The longest tenured head coach currently in NCAA FBS football called it quits Wednesday after a string of nearly two decades of success in Norman, Oklahoma.
56-year-old Bob Stoops, who was seemingly in the prime cut of his career, inexplicably and abruptly announced his retirement across the expanse of the North American continent in a message which resonated in unsettling and perplexing nuances throughout the college football world. Stoops spent 18 years at the University of Oklahoma and compiled 190 wins, including a national title in 2001. The Sooners enjoyed an invitation to the postseason during every season of his unprecedented tenure in leading a storied program through the challenging landscape of a perpetually changing competitive and social environment. He will be replaced by offensive coordinator Lincoln Riley.
Fox Sports reports that Stoops choice to relinquish his position was not influenced by health or family issues. Rather, the popular consensus among the experts in the early and baffling stage of the news cycle, is that he opted to exercise his individual liberties in rejoining the regular world through a transcendent blaze of glory and effulgent firestorm of success. However, borrowing the yoga-infused eternal components of tranquility and acceptance directly from the man-bunned guru dazzling in asexual tights, in gracefully ushering Stoops to the sunlight and cozy confines of the country club and gated ranch suburbs of the comfortably inconspicuous, hints of idealism. Unfortunately, a decision of this magnitude has consequences, many that be unforeseen. Stoops was quoted as referring the nature of his exit as, “The timing was perfect.”
The faint warning bells in the back of the collective minds of those who are very familiar with college football are beginning to toll, in attempting to process the data and circumstances of Stoop’s decision. As the metaphorical seismic meter shows a faint indication of a possible event that could or could not be cataclysmic, what conclusions can one reach by as to the near future of the sport through the perplexing news? Did Stoops see a sharp decline in the sport over the next few years due to decreased revenues, a lack of interest in the younger generations, and adopted policy or is he simply retiring on his own terms?
Over the last decade, NCAA football at the highest levels generated a plethora of ratings and infusion of cash in satisfying the yearly operating budgets of most athletic departments. It is no mystery that football makes it possible to offer students a variety of scholarship and competitive opportunities across the athletic spectrum. However, this symbiotic relationship in most cases is contingent on the fact that television ratings remain steady and the subsequent revenue is divided and allocated to each institution within a conference. While, the NFL has scene a sharp decline in viewership due to egregious off-field policy and less than savory distractions, the NCAA has been able to stay relatively buoyant as a result of the creation of the college football playoffs and a style of play which caters to a large fan base. Though the ratings trends increased steadily at the beginning of the decade, the 2016 season saw about a 1% decline in viewers. This fact and dwindling advertising revenue prompted broadcast giant ESPN to terminate dozens of on-air and editorial positions, and almost completely eliminate specific regional CFB coverage and content- a sign that overall interest in the sport has reached a stagnant plateau. Attendance, which at one time was a major source of positive dollars, is now an obscure concept except with traditional fan bases, ironically due to the schizophrenic schedule of game times required to accommodate the robust and lucrative weekly slate of match-ups. Thus, if ratings take a perceptible dive and cannot fund the entire athletic infrastructure, how does the landscape of college athletics remain recognizable?
The other aspect dictating the plausible tedious future of college football, is the role that administration plays and the political environment of the campus in allowing for athletic competitive ventures. With the reality of the wildfire of liberalization within institutions and the prevalence of political correctness, the role of athletics, especially those offering scholarships to male student athletes, are under constant scrutiny from various faculty members and counter cultural movements. Even at a traditional football school with deep ties to the Southwest, Midwest, and Texas, could the disturbing confluence of activism and blind idealism from public institutions on both coasts possibly reach the area surrounding Oklahoma City and spell doom for a sport largely funded by corporate television dollars? There exists a tangible element of risk for an individual demanding almost as much public criticism and scrutiny as a politician. In many instances, college head football coaches are the highest paid state employees and open to constant dialogue across all levels. Is the pressure to win, along with the newly adopted pressure to conform worth, a lucrative amount of compensation when weighed against the comfort of sanity and privacy. It may be reach the point where coaches have to begin every press conference with and apology for offending a self-identified group of people.
Stoops included an eloquent bible quote in his official statement released to the public that may be foretelling, “To everything there is a season, and a time to every person under the heaven.” He also mentioned the strides made within the athletic department during his tenure. While the simple interpretation is to hold credence to his explanation as to the intersection between temporal perfection and the reality of reaching the summit of possible achievement in Norman, there exists a complex framework of reasoning based on circumnavigating the insidious. Coach Stoops has not reached the status of a prophet, but when one of the most successful and icons of a major college sport suddenly “goes off into the good night,” something is definitely amiss.
Read the full Fox Sports article here.