Sittler column: Red River rivals: Sooners, Bob Stoops float; Longhorns, Mack Brown sink
BY DAVE SITTLER World Sports Columnist
Tuesday, December 14, 2010
12/14/10 at 6:27 AM
Go to Dave Sittler's BlogOriginal Print Headline: Red River rivals: OU floats, UT sinks
THE CHRISTMAS gifts just keep on piling up under the Oklahoma football program's tree.
And who in the Sooner Nation would have dared to dream Santa Claus would turn out to be Texas coach Mack Brown?
Don't mess with Texas? No problem; Bevo is already knee-deep in a mess, created by Brown, that smells worse by the day.
The seamless staff transition Sooner coach Bob Stoops made Monday stands in stark contrast to the rocky situation that continues to unravel inside the UT coaches' offices.
The latest came when Texas got burned by its head-coach designate plan. Once that label was given to Will Muschamp, someone forgot to set a strict timetable for when UT's defensive coordinator would replace Brown.
Instead of handing out titles without any use-by dates, Stoops seemingly sent a subtle message yesterday about where OU is headed long-term. It came when he promoted Josh Heupel to co-offensive coordinator and entrusted his former quarterback with play-calling duties.
Without any promises or fancy labels, Stoops gave Heupel the opportunity to become his heir apparent. That could all change, of course, depending on when Stoops decides to retire or leave.
But let's assume Florida athletic director Jeremy Foley finally took a third "no" last week from Stoops as his final answer about any interest in coaching the Gators.
No matter that Stoops the Realtor told me you "can always sell a house." I think that $3.3 million mansion Stoops the coach is building in northwest Norman is a definitive sign he has found a permanent home, personally and professionally.
The 50-year-old Stoops could coach another decade and still retire with gobs of years left to devote to his golf game. And Heupel, 32, would have ample time to grow into the job and earn it.
Operating under that time frame, defensive coordinator Brent Venables will already be a head coach somewhere when Stoops steps down.
Ditto for Jay Norvell, who was promoted along with Heupel to the co-offensive coordinator position that opened last week when Kevin Wilson left for Indiana.
The changes ensure that the stability of Stoops' staff will continue without a major overhaul like it has for 12 seasons. The familiarity of promoting from within played a huge role in Stoops winning a national title and seven Big 12 championships with four offensive coordinators, two defensive coordinators and six quarterbacks.
Now compare that to the chaos Brown created because of two self-centered reasons: He wouldn't set a retirement date, and he initially blamed everyone but himself when the Longhorns' season started falling apart.
Only Muschamp knows for certain why he left one of the college game's best opportunities. But it's understandable if both factors weighed heavily Saturday night in his decision to take the Florida job.
Muschamp was obviously tired of waiting around for Brown to hang up his whistle. UT insiders have also said the fiery Muschamp wasn't pleased when his boss tossed all the assistants under the bus after a home loss to Iowa State.
In addition to his coaching acumen, Muschamp is considered a relentless recruiter. His departure is a positive development for OU and every Big 12 school that recruits in Texas and a definite negative in Brown's yearly quest to have recruiting wrapped up by Thanksgiving.
Muschamp makes the fourth coach who has either left on his own or was fired by Brown after the Longhorns' shocking 5-7 season. That includes offensive coordinator Greg Davis, who became one of his boss' scapegoats.
The shakeup in Austin might not be over. Muschamp reportedly is interested in making UT running backs coach Major Applewhite his offensive coordinator.
Brown will undoubtedly hire quality replacements. But it's critical that he hangs on to Applewhite, who has been a fan favorite since his days as the Longhorns' quarterback and team captain.
Applewhite has good reason not to trust Brown. After all, he's the same coach who wilted under pressure and benched Applewhite in favor of Chris Simms even though the offense was rolling.
Perhaps it's because they both desperately needed each other 12 years ago, but the Stoops-Heupel relationship has always been a smooth one of respect and loyalty.
Stoops needed a quarterback when he arrived at OU in December 1998, the same time Heupel needed a place that believed in him after a rocky start to his collegiate career.
That shotgun marriage resulted in OU going 13-0 two years later en route to winning the 2000 national championship and Heupel finishing runner-up in the Heisman Trophy race.
Stoops has deftly guided Heupel's coaching career much like the quarterback directed OU's offense in that magical 2000 season.
Heupel first joined Stoops' staff as a graduate assistant. And when a full-time position opened, Stoops raided his brother Mike's staff at Arizona to bring Heupel back home.
Has Stoops' latest move placed Heupel on a fast track to becoming his heir apparent? If he knows, Stoops would never reveal a part of the plan he has consistently used to keep his staff from dissolving into an unstable mess.