Mac Engel

Stoops insists he was not forced out at Oklahoma; now lends brief legitimacy to XFL

Sparring with Bob Stoops is fun, mostly because he’s game and has some spunk.

And since the former head coach at the University of Oklahoma left the Sooners abruptly in June of 2017, the popular theory is that he was forced out by administrators and influential people who didn’t want to lose Lincoln Riley, among other priorities.

Shortly after Stoops was introduced as the head coach/GM of the new XFL franchise at a press conference on Thursday in Arlington, I asked him just that.

“You were waiting for the other shoe to drop weren’t you?” he asked.

Absolutely. A successful head coach who leaves less than two months before the start of fall practice creates doubts.

“Yeah. There isn’t one,” he said. “And you found out it actually really was a good time, wasn’t it? How has OU done since?”

Two playoff appearances and two Heisman trophy winners later, the answer is self evident.

The conspiracy theory is that Oklahoma wanted Stoops to retire; is there any truth to that at all?

“I don’t even need to answer that,” he said.

That’s a no.

“Yeah,” he said.

We will never know, and clearly he needed a break, and cannot break from it.

Football is better with Bob Stoops in it. I missed this man.

College athletic directors should surmise that Stoops is ready to go back to work, and is open to coaching the college ranks.

He did not say that. His actions did. He was too young to retire.

The same thing will happen to Urban Meyer soon enough.

Stoops taking on this job is great for the league, and will also have a short shelf life. He talks a good game about not noticing the size of the crowds etc., but give this about one year. Two, tops.

The XFL is an ambitious venture that may succeed, but this is still a startup. Startup sports leagues notoriously swim in challenges, failures, empty seats and embarrassments.

The XFL is funded by World Wrestling Entertainment’s cash, but that money can’t buy being considered a big-time sports league without some hard, uncomfortable growing pains. This will be considered an NFL minor leagues for a while.

We are talking about a league that will feature eight teams and 10 games in 2020. The Canadian Football League has nine teams.

The Dallas TBD’s can expect to initially feature crowds at Globe Life Park of no more than 30,000, which would be a big number.

Coaches accustomed to playing in front of more than 80,000 for home games, such as Stoops was at Oklahoma for nearly 20 years, have a hard time trading down.

Stoops says he never noticed the size of the crowd. Believe him; he’s done nothing but play in front of big crowds for nearly 30 years. The last time Stoops coached a game in front of a crowd that small would have been when he was an assistant at Kent State. In the 1980s.

All of these guys are the same; as much as they hate the media attention and responsibilities of being a public figure, they die without it. They want the big stage. Especially as someone as young, talented, able and now obviously willing as Stoops.

You’ll notice these guys who express such a deep passion for the game never go back to the high school or JUCO ranks. The passion is the game on a large platform.

Nonetheless, landing Stoops was a coup for the legitimacy of a league, and a brand, that needs proof for potential consumers this is not some tired retread of XFL/WWE CEO Vince McMahon’s bomb of a spring league from 20 years ago.

Stoops will be able to put together everything the way he wants. No one will be in his way.

No boosters to placate. No fans to duck and dodge. No dumb or entitled 18-year boneheads to monitor or admonish.

Just men looking to play football for a living, who secretly, or openly, aspire to make an NFL roster.

There won’t be much media, either. Which initially he will enjoy, only to find he misses the attention.

Don’t be surprised, if this move works out and the TBD’s win the XFL’s initial FootballMania Championship title, Bob makes an NFL roster, too.

Or he simply goes back to the college game.

Stoops is 58 and he doesn’t know how long this will all last.

“Everyone wants you to define your life until the end of your life,” he said. “This was not an option when I stepped away. You just never know. The only person, or entity, who knows is too busy to be here talking to you.”

As powerful as Vince McMahon is, he did not get God to make an appearance at the press conference to answer questions on behalf of Bob.

Until God tells Bob Stoops differently, he is the head coach and the general manager of the XFL’s Dallas TBDs.

Don’t expect this to last too long, so just enjoy that Stoops is back in football, and he is ready to coach ... and spar a little, too.

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Mac Engel is an award-winning columnist who has extensive experience covering Fort Worth-Dallas area sports for 20 years. He has covered high schools, colleges, all four major sports teams as well as Olympic games and the world of entertainment, too. He combines dry wit with first-person reporting to complement a head of hair that is almost unfair.
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