For the record, former Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops isn’t acknowledging that the SEC is down this season.
Only two days after LSU humiliating loss to Troy, the SEC’s national Sagarin rankings have tumbled. The combined averages of the two SEC divisions are the lowest among the Power Five conferences.
When asked Monday at the Atlanta Touchdown Club about any perception that the SEC might be down this season, Stoops didn’t want to add his voice to a growing national chorus.
“You’re saying that,” he said when asked about recent claims about the demise of the SEC’s reputation. “I don’t need to be in the paper saying any of that. But you can call it what you want.”
Stoops also emphatically said he will never coach college football again or take a shot at a potential NFL head coaching job.
“I will say, regardless of what you might hear out there in the papers, if I intended again to coach that would have been part of my statement,” said Stoops, who retired in June after 18 seasons at Oklahoma. “I would have said I’m stepping away here now for this time for myself but when it comes to the next year or two, I look forward to getting back in it.
“But that’s not what I said. You won’t see me on a college sideline or a pro sideline. A lot of people act like they know and there will be more than a few jobs out there. But that isn’t at all what I’m looking to do.”
Stoops was perhaps the biggest national booster of the Big 12 in the latter stages of his coaching career. The 10-time Big 12 champion dominated a conference which has been represented in the College Football Playoffs only once — when Stoops’ Sooners lost to Clemson two years ago in the national semifinals.
With three Big 12 teams currently ranked among the top 15 teams, the Big 12’s reputation appears to have risen this season.
Stoops acknowledged that growth, but said he doesn’t make that much about it.
“I’ve always felt from year to year that strength of conferences is always going to change,” Stoops said. “And that’s happening this season, with other conferences. We (the Big 12) never went anywhere. We were just in the playoffs two years ago.”
During the SEC’s remarkable run of seven consecutive national championships from 2006 to 2012, Stoops didn’t buy that the SEC’s domination was complete.
It led him to being the most open objector against the SEC in the nation, bringing bemusement that turned into consternation in SEC country as he finished his career with a flourish against the conference.
Stoops backed up his claims — at least at the end of his career. He finished his Oklahoma career with a 7-4 record against SEC schools, including a four-game winning streak at the end. He was also 4-0 against Alabama in his coaching career.
On Monday at a toney Atlanta club where he spoke before some of the biggest movers and shakers in the city, Stoops sounded conciliatory to the SEC and teams in the Atlanta area.
He took time during his speech to acknowledge unbeaten Georgia’s recent surge to No. 5 in the polls and Georgia Tech’s 3-1 start.
Stoops was headed to Athens after his speaking engagement to watch the Bulldogs practice and meet with Georgia coach Kirby Smart.
He also said that former Florida and South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier remains his best friend in coaching and a mentor for him in his career.
And during a recent golfing excursion with Spurrier, the topic turned to one of the longest days of Stoops’ and Spurrier’s coaching career in the SEC. Stoops was defensive coordinator at Florida on “The Ol’ Ball Coach’s” staff from 1996-98.
In 1997, Robert Edwards sliced through Stoops’ Florida defense for 124 yards and a then-Georgia record 4 rushing touchdowns in a stunning 37-17 upset over the Gators. It was Spurrier’s only loss to Georgia in 12 seasons at Florida. It remains a sore subject for Stoops.
“I have nightmares of him running the toss sweep,” Stoops said. “They ran it for about 130 yards. I still think about that.”
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