Dave Sittler: Brent Venables eager to tackle new challenge at Clemson
BY DAVE SITTLER World Sports Columnist
Saturday, January 21, 2012
1/21/12 at 4:50 AM
Go to Dave Sittler's BlogOriginal Print Headline: Venables eager to tackle new challenge at Clemson
ANY REASONABLE supporter of Oklahoma football who watched Brent Venables' introductory press conference Friday at Clemson had to be thrilled for the now former Sooner defensive coordinator.
It was obvious by references made throughout the 50-plus minute meeting with the media that this was a move Venables desperately wanted to happen.
Clemson coach Dabo Swinney acknowledged Venables' interest was strong from the outset. Within seconds after Swinney sent Venables a text asking if he wanted to discuss the job, the longtime OU assistant called him.
Swinney also thanked Venables' wife, Julie, for her assistance in convincing her husband that this was the right decision for his career and his family.
So if you read between the lines of those comments, it seems obvious Brent and Julie Venables had grown weary of dealing with ungrateful OU fans who don't have an ounce of "reasonable" in their DNA.
OU coach Bob Stoops and Venables tried hard for a week to paint this as a rosy situation. But when you hear a coach's wife thinks it's time to move on from the only home the couple's four children have known, you get a more accurate sense of things.
An original member of the first staff Stoops put together at OU in December 1998, Venables was more than a loyal soldier for 13 seasons. His work ethic and dedication in every facet of his job helped make Stoops a very wealthy man and brought the Sooners' proud program back from the brink of prolonged mediocrity.
Brent's only problem was that his last name was Venables instead of Stoops. So that made him an easy target for the critics whenever there was a defensive breakdown.
The Stoops brothers ascended to defensive sainthood in the Sooner Nation when OU won the BCS national title in their second season. Since defense was their area of expertise, they could do no wrong in the eyes of those who made Venables the target of their abuse.
Bob and Mike Stoops repeatedly attempted to convince OU fans that they considered Venables a brother. But those who needed a scapegoat never bought that family act.
So they were undoubtedly thrilled Friday to see Venables wearing some orange Clemson gear instead of OU colors. The way they figure it, Bob Stoops has solved his team's defensive problems by replacing Venables with Mike Stoops.
Venables' decision to cut ties with the brothers Stoops after more than 20 years together with one or the other or both at Kansas State and OU was unquestionably painful.
But it was Venables who initiated the painful breakup by reaching out to Swinney. And just two days after that first telephone conversation, Venables and his wife came away from a visit to Clemson last Sunday convinced they wanted to return.
"He (Venables) wanted this to happen," Swinney said.
And no matter how his OU critics want to slice it, Venables is the unquestioned winner because he made it happen.
Instead of losing half his coordinator title and all his power to Mike Stoops, Venables is in total charge of the Clemson defense. It's the same position he'd held solo for the eight years Mike Stoops was away attempting to become a head coach at Arizona.
In the process, Venables has taken a critical step toward his dream to become a head coach. Being away from both Stoops brothers for the first time as a coach, Venables will get the opportunity to demonstrate he played a much bigger role in that 2000 BCS national title run than his detractors want to believe.
While Venables told the Clemson media Friday that he wants "to be here a long time," his definition of "long" is probably different than most.
Venables had to realize he needed to add some Stoops-free work to his resume after he watched Kansas fill its head coaching vacancy.
Even though Venables is close friends with KU's athletic director, he never got a sniff for the job that went to Charlie Weis, a blowhard failure at Notre Dame who flamed out in one season as Florida's offensive coordinator.
Weis is still riding the coattails of New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick. He may have Super Bowl rings, but Weis' college experience is a joke when compared to Venables' accomplishments.
But helping Bob Stoops build his reputation instead of riding his boss's coattails apparently wasn't going to work for Venables like it did for Weis.
At 41, his head-coach clock is ticking. Sure, Venables is risking his future by leaving the security a job with Stoops provides for a challenge that could make or break his long-term goal.
But while his OU detractors wanted him to make this move, the key point is that Venables wanted it a whole lot more than they did.
That's why reasonable people are thrilled for Venables - Brent and Julie.
Brent Venables answers a question during an NCAA college football news conference where he was introduced as the new defensive coordinator at Clemson. MARK CRAMMER/AP Photo