway, not in my house."
Last week, Oklahoma quarterback Josh Heupel was selected the AP's College
Player of the Year.
Stoops, a highly regarded defensive coordinator under Kansas State's Bill
Snyder and then Florida's Steve Spurrier, accepted the challenge of returning
Oklahoma to its winning ways. A school with six national titles had fallen on
hard times under John Blake, losing 22 of 34 games from 1996-98.
On the day he took over, Dec. 1, 1998, Stoops said "there should be great
expectations here. It's a program with the championships that should expect
championships. I know we'll operate with no excuses. There are no excuses. You
succeed or you don't."
Success arrived quickly. In 1999, Stoops unveiled his passing game directed
by Heupel, a star at Snow Junior College in Utah but unknown just about
everywhere else. The Sooners went 7-5, Heupel broke a bunch of school passing
records and OU played in its first bowl game since 1994.
This season, Stoops said his players were better prepared and more
disciplined. Even with a three-game run against Big 12 Conference powers Texas,
Kansas State and Nebraska, Stoops knew his team would not be intimidated.
"People were looking at a piece of paper saying `they can win this one,
they can't win that one,"' Stoops said. "We see our kids every day. They
pushed themselves hard in the off-season and earned the right to be confident.
Last year, we were not good enough to hold leads, we were not disciplined
enough to finish off games. We knew we would be better."
No. 19 in the preseason poll, the Sooners moved up to No. 10 with easy wins
over Texas-El Paso, Arkansas State, Rice and Kansas. Next up, a No. 11 Texas,
followed by a No. 2 Kansas State, then a showdown against No. 1 Nebraska.
No problem. The Sooner magic of the 1970s and '80 returned. OU toppled the
Longhorns 63-14 in Dallas, won at Kansas State 41-31, returned home to dominate
the Cornhuskers 31-14, and took over the No. 1 ranking.
In those games, Heupel threw for 949 yards, four TDs and just one
interception as he became a top Heisman Trophy contender. He finished second to
Florida State's Chris Weinke.
Before the Nebraska game, Stoops showed his team films of the classic OU-NU
games from the 1970s and '80s. "The kids didn't really know what it was all
about," Stoops said. "We wanted them to know."
The Sooners had a shaky finish - a comeback 35-31 win at Texas A&M followed
by closer-than-expected calls against Texas Tech and Oklahoma State. Then it
was on to the Big 12 title game, with K-State waiting for revenge. Heupel
overcame three interceptions with two TDs passing and one rushing for a 27-24
win and a berth in the BCS' title game in Miami.
Stoops says the win over Texas may have been the turning point.
"As much as anything else, I remember them not being in awe against
Texas," Stoops said. "We told them, `You are one of the elite teams. You are
Oklahoma.' We have won a lot of big games at Oklahoma. We fully expected to
win, and the way we did we knew the next two games that we ought to be able to
AP Coach of the Year Voting
|Player, Team|| Votes|
|Bob Stoops, Oklahoma|| 41|
|Lou Holtz, South Carolina||19|
|Dennis Erickson, Oregon St.||16|
|Butch Davis, Miami||4|
|Randy Walker, Northwestern||3|
|Bob Davie, Notre Dame|| 2|
|Dennis Franchione, TCU||2|
|Rick Neuheisel, Washington||2|
|Walt Harris, Pittsburgh|| 1|
|Tommy Tuberville, Auburn||1|