At OU, athletics and academics can work together very nicely
BY DAVE SITTLER World Sports Columnist
Thursday, June 25, 2009
6/25/09 at 3:22 AM
Related story: Stoops contract: $5 million by 2011.
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DAVID BOREN and Joe Castiglione pulled off a play so slick Wednesday that it would make Boise State proud.
The problem, however, is that many Oklahoma fans who vividly remember the tricks Boise State used to upset the Sooners in the 2007 Fiesta Bowl, won't even notice the most deft maneuver the Boren-Castiglione combo pulled off.
Not surprisingly, the headline-grabbing news coming out of yesterday's OU Board of Regents meeting in Ardmore was this: "Stoops is college football's $5 million man."
Equally not surprising was that this headline didn't receive similar attention: "OU athletics give $3 million to academics."
That's the way the media game has always been played. If you want to attract readers and viewers, you go with sexy over substance.
So, what about 99.999 percent of this nation's sports world will recall from the regents' actions is that Bob Stoops is gaining fast on Alabama's Nick Saban when it comes to highest-paid college football coach.
Saban is still the leader in the locker room with that eight-year, $32 million deal the Tide gave him two years ago. But Stoops is closing fast, thanks to yesterday's extension, which is worth $30.125 million over seven years.
Boren and Castiglione one-upped Alabama, however, with a hook-and-lateral play similar to what Boise State executed in the 43-42 overtime win over the Sooners.
The hook was Castiglione coming up with an extra $3 million that he lateraled to Boren. The OU president then ran with it all the way to the regents meetings, where he proudly announced that the athletic department's generosity "helped the university avoid tuition increases for students and layoffs of faculty and staff."
That sound of silence you hear is from those critics who were loaded for bear when they first heard about Stoops' raise. Boren's revelation of the impact Castiglione's department had on the entire university was a polite way of telling those critics to "shut up."
Not even the Statue of Liberty play or the halfback pass Boise State pulled on the Sooners in that instant classic contest were anymore effective than the Boren-Castiglione game plan.
How are you going to rip an athletic department that will now give $7 million this year to OU academics? It's also one of the very few college athletic operations in this country that is totally self-sustaining, receiving no subsidy from state-appropriated funds and no student fees.
Here's the kicker: This isn't the first year that Sooner athletics gave money to Sooner academics. While the majority of universities in this country are forced to subsidize athletics, OU has been doing the opposite by quietly giving at least $2.5 million a year for non-athletics academic enhancement since 2003.
Stoops' success is the major reason OU's athletic department not only operates in the black, but has enough left over to make a significant difference to the rest of the university.
The national media has ignored the athletic department's multi-million dollar contributions to academics to scream about OU being one of those schools that has sent coaches salaries spiraling out of control.
Not true. If OU is guilty of anything, it's that the Sooners are determined not to lose the arms race that is raging in college athletics. Alabama upped the ante with the whopping deal it put together to entice Saban to leave Miami and the NFL for Tuscaloosa.
"(Alabama) just wrecked the salary structure," Castiglione said earlier this week. "Because, honestly, I think at that point, while the salaries were still high, there was a little bit of rhythm to it.
"The increases were more gradual, more incremental, more along the lines that a school could plan for them."
Then Alabama changed the marketplace. And if schools like OU wanted to remain football powerhouses, they had to come up with the revenue to pay coaches who are in high demand.
"Nobody is sitting here saying the (current) marketplace is the greatest situation ever," Castiglione said. "But it is a factor that we have to consider. And if we're not taking care of our coaches, there's always somebody out there willing to step in for us."
The pundits will point out that Stoops has lost five straight BCS bowls and is 1-3 in national championship games. But how many other coaches out there have been in even one national title game, let alone four?
"I know people will say: 'Well, Bob didn't win the national championship game,' " Castiglione said of OU's loss to Florida in January's title contest. "But there is not a coach in America that I would rather have on our campus than Bob Stoops. Of course there is disappointment over that (BCS) loss. But when you put the whole package together the guy is off the charts.
"Some day we'll have to go find somebody to fill (Stoops') job. But, boy, you don't want that day to come any time too soon, because there are not a lot of Bob Stoopses out there."
And so to keep the Bob Stoops they already have, while also silencing their critics, Boren and Castiglione created headlines by pulling off one of the all-time Hail Marys.