One of the top coaches in college football is retiring.
After multiple reports emerged Wednesday afternoon, Oklahoma confirmed that head coach Bob Stoops is stepping down from his position after 18 seasons. Stoops, 56, said his decision was “not health-related.” With Stoops stepping aside, offensive coordinator Lincoln Riley will assume the role of head coach. Riley, 33, becomes the youngest head coach in the FBS.
“After 18 years at the University of Oklahoma, I’ve decided to step down as the head football coach. I understand there has been some speculation about my health. My health was not the deciding factor in this decision and I’ve had no incidents that would prevent me from coaching. I feel the timing is perfect to hand over the reins,” Stoops said in a statement.
“The program is in tremendous shape. We have outstanding players and coaches and are poised to make another run at a Big 12 and national championship. We have new state-of-the-art facilities and a great start on next year’s recruiting class. The time is now because Lincoln Riley will provide a seamless transition as the new head coach, capitalizing on an excellent staff that is already in place and providing familiarity and confidence for our players. Now is simply the ideal time for me and our program to make this transition.
“The Bible says, “To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven.” I’m grateful for this season of my life, and feel I’ve fulfilled my purpose here at OU as its head football coach.”
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Overall during his time at OU, Stoops, who will remain associated with the university as special assistant to the athletics director, accumulated a 190-48 record (the most wins in OU history), including the 2000 national championship. That title capped off a perfect 13-0 record in what was Stoops’ second season on the job — his first head-coaching gig. From there, Stoops won 10 Big 12 championships (no other Big 12 program has won more than two during the stretch) and led the Sooners to double-digit wins 13 more times. Stoops won the Walter Camp Coach of the Year award in 2000 and 2003 and was named the Big 12 coach of the year six times.
Before Stoops’ hire in December 1998, Oklahoma went five straight seasons without a winning record. Stoops was the defensive coordinator for Steve Spurrier at Florida for three seasons before he landed in Norman. He also was a defensive assistant at Kansas State, Kent State and Iowa. He was a defensive back for the Hawkeyes from 1979 to 1982.
With Stoops’ decision to retire, Iowa’s Kirk Ferentz is now the longest-tenured FBS coach in the country.
“It was with sadness that I learned of the decision of Coach Bob Stoops to step down as head football coach at Oklahoma,” said OU president David Boren. “Coach Stoops has made a critically important and lasting contribution to the OU football program. He has led to its restoration as one of the top programs in the nation. His success has helped provide the momentum for major new facilities like the improvements and expansion of the football stadium. Because of his unquestioned personal integrity and high standards, he is one of the most admired college football coaches in America.”
Added Sooners athletic director Joe Castiglione: “Bob Stoops stands as one of the premier legendary figures in one of the most storied programs in college football history, yet he is still best identified by his humble nature and team approach that refused to get caught up in stature. That’s the reason Bob is such a great leader. He has great vision and great accomplishment, but it never changed who he is as a man and a coach.
“Working alongside him has been one of the most enjoyable aspects of my job. Few athletics directors get a coach who better combines success and cohesiveness like Bob Stoops. I can’t help but feel somewhat sad today because Bob has been such a constant in my life, and that’s why I am so thankful that he will remain with us. He will continue to do great things for OU.”
With Riley running the offense, the Sooners have won back-to-back Big 12 titles in the past two seasons and are considered a top 10 team heading into the 2017 campaign. Before he was hired by Stoops ahead of the 2015 season, Riley, just 33 years old, was the offensive coordinator at East Carolina and was an offensive assistant at Texas Tech.
In his first season at OU, Riley won the Broyles Award, which is given to the nation’s top assistant coach. With Baker Mayfield at quarterback, the Sooners were seventh in the nation in total offense in 2015, averaging 530.2 yards per game. Last season, the Sooners rose to No. 2 nationally in total offense, averaging 554.8 yards per game. Heisman finalist quarterback Baker Mayfield is set to return in 2017 for his senior season.
Last month, Riley, who has been connected to several head coach openings the past few years, was given a raise and contract extension through the 2019 season.
“I’m sincerely honored to be given this opportunity to be the head football coach at the University of Oklahoma,” Riley said. “I want to thank Coach Stoops for bringing me here two years ago and making me part of the Sooner family. He is one of the greatest coaches in the history of the game, at any level. I’m absolutely thankful for our friendship and for the mentorship he has provided.
“Coaching at Oklahoma is a dream come true for me and my family. I am extremely grateful to President Boren, Joe Castiglione, Chairman Bennett and the OU Board of Regents for believing in me and affording me this opportunity. I look forward to continuing the tradition of excellence that Coach Stoops and so many others before him have instilled in this great program.”
The Sooners open the 2017 season at home against UTEP on Sept. 2.
For more Oklahoma news, visit SoonerScoop.com.
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