NORMAN — Lincoln Riley and Bob Stoops were in the car together Monday morning, riding over to attend events for OU president designate James Gallogly.
As Stoops and Riley parked and opened their car doors, they looked over and saw someone else getting out of the car at the same time. There were a few awkward glances, trying to place each other in the fog of the morning.
Then it clicked.
“We actually were the first ones to meet him,” Riley said. “Had a real good talk with him right there in the garage. Seemed like a great guy. I think the university, the regents made a great hire. Loved how personable he was.”
Gallogly (who will take over for David Boren as OU’s president on July 1) ended up getting Riley and Stoops in to a breakfast event through the back kitchen door. Stoops made a joke. That’s what it’s like when you travel with the president.
A few hours later, when Gallogly was officially introduced in front of students, staff, faculty, and alumni, Riley and Stoops stood only a few feet to his left as he closed his inaugural speech.
Gallogly talked about love for his school, and at the University of Oklahoma, that tends to be synonymous with a love for football.
“If we lose a game or two, I’m just as upset as you,” Gallogly told the audience.
When Gallogly mentioned losing football games, Riley turned and whispered something in Stoops’ ear.
For Riley, it was another reminder of the expectations of winning at OU.
For Gallogly, it might have been an early moment in an important relationship.
A university president’s job is to first and foremost create a diverse and thriving academic environment. Doing that takes a lot of different skills. Working with donors and politicians and professors alike.
But at a school such as Oklahoma, and when replacing a man such as Boren, playing a role in intercollegiate athletics is part of the job, too.
“I think that’s been a big part of the previous success, was the relationship between Bob and Joe (Castiglione) and President Boren, how well they all worked together,” Riley said.
So how will Gallogly handle it?
“One thing I know is I cannot compete with some of the outstanding coaches we have at this university,” Gallogly said. “I am not going to be telling them how to call the next play. They do their job very, very well. I will say this: We’ll continue to ask them to be champions. And I have no doubt that we will meet that objective.”
When Boren first became OU’s president, he said he thought it was dangerous to put too much influence on athletics. By the end of Boren’s tenure, he appreciated the importance of sports, how they are tied to a school’s culture and reputation, how they provide opportunities for athletes from a wide array of backgrounds.
From the hirings of Castiglione and Stoops to his outspoken reputation as chairman of Big 12 Board of Directors, sports became part of Boren’s immense legacy.
Already, Gallogly says he plans to speak with Boren about the future of conference alignment.
“We’ll be heavily involved with that, because the Big 12 is an important part of our university,” Gallogly said. “I have a lot of people to talk to to get their perspectives on these issues. David will be one of the very first ones that I do talk to. It’s an important part of how we bring funding to the University of Oklahoma. We are going to continue to be great at our athletics, but also our academics.”
For the first time in his lengthy tenure at OU, athletic director Joe Castiglione will be working with a different president. That has to be strange for Castiglione, who is now the last working member of the triumvirate of himself, Stoops and Boren.
“That’s not really a question I was prepared to answer,” Castiglione said with a laugh when he got asked about it Monday.
But Castiglione has handled transition before at Missouri and even upon coming to OU. He says he has briefly spoken to Gallogly at Sooner events over the years. And Monday morning, he was impressed with Gallogly’s knowledge of the state of OU athletics.
“I know that he’s not just a fan, but he follows what happens in intercollegiate athletics, and not just football,” Castiglione said. “Our conversation early this morning, he was very well-versed in everything that was taking place in our athletic program, how we’ve grown and what we need to do to continue our path of growth. This isn’t going to be a new thing for him to understand.
“I also felt good because we know where our place fits in the overall campus life and our culture and what we’re trying to do within intercollegiate athletics and how we want to reflect positively on the rest of the campus. In many cases, it provides a window to show all the other great things that are taking place on campus, that probably deserve a lot more attention than they get, otherwise.”
Gallogly was hired by the OU Board of Regents largely because of his experience in the corporate world, helping to manage and turn around two struggling oil and gas companies.
Castiglione seemed to say collaboration is the most important thing an athletic director needs from his president. That seems to be Gallogly’s No. 1 skill.
“He’ll get the right people in the right place doing the right things, just like we try to do with intercollegiate athletics,” Castiglione said. “There are a lot of experiences that will easily transfer. This will be a great transition.”