When we learned Bob Stoops had hired Hal Mumme to coordinate his Dallas XFL offense a couple days ago, we thought immediately of their connection. Of course we did, since Stoops hired Mumme protégé Mike Leach off Mumme’s Kentucky staff 20 years ago, and in doing so assured Mumme’s Air Raid offense would change the direction of college football.
But there is more to that connection than a 20-year-old snap decision. There is much more to Stoops and Mumme than that Leach hire. That makes this the first worthy story of XFL 2.0.
“Bob has been a friend for 20 or 30 years, since he was at Florida as the defensive coordinator,” the 67-year-old Mumme said by phone Friday morning. “When we were at Kentucky (from 1997-2000), there were a lot of people who thought we had a cute little offense. Bob was the first guy who wasn’t on our staff who was a true believer. We’ve been close since.”
It’s not just that Stoops plucked Leach from Mumme to run his first Oklahoma offense – Mumme encouraged Leach to go to OU so he could escape Mumme’s shadow, something that was harming Leach in head coaching interviews at the time – it’s that he continued to use Mumme for counsel.
“They had that really good first year at OU, Leach got the job at Texas Tech and Bob reached out again,” Mumme said, “asking if he could send Mark Mangino and Chuck Long (about to take over as OU offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach, respectively) over to Kentucky to study and hang out, because he wanted to keep doing our offense.”
Stoops and Mumme stayed in touch through the years, Mumme popping into Norman now and then or helping the Sooners with camps while he was head coach at McMurry University in Abilene, Texas, a decade ago.
Facing a crossroads after OU’s dispiriting 2014 season, Stoops sought Mumme’s counsel again.
“He called and said, ‘How come everybody in our conference can run our offense better than we run it?’” Mumme recalled with a chuckle. “He said, ‘I’m making a change. Who do you think I should talk to?’”
Mumme offered Stoops a few names. One of the ones already on Stoops’ radar: Lincoln Riley.
“I had followed Lincoln since he was a GA with Leach at Tech. I’ve known him forever. I knew he was really bright, and he was doing a great job at East Carolina. I said, ‘If I was in your shoes …’”
Even before Riley helped revive the Sooners, Mumme found it remarkable Stoops had the success he did for as long as he did in Norman. His respect grew with Stoops’ tenure, to the point that every time Stoops’ name came up for an NFL job …
“I’d tell him, ‘Hey Bob, y’know, when you go to the Browns, don’t forget about me,’” Mumme said, giggling again. “‘I’d like to do this with you.’”
Mumme appreciated Stoops as much as Stoops appreciated Mumme during those late ’90s SEC years.
“He drove us crazy,” Mumme said. “We had to make every single play or we wouldn’t even have a chance. They were so good. Bob was just so sound.
“They had players, plus they had Bob Stoops calling the defense. I mean, they were just … Yeah … (chuckle) … They were really hard to deal with.”
Perhaps it was inevitable this quarter-century mutual admiration would come to a head. It happened, officially, last week.
Mumme had a dalliance with the Memphis Alliance of American Football franchise last fall. When that fell apart, he sought XFL commissioner Oliver Luck.
Mumme had been a fan of the old USFL. He figured if that spring league could attract a following, even temporarily, with investors and a TV contract behind it, Luck’s spring league could.
“We started talking about me being involved with the XFL and looking for the right deal,” Mumme said. “Then after Christmas, Oliver hired Bob. That was kind of the perfect fit. …
“When he got the job and he called and asked me if I’d do it, I said, ‘Yeah, when do you want me there?’ He didn’t have to talk me into it, that’s for sure.”
The two of them just had their first staff meeting in Dallas. Who knows where it goes from here, whether the team will win or the league will even survive.
If nothing else, the league brought Stoops and Mumme together after all these years. At least it gave us a pretty cool story.
“We’ve always kind of known we could work together,” Mumme said. “We just didn’t know if there would be an opportunity.”
Now that it’s happening?
“Bob has always been a really good friend,” Mumme said. “I want to do real well for him. He deserves that.”