NORMAN, Okla. — Bob Stoops knew there was little time to waste when he became Oklahoma’s head football coach in 1998. The Sooners were swooning from an unfamiliar losing era.
So, he got to work. OU had its first winning record in five seasons by 1999 and won the national championship in the coach’s second year at the helm in 2000.
Stoops went on to become the program’s winningest coach, with a 190-48 record and 10 conference championships before retiring in 2017.
When it came to winning, he was impatient. That has led to Monday, where Stoops and OU softball coach will Patty Gasso will be inducted into the Oklahoma Sports Hall of Fame at Riverwind Casino.
An urge to succeed still runs through Stoops’ body, even in recreation. OU coach Lincoln Riley illustrated that with a story of a fishing trip the two shared with some friends.
Stoops has never been a big fisherman, Riley explained. As the group began casting lines into the water, Riley quickly caught a few fish. So did a few others on another boat nearby. Clarke Stroud, who is Riley’s director of operations, was celebrating loudly with each catch.
“We had probably fished for about an hour and Bob hadn’t caught a fish,” Riley said. “He’s not always the most patient guy, so I can tell he’s starting to get antsy back there.
“All of a sudden, bam, his line hits. He reels one in. We’re all pumped. I’m yelling at him. Not 30 seconds later, we get the fish put on the stringer, we get going again. Bam. His line hits. He gets another one. After an hour of being completely quiet, and I think probably bored and ready to leave, he was like, ‘Man, this fishing stuff is fun!’”
It’s fitting Stoops and Gasso will share the limelight. They’re OU's two most successful coaches ever. Gasso is 1,260-333-2 with the Sooners to go with four national championships.
Stoops’ rise and the Sooners’ return to football prominence helped pave the way for programs and other athletic infrastructure beyond the gridiron. It coincided with efficient management by athletic director Joe Castiglione, and the department became financially self-sufficient.
Gasso and Stoops continue their impact at the school today.
OU softball has won the national title twice since 2016, and was on the doorstep of another this past spring. Stoops maintains a small role within the athletic department as he pursues a coaching opportunity in the XFL, which has yet to officially re-launch after going dormant since its one season of existence in 2001.
Fishing might have tested Stoops’ patience. But he was no stranger to big catches with the Sooners. One of his most important was landing Riley as offensive coordinator in 2015.
Riley became the perfect choice as successor when Stoops stepped away; he is 24-4 in two seasons with two College Football Playoff appearances.
“He was up there today – with the guys, going out to practices,” Riley said of Stoops. “His presence out here, of course, still means a great deal to all of us.”
Oklahoma Sports Hall of Fame 2019 class