Gil LeBreton

Would TCU’s Gary Patterson ever walk away as OU’s Bob Stoops did?

To everything there is a season, Bob Stoops said Wednesday.

And a time to every purpose.

“After 18  1/2 years, when is the right time?” the retiring Oklahoma football coach asked as he made his formal announcement.

Stoops’ was June 7, as it turned out. And the college football world shook at the news.

A defending conference champion. A Heisman candidate quarterback. A top 10 recruiting class.

And the head coach just walks away?

Who, when blessed with good health, would do such a thing?

Gary Patterson was like a lot of us Wednesday afternoon, staggered by the news from Norman, wondering if something had happened.

“But when you think about it, the timing makes sense,” the TCU head coach said. “Oklahoma’s got a great group of players coming back for next year. Summer school has started and his recruiting class has arrived, so there’s not going to be a bunch of them leaving because he’s retiring.

“And his sons are going to be seniors in high school, and now he gets to watch them play.”

It says something about our cynical, gotcha-Twitter times that many immediately assumed that Stoops’ abrupt announcement meant that something was amiss. A cover-up to the Joe Mixon cover-up had been unearthed, or something.

But some of the people who know him best — among them athletic director Joe Castiglione, columnist Berry Tramel of The Oklahoman and former OU quarterback Dean Blevins of KWTV — seem convinced that Stoops just felt it was time.

The most compelling explanation comes from Stoops’ own bio. He is the son of a former high school football coach and part of a family of coaches.

In 1988 Stoops’ father, Ron Sr., suffered a fatal heart attack on the sideline of a game against one of his sons’ teams. He died on the way to the hospital at age 54.

Bob Stoops is 56. He assured Wednesday that his health wasn’t an issue, but Stoops has talked before about the family’s history of heart trouble.

“To everything there is a season and a time to every purpose,” he said Wednesday. “I’m grateful for this season of my life, and I feel I’ve fulfilled my purpose here at OU as its head football coach.”

With Stoops retired, the longest-tenured major college football coach is now Kirk Ferentz of Iowa.

The second longest? Gary Patterson, age 57.

“I don’t want to think about that right now,” Patterson said, finding some humor in the distinction.

“It seems like only yesterday I was standing at the podium and everyone was wondering whether I was good enough to be the head coach.”

Patterson took over the Horned Frogs in 2000. His overall record (149-54) may not have the shimmer that Stoops’ does (190-48, including the 2000 national championship), but it’s shiny enough.

Could Patterson walk away from it all one day? Absolutely. His weekly grind during the season is intense, but he seems far from married to it.

Patterson hasn’t said that, but who’s to say what could catch his eye at age 57? A house in the islands, where he could scuba all day? A better job?

When reached this week, Patterson didn’t want to talk about retirements or tenures or snorkeling off into the sunset. He has recruits coming in this weekend, and he said he’s eager to greet them.

But when a Bob Stoops walks away suddenly, who could blame a head coach for wondering if it’s time to change seasons?

Gil LeBreton: @gilebreton

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