Oklahoma Coach Bob Stoops’ biggest victory was fighting racism

Published 8:41 pm Sunday, June 11, 2017

As Sports Talk Radio broke the news of Oklahoma Coach Bob Stoops’ retirement, speculation was rampant that he was in ill health, or was being relieved because of players behaving badly.  They praised Stoops for winning the National Championship in 2000, and talked about how strong the team is looking for next year.  They overlooked Stoops’ finest moment: leading his team to take a big stand against racism in 2015.

Back in 2015, a video surfaced that showed members of Oklahoma University’s chapter of the Sigma Alpha Epsilon (SAE) led a horribly racist chant on their bus, according to Alejandro Danois with Bleacher Report.  It through the OU into the crisis, threatening to have the campus turn into so many others schools with racial strife, like the University of Missouri, Yale University, Emory University, etc.

Stoops responded with his players in a protest against the racism, according to Greg Couch with Bleacher Report.  He and more than 100 of his teammates gathered at the statue of former OU Coach Barry Switzer.  Ty Darlington, one of his players, led the group in a prayer, according to Graham Watson with Yahoo Sports.  They were also joined by OU Basketball Coach Lon Kruger.

Others on campus joined in the protest.  OU President David Boren also suspended the fraternity, had them move out, and began an investigation.  It was the school’s finest hour under Bob Stoops.

This isn’t to say that Stoops wasn’t so great at winning the National Championship, which they captured against Florida State University in 2000, prevailing against the Seminoles 13-2.  At the time, I was graduating from FSU (Class of 2000) with my doctorate, and badly wanted my team to repeat as #1.  But the Sooners won an impressive defensive battle against the defending National Champions.  They earned their victory.

This isn’t to say that Stoops didn’t have a career full of amazing highlights, according to Sam Cooper with Yahoo Sports.  He took over a program that had several straight losing seasons, and was the two-time Walter Camp Coach of the Year (2000, 2003).  More than 13 times in his years, his team won 10 or more games in his 18 years, amassing a record of 190-48 that is unsurpassed in school history.  He also won 10 Big 12 Championships, while no one else in the Big 12 won more than 12.

This isn’t to say that Stoops didn’t have some problems.  Certainly there was the terrible incident involving Oklahoma Running Back Joe Mixon and the violence he was involved in.  QB Blake Mayfield showed some lack of discipline in his charges for alcohol-related incidents, and other problems his players had, leading to speculation that this might have played a role in his retirement.

Of course, there could be some incident like terrible one involving child abuse that plagued Penn State under Joe Paterno, or a scandal like the one that brought down Ohio State University’s Jim Tressel, or personal practices that upended Bobby Petrino at the University of Arkansas.  If so, it was something we were unaware of at the time of Stoops’ record.

But assuming there’s no dark secret, then Stoops really should be honored, not just for his impressive accomplishments as a coach.  He needs to be lauded for leading his team in a stand against racism, which will hopefully inspire other coaches to do the same.

John A. Tures is a professor of political science at LaGrange College in LaGrange, Ga.  He can be reached at jtures@lagrange.edu. His Twitter account is JohnTures2.