Oklahoma is bringing brothers Bob and Mike Stoops back together, hoping to rekindle the program’s defensive dominance of a decade ago.
Mike Stoops was the co-defensive coordinator for Oklahoma from 1999 to 2004 and helped the Sooners win the 2000 national championship before spending the past seven-plus seasons at Arizona. He was fired at Arizona, and his return to the Sooners throws into question the future of defensive backs coach Willie Martinez and possibly current defensive coordinator Brent Venables.
Mike Stoops confirmed in a telephone interview Thursday that he plans to rejoin the Sooners in a to-be-determined role. Before he left Oklahoma, he had been in charge of calling the defensive plays – a role Venables has handled in recent years.
”We haven’t talked about that. Me and Brent have always worked well together, and that’s the reason I’m going back, to work with him and Bob,” he said. ”So, that’s the least of our concerns at this point.”
The university did not confirm Mike Stoops’ hiring or any other changes to the football staff. Following Mike’s firing in October, head coach Bob Stoops had been reluctant to say much about whether his brother would return to the Sooners and repeatedly said he didn’t have an opening on his staff.
But now, one will be made in a bid to shore up a sagging defense.
With both brothers coaching together, Oklahoma finished among the nation’s top 10 defenses for four straight years. After a gradual decline, the Sooners weren’t even among the top 50 defenses three of the past four seasons – with the exception coming in 2009, when they finished eighth.
Oklahoma still made it to the BCS championship during the 2008 season behind an offense that set an NCAA scoring record.
”I think when you’re at Oklahoma you always have the opportunity to win championships. That’s what’s expected and certainly that’s exciting,” Mike Stoops said. ”That’s what’s expected there, so I’m excited and looking forward to going back and working with those guys.”
Martinez came in two years ago after defensive ends coach Chris Wilson left to become a co-defensive coordinator at Mississippi State. Bobby Jack Wright shifted from the secondary to coaching defensive ends to make room for Martinez, but Oklahoma’s pass defense suffered in the wide-open Big 12.
It was the most glaring this season, when the Sooners started the year ranked No. 1 but gave up huge yardage through the air in their first two losses. Texas Tech’s Seth Doege threw for 441 yards and four touchdowns in a 41-38 upset in Norman, and eventual Heisman Trophy winner Robert Griffin III had 479 yards passing while Baylor amassed 616 yards – the most ever allowed by Oklahoma.
Mike Stoops’ defense didn’t fare much better at Arizona before he was fired following a 1-5 start. At that time, the Wildcats ranked among the bottom 10 teams in the nation in scoring defense and points allowed, and didn’t finish the season much better.
He now returns to a place where he had great success, helping Oklahoma to two Big 12 titles, its only Rose Bowl victory and land two shots at the national championship.
”We’ve had some fun, we worked well together and we decided to go back. I had a lot of other opportunities but this one I thought was the best for me and my family and all parties involved,” said Mike Stoops, who led Arizona into the top 10 midway through last season before losing 10 of his final 11 games.
The Sooners hope the second time around will be just as successful for the Stoops brothers.
”It’s always special to do something, if you’re able to do something, with your brother like this,” Mike Stoops said. ”Being involved in something like this, there’s a lot of benefits but there’s a lot of pressure, too. That’s something that we’ve embraced and have not shied away from it, anyone in my family.
”We want to help each other be successful and I think that gives us great satisfaction.”