Joe Castiglione and the Oklahoma Sooners leadership probably didn’t expect to have to go looking for a head coach for some time when Bob Stoops handed the reins to Lincoln Riley just a few months before the start of the 2017 season.
Stoops’ retirement came as a surprise, but the Sooners giving Riley the opportunity wasn’t. He helped Oklahoma regain the offensive firepower that had carried it through the first decade of the millennium.
Five seasons later, a coaching search is underway because Lincoln Riley accepted the head coaching job with the USC Trojans.
It was a disappointing end to the 2021 season that leaves the Sooners scrambling as they look to hold onto key commitments from the 2022 and 2023 recruiting cycles.
The leadership at the University of Oklahoma is strong, and several good options are out there for Joe Castiglione and Joseph Harroz to consider. While it’s important to get someone in quickly to help with recruiting, what’s more important is finding the right person as the Sooners prepare to jump to the SEC in the next few years.
Here are several names either mentioned already or that should be under consideration for the Oklahoma Sooners.
Nov.0, 2021; Knoxville, Tennessee; Tennessee Volunteers head coach Josh Heupel talks with offensive lineman Javontez Spraggins (76) during the first half against the South Alabama Jaguars at Neyland Stadium. Bryan Lynn-USA TODAY Sports
The history is well known. Josh Heupel the former national championship-winning quarterback of the 2000 Oklahoma Sooners has been estranged from the program since he was let go following the 2015 season.
Since then, Heupel helped UCF reach national title contender status before moving on to Tennessee where he helped the Volunteers overcome some offseason drama left over from their previous administration to reach bowl eligibility in his first season.
Clemson defensive coordinator Brent Venables is dunked with sports drink by linebacker James Skalski (47) and linebacker Baylon Spector (10) near corner back Mario Goodrich (31) after the game at Williams Brice Stadium in Columbia, South Carolina Saturday, Nov. 27, 2021. Kai Ruinard, USA TODAY Network
Brent Venables, the former Oklahoma Sooners defensive coordinator has made a name for himself in the same role with the Clemson Tigers, helping Dabo Swinney win two national championships in 2016 and 2018.
The former Oklahoma assistant was also a part of the 2000 national championship team for the Sooners and helped coordinate some fantastic defenses before departing for the Tigers.
Nov. 1, 2014; Ames, Iowa; Oklahoma Sooners head coach Bob Stoops watches his team prior to the game against the Iowa State Cyclones at Jack Trice Stadium. Steven Branscombe-USA TODAY Sports
Now, Bob Stoops isn’t the Stoops that’s been rumored to have been contacted by the Oklahoma Sooners. That’s a different one. But in every head coaching opening across the country, Bob Stoops’ name comes up. So why not this one?
He’ll take on the role in the interim to help guide the Sooners through the bowl season, but who’s to say he wouldn’t have any interest in stepping back in after a few seasons away from the helm. Bill Snyder did it. Why not Big Game Bob?
Nov. 26, 2021; Greenville, North Carolina; Cincinnati Bearcats head coach Luke Fickell looks on from the sidelines during the first half against the East Carolina Pirates at Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium. James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports
There isn’t a more popular coaching name in the Group of Five than Cincinnati’s Luke Fickell. He has the Bearcats on the verge of the Group of Five’s first College Football Playoff appearance if they’re able to knock off the Houston Cougars in the AAC title game.
Would he consider a move to Oklahoma while the Bearcats are on their way to the Big 12?
Nov. 27, 2021; Louisville, Kentucky; Kentucky Wildcats head coach Mark Stoops poses with players for photos around the Governor’s Cup after defeating the Louisville Cardinals at Cardinal Stadium. Kentucky defeated Louisville 52-21. Jamie Rhodes-USA TODAY Sports
Mark Stoops is a name that’s been floated in connection to the Sooners. He’s done a good job at Kentucky this season with a 9-3 record and is on the verge of his second 10-win season in the last four years. They’ve won their last three bowl games and got big wins over LSU and Florida this season before finishing the season with a romp of Louisville.
Nov. 20, 2021; Norman, Oklahoma; Iowa State Cyclones head coach Matt Campbell reacts during the second half against the Oklahoma Sooners at Gaylord Family-Oklahoma Memorial Stadium. Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports
With the pending move to the SEC, would Iowa State’s Matt Campbell be willing to make the move south to Norman? We’ve seen Campbell and the Cyclones overachieve at times in his tenure, knocking off the Sooners twice in the last five years.
From 1962 to 2016, the Oklahoma Sooners lost to Iowa State just one time. In Lincoln Riley’s tenure from 2017 to 2021, the Sooners lost to the Cyclones twice. Perhaps Matt Campbell’s the man for the job.
Dec. 7, 2019; Arlington, Texas; Oklahoma Sooner head coach Lincoln Riley meets with Baylor Bears head coach Matt Rhule after the game in the 2019 Big 12 Championship Game at AT&T Stadium. Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports
Though he has an NFL job, Matt Rhule should be someone the Oklahoma Sooners reach out to for their head coaching vacancy. He’s not an Oklahoma guy, but Rhule is capable of building a program. The turnaround he produced in the wake of the Art Briles administration remains one of the more incredible coaching performances in recent memory.
Rhule is locked up with the Carolina Panthers, but that shouldn’t stop the Sooners from reaching out.
Nevada head coach Jay Norvell leads his team onto the field to take on Hawai’i at Mackay Stadium in Reno on Oct. 16, 2021. Jason Bean/RGJ / USA TODAY NETWORK
While Jay Norvell might not be the most popular name to consider, his time at OU puts him on the list along with his success at Nevada. His name popped up as someone that Washington State should consider when it made a coaching change earlier in the season, so he’s worth a look.
Though his first year at Nevada wasn’t great, he led the Wolfpack to bowl eligibility each of the next three seasons. He wouldn’t necessarily be the top choice, but he’s someone Joe Castiglione should talk to.
Nov. 27, 2021; Columbia, South Carolina; South Carolina Gamecocks head coach Shane Beamer directs his team against the Clemson Tigers in the fourth quarter at Williams-Brice Stadium. Jeff Blake-USA TODAY Sports
It would be incredibly unlikely for the Oklahoma Sooners to lure Shane Beamer away from South Carolina after just one year on the job, but he’s someone they’ll likely reach out to.
Beamer was a beloved member of the Oklahoma coaching staff during his time with the Sooners.
The son of former Virginia Tech legend Frank Beamer, Shane helped the Gamecocks win as many games in 2021 as they did in 2019 and 2020 combined.
With a coaching resume that’s involved nearly every position group and special teams work, Beamer’s a well-rounded coach, capable of taking on the challenge with the Sooners.
Nov. 21, 2021; Seattle, Washington; Arizona Cardinals head coach Kliff Kingsbury stands on the sideline during the first quarter against the Seattle Seahawks at Lumen Field. Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports
Again, another long-shot option for the Sooners, Kliff Kingsbury was mentioned in connection to the Sooners by ESPN Insider Adam Schefter. Though it’s likely just an agent trying to get his guy some shine, it would be an interesting name to consider.
Kingsbury didn’t have any great years at Texas Tech, but aside from Mike Leach, who has. What he did though was produce some pretty good offensive teams and helped pave the way for Patrick Mahomes.
The offensive mind is undeniable, but it’s incredibly unlikely he’d want to leave the Arizona Cardinals to go back to college, especially as they’re having a successful season.
Nov. 25, 2021; Starkville; Mississippi State Bulldogs head coach Mike Leach stands on the side during the second quarter of the game against the Mississippi Rebels at Davis Wade Stadium at Scott Field. Matt Bush-USA TODAY Sports
One final name and one final long shot. Like other coaches on this list, Mike Leach has connections to the University of Oklahoma. Though it was a short stint, his impact is undeniable. Leach transformed the Sooners offense, which helped them win the 2000 national championship, even if he wasn’t a part of the program that season after leaving for Texas Tech’s job.
Leach would be able to bring a similar offensive style to the Sooners that could help them retain the services of either Caleb Williams or Spencer Rattler.
Leach and the Bulldogs won games against Texas A&M, Kentucky and Auburn who were all ranked at the time they played.