Nov. 29—Oklahoma football is reeling.
It's a hard truth to hear.
You may already know that. On the other hand, you may be in denial.
But embrace it — at least for a couple of interesting weeks ahead. It's going to last at least that long.
For those who are in denial, it's been what — 1946? — since the program lost a head football coach to a lateral job?
Think about that.
There's no quick-file for dealing with it.
Lincoln Riley's gone, gone apparently with his defensive coordinator, his strength and conditioning coach, his receivers coach and director of operations. He likely has a good idea how many current players with the new transfer rules, not to mention commitments who in the end, were really committed to Riley than Oklahoma.
Cue Caleb Williams' exit, perhaps? Nothing is certain. Who ever knew Spencer Rattler might survive all this here despite reports of him having entered the transfer portal on Monday?
All the chaos.
Does Bob Stoops, who will coach the bowl game, reach out to Norman Public Schools or the Fox Sports studio for temporary staffers? Or is he the guy who comes back to save the program altogether?
Joe Castiglione is on the clock. Does the athletic director make the quick hire? With the names being tossed about — Luke Fickell at Cincinnati, Matt Rhule at Carolina — guys who are smack in the middle of a really inopportune time themselves? Fickell, for at least a week, doesn't know if Cincinnati will be in the College Football Playoff. Ruhle is in the stretch run of a season at Carolina in the middle of a quarterback transition with playoff hopes.
Brent Venables may have less on his plate. Clemson isn't in the playoff. How about Seth Littrell at North Texas? Or Mark Stoops at Kentucky?
Monday was the first day of in-home visits for the December signing period — forget how ill-advised an in-season signing period was to come up with. Time for 2022 is short.
As we investigate the cause of this chaos, two things have been bandied about. One thought was, Riley was unhappy with the compliance structure at Oklahoma as it related to recruiting. Two, and perhaps in part because of one, he wasn't keen on the idea of competing in the SEC (which, maybe, especially now, a delay until 2025 might help given the immediate scenario).
If two, then see ya Linc.
And that in itself might be the pathway to optimism.
Someone out there wants to take that shot. Joe C no doubt is on the phone with some of those and has his own idea of who best to take that shot.
But it isn't going to be easy. Roster holes will be significant. Challenges await.
Here's a starting point, and a lesson going forward.
Riley's recruiting push has been about as broad-based geographically as it could get, with as many four- and five-stars as one could wish for.
What he couldn't do, and Stoops did just once and very early, is win a national title with all that talent.
Harken back to Stoops' signature year.
Sixty-four on the 2000 roster were from Oklahoma.
The 2021 edition? 23.
There's something to be said about culture, the core energy from which an identity unfolds. As good as Caleb Williams may be as a quarterback, a quarterback out of the District of Columbia rarely would grow up dreaming of wearing crimson or orange.
Sure, those dreamers need to be able to play the game well, and not only well, but at the highest level.
But can a three-star kid raise his game because of a love for belonging to a school
But does living a dream energize more from the realization of a link to a long-term dream, or just hooking up a coach who can get you ready for the next level?
You can be an NFL training facility, but even that requires a cultural build. Only Nick Saban has perfected that.
A few years ago, off the success that got it into the Big 12 and sustained early success in the Big 12, then-TCU head coach Gary Patterson and staff had a "retreat" of sorts with Saban and members of his staff about studying their recruiting process with the idea of learning how to recruit the five-stars. TCU in the subsequent years picked up several.
TCU, hardly OU, has now missed a bowl the last three seasons (last year they qualified, but COVID knocked them out of it).
But is that a lesson? Is 2000 enough of a lesson?
Littrell, the former Rougher, knows 2000 well.
It's easier to find the talent among those who have always wanted to be a part of who you are. Today's college culture with open transfer has all the tools for kids to treat loyalty with a whim. There's got to be something to tug at the heart of a kid that's more than what can you do for me now.
Oklahoma State will go play for a Big 12 title with 46 Oklahomans.
It's something to think about, Joe.
Go ahead. You've got work to do. Stabilize things with the right head coach hire first. But this might be a point of conversation in getting there.