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Bob Stoops center of attention among college football greats

The 2020 and 2021 College Football Hall of Fame classes were introduced Tuesday at Aria followed by breakout sessions for one-on-one interviews.

Except for 2021 inductee Bob Stoops, it was far from a one-on-one.

Media swarmed around Stoops, who is serving as Oklahoma’s interim coach in the Alamo Bowl against Oregon, which also is without its coach after Mario Cristobal left for Miami.

Stoops was a wanted man by the media for a reason. The coaching shuffle has been one of the dominant storylines in college football the past two weeks.

Stoops is temporarily in his old job because Lincoln Riley left for Southern California — and has since been replaced by longtime Oklahoma and Clemson defensive coordinator Brent Venables. Brian Kelly left Notre Dame to take over Louisiana State, and even in the Mountain West, Jay Norvell departed UNR for Colorado State.

Given the NCAA Transfer Portal, Stoops said coaches now are under more pressure than ever because turnarounds can occur more quickly. There is less patience for a three- or four-year plan, much less a five-year one that used to be routinely sold when a coaching hire was made.

The early signing period in December in addition to the traditional one in February is another factor has also ratcheted up the stakes. Stoops said he initially was in favor of the early period because it relieved pressure to hold onto commitments well into January. But now he believes it needs to be examined.

“It creates another domino effect that coaching changes have to happen faster,” Stoops said, since going without a head coach for any length of time can adversely affect a team’s recruiting in that early period. “It isn’t the coach’s fault that the timetable is what it is.”

As for when he became Oklahoma’s coach following the 1998 season, Stoops described that first month as “a blur,” something Venables is about to experience.

Much like Venables at Clemson, Stoops was an established defensive coordinator at Florida and knew Oklahoma was “a sleeping giant.” But the enormity of heading a storied program with a bare-bones staff meant long pressure-packed days.

During the Christmas break, Stoops returned to Florida. As he was being driven from Jacksonville to Gainesville, Stoops told his friend, Rick Rundell, “I’ve ruined my life.”

“That was after two weeks,” Stoops said. “It was so overwhelming. And obviously, I didn’t ruin my life. It was the best thing that’s happened to me.”

In his second season in 2000, Stoops coached the Sooners to a 13-0 record and national championship. He said advice he had been receiving from boosters and fans about how to do his job ceased after that title.

Stoops coached Oklahoma for 19 years, going 190-48 with bowl appearances each season and seven top-five finishes. Now he’s keeping his coaching seat warm for Venables, who coached under Stoops from 2004 to 2011.

Before Venables was hired, Stoops urged the Oklahoma fan base as well as returning players, recruits and assistant coaches to have patience as the program was briefly thrown into chaos.

“So everybody get a grip on this, it’s OK,” Stoops said. “We’ll be fine. Just trying to get people to understand that was a big mission, and I believe it worked because we are bigger than any one guy.”

Contact reporter Mark Anderson at manderson@reviewjournal.com. Follow @markanderson65 on Twitter.

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