Red River Fallout: Oklahoma fires defensive coordinator Mike Stoops

Oct 28, 2017; Norman, OK, USA; Oklahoma Sooners defensive coordinator Mike Stoops before the game against the Texas Tech Red Raiders at Gaylord Family - Oklahoma Memorial Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports
Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

NORMAN, Okla. (AP) — Oklahoma has fired defensive coordinator Mike Stoops after the Sooners struggled to stop Texas in their first loss of the season.

The Sooners said Monday that Ruffin McNeill, the assistant head coach and defensive tackles coach, will be the defensive coordinator for the rest of the season.

The No. 11 Sooners (5-1) lost 48-45 on Saturday, allowing 501 yards to the Longhorns in Dallas.

“I have great respect for Mike,” Riley said in a statement. “He’s a quality football coach, great man and a close friend. It became time for a change in our program and that happens sometimes in football, but we cannot lose sight of the accomplishments Mike had at Oklahoma. He was responsible for a lot of success and deserves the gratitude of everyone associated with Sooner football, not only for his role in the winning, but for coaching with integrity.”

McNeill was defensive coordinator at UNLV from 1997 to 1998, and Fresno State in 1999. He later served in that same role with Texas Tech from 2008 to 2009 before taking over as head coach at East Carolina from 2010 to 2015.

Riley was McNeill’s offensive coordinator at East Carolina.

“Ruffin has an impressive resume,” Riley said. “That’s why I wanted him on our staff in the first place. I have confidence in his knowledge and leadership. Bob has a lot of experience in very good programs and also has a list of accomplishments that will help him step in and make an immediate impact. We are fortunate to have these men in our program.”

Oklahoma players reacted to the news on Twitter.

“All I can say is thank you @OU_CoachMike you gave me a shot when nobody else would and for that I am forever grateful no matter what people say they never know you for the great person you really are and how much you care for your players…Thank You Coach,” linebacker Kenneth Murray posted.

Bob Diaco will move from defensive specialist to coach the outside linebackers. He has been defensive coordinator at Cincinnati, Notre Dame and Nebraska and was the head coach at Connecticut from 2014 to 2016.

Stoops had been defensive coordinator since 2012, when his brother, former Sooners coach Bob Stoops, hired him. It was Mike Stoops’ second stint working as an assistant for his brother. Before serving as Arizona‘s head coach from 2004-11, he was co-defensive coordinator for Oklahoma and his brother from 1999-2003.

The Sooners have struggled defensively the last two seasons, finishing 80th in 2016 and 82nd in 2017 in the country in yards per play allowed. Oklahoma is 17-3 under second-year coach Lincoln Riley and the Sooners have scored an average of 41 points in those games, including a 54-48 loss to Georgia in the College Football Playoff semifinal at the Rose Bowl last season.

In one of Oklahoma’s worst outings under Stoops, the Sooners beat Texas Tech 66-59 in 2016, despite giving up 854 yards. That day, Tech quarterback Patrick Mahomes ripped the Sooners for an FBS record 819 yards of total offense, including 734 yards through the air, and frustration from the fanbase reached a boiling point.

After a promising start this season, the complaints returned when unranked Army controlled much of this season’s game before Oklahoma pulled out a 28-21 overtime win at home. Army possessed the ball for nearly 45 minutes. At his availability the following week, when a larger-than-usual media contingent got a bit close, Stoops joked that the “vultures were circling.”