Why Michigan should call Bob Stoops

Columnist
Yahoo Sports

Michigan is going to hire a new athletic director sometime this month and the checklist of things to do is pretty brief:

1. Fire the current football coach.

2. Hire the new football coach.

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Bob Stoops celebrates during OU's win over Iowa State last week. (USA TODAY Sports)
Bob Stoops celebrates during OU's win over Iowa State last week. (USA TODAY Sports)

The odds of San Francisco 49ers coach, and Michigan alum, Jim Harbaugh returning to college look longer each week. The perception around the NFL is that if he's let go by San Francisco, a shot with another franchise (New York Jets? Oakland? Miami? A new L.A. team?), featuring more control and money, seems far more likely.

If so, Michigan should try to convince Bob Stoops not just how he'd be great for Michigan, but how Michigan would be great for him.

Stoops isn't looking for a job, of course. He's in his 16th season at Oklahoma, works for an athletic director and a school president who are trusted confidants and makes $5.25 million a year. He's built a legacy. He's synonymous with the program. He's under no pressure – outside of the depths of message board frustration.

Michigan, which will inevitably can Brady Hoke, should recruit Stoops anyway. It's not that the Wolverines are necessarily a better job or a better fit, it's that they are a different job and a different fit.

Stoops is 54 years old and has spent his entire head coaching career at OU. If he is open to a new challenge and a fresh start then there may never be a better time or place than Ann Arbor right now, an elite program in desperate need of a legitimate winner.

Stoops' 15th-ranked Sooners host No. 12 Baylor Saturday in what once looked like it would be the de facto Big 12 championship game. Instead, Kansas State-TCU is overshadowing it, two teams OU lost to by one and four points, respectively.

It's sort of the perfect example of where Oklahoma football is – damn good, but maybe not damn good enough for a place (and a coach) that strives for national titles.

Brady Hoke's Wolverines are 4-5 this season. (USA TODAY Sports)
Brady Hoke's Wolverines are 4-5 this season. (USA TODAY Sports)

Stoops has won more than 80 percent of his games at OU, delivering a steady diet of 11 and 2's, and 10 and 3's, with top-15, even top-five finishes. The problem, if you want to categorize it as that, is he hasn't won a national title since his second season, way back in 2000.

Billy Tubbs, the old Oklahoma basketball coach, used to say a coach should move to a new school every seven or eight years because after that you make no more fans; the ones you had just grow sick of you. Tubbs said he learned that at OU, where he coached 14 seasons, the last few of which were kind of miserable.

Unless you are winning it all, things tend to get stale.

Oklahoma isn't winning it all. Stoops has won at least a share of eight Big 12 titles and could still get to nine this season, yet fans point to his 4-5 record in BCS bowl games. The most germane part of that is that he got to nine BCS bowls in the first place, including four title games, but that's easy to forget.

No reasonable person is calling for Stoops to be fired, because he does his job in a respected and often spectacular way. Considering the cutthroat cesspool of the sport, he carries himself and runs the program with a level of dignity.

Too many Oklahoma fans find 11-2 boring and believe this is as easy as Stoops makes it look, and the Sooners can automatically do better. That's a dangerous place for a coach to be. Those fans should think back to the 1990s, when there was a stretch that Gary Gibbs, Howard Schnellenberger and John Blake made four- and five-win seasons the norm.

Or they could call up Tennessee or USC or Florida and see how those can't-lose programs are doing.

Or Michigan, of course.

Outside of the miracle luring of Jim Harbaugh from the NFL, Stoops is the perfect fit at this time for the Wolverines.

Jim Harbaugh is having a rough go of it as well as his Niners sit at 4-4. (AP)
Jim Harbaugh is having a rough go of it as well as his Niners sit at 4-4. (AP)

Harbaugh would be a force of nature. He'd whip Michigan into title contenders. He'd be ideal. There's no question about any of that. Increasingly, however, this looks like a pipe dream.

Stoops would win anywhere, and at Michigan, with all its built-in advantages, he'd win big – all while delivering a desired level of comity and consistency to the program. He isn't a guy who will be fending off NFL offers each January.

This is an established coach, a man with a modern offense and an old-school demeanor. He has the gravitas to seize command of the various factions surrounding the program. He will not be overwhelmed by the stage, the history or the expectations. He can win at the highest level.

As a bonus, he already took over a listless former power that was besieged by infighting (it's almost impossible to recall how bad the end of the Blake era was in Norman). He turned it into the most consistent winner of the last decade and a half in college football.

A native of Youngstown, Ohio, where he and his family remain heavily connected, Stoops would be an immediate factor in Midwest recruiting while maintaining strong ties to Texas and California to help the Wolverines draw nationally.

If Oklahoma fans have grown unappreciative, well the Wolverines should try to seize on that mistake. After the past seven years, they'd certainly take an 11-2 season capped with a Sugar Bowl victory over Alabama (like last year's Sooners).

Stoops is proven and prepared, a low-risk, high-reward hire. And Michigan is the sleeping giant that might energize one of the game's best coaches so he can remind everyone just how good he is.

Maybe Bob Stoops goes nowhere. Maybe he decides he'll keep pushing at OU until he wins another title. Maybe he's serious about retiring a Sooner. Maybe he's too loyal. Maybe he doesn't even return the call.

It's a call worth making though, because if he can be convinced to try something new, then Michigan is the ideal place, at the perfect time, for him to do it.

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