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Sooners' Stoops close to record win

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NORMAN, Okla. (AP)

Some of the most successful coaches in college football history have led Oklahoma.

Step off the elevators into the club-level seating lounge at the Gaylord Family-Oklahoma Memorial Stadium and there are life-size photos of the three most famous - Bud Wilkinson, Barry Switzer and Bob Stoops.

Now Stoops, in his 15th season at the Sooners' helm, is set to pass Switzer as the winningest coach in Oklahoma history. A win for No. 22 Oklahoma (8-2, 5-2 Big 12 Conference) at Kansas State (6-4, 4-3) on Saturday would be No. 158 for Stoops. It's a milestone that Stoops claims he hasn't thought about ''at all.''

''You can say that he's lying, but why would I?'' Stoops said. ''I haven't picked up a paper since the week before the first game or looked at it. I watch national news and CNN isn't talking about it. I try to keep up with what's happening in the world. That kind of stuff has no place for me, just because it's not what is important.''

Oklahoma has more 10-win seasons (34) than any other Football Bowl Subdivision program. Bud Wilkinson won 145 games from 1947-63. Barry Switzer passed Wilkinson, winning 157 games from 1973-88.

Entering the season, Stoops' average of 10.6 wins per year was tops among active FBS coaches with 10 or more years of experience. He is the only active coach at an FBS program to have taken his team to a bowl game in each of his first 14 seasons and that streak will be extended this season. He is 157-39 overall, an 80.1-percent winning clip.

Stoops guided Oklahoma to a somewhat surprising national title in 2000, in just his second season. Stoops' success came after a five-year stretch during which the Sooners failed to post a winning record under Gary Gibbs (whose six-year tenure ended in 1994), Howard Schnellenberger (1995) and John Blake (1996-1998).

Stoops recorded his 150th career win in this season's opener against Louisiana-Monroe, in his 187th game. He became the sixth-fastest to reach 150 wins at the FBS level - a list topped by Switzer, who did so in 180 games.

Oklahoma's football offices are dubbed the ''Switzer Center'' and even a quarter-century removed from his coaching career, Switzer remains an Oklahoma icon - revered as much for his folksy, open personality and approachability as his three national titles.

Switzer didn't return a phone message left by The Associated Press this week, although he and Stoops have a friendly relationship, as evidenced by Stoops' postgame comments Saturday, after the Sooners beat Iowa State to allow Stoops to tie Switzer.

''All I'll do is compliment coach Switzer,'' Stoops said. ''He was a special coach at his time. Not many coaches have a Super Bowl with three national championships (and have) his unique ability to relate to his players. And then I appreciate his friendship. He's been a great friend to me, a great friend to everybody in this program. We're fortunate he still comes around and sees us.

''He'll always be one of the most special and one of the greatest coaches in all of college football.''

Stoops often has said the reason he's remained so long at Oklahoma has to do with his relationship with athletic director Joe Castiglione and university President David Boren, the two men who hired him in 1999. The trio have been together ever since, the longest current grouping of a president, athletic director and football coach at the FBS level.

On Wednesday, Castiglione declined comment about Stoops surpassing Switzer's win total, saying he'd discuss it at length after it happens.

But Oklahoma's players certainly are aware of what their coach has achieved and want to give him the record win on Saturday.

''It would be great,'' senior tailback Brennan Clay said. ''That's why I came, because of the tradition and history and be a part of the team to help coach Stoops possibly surpass that mark. We're going to do a great job this week preparing for K-State and I congratulate coach Stoops for such an accomplishment. He's done a great job for this university even before I was here and we're going to continue to do so.''

Stoops said he isn't concerned about how many wins he'll eventually record.

''Why would I?'' he said. ''My legacy, hopefully, is my players like playing for me and care about me. They knew I cared about them. Whenever we see each other, we'll be glad to see each other. That's what I care about what my legacy will be. And that the university felt like I did it the right way, with character and . integrity.''

Tagged: Oklahoma

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