Aside from a brief online statement, Mike Stoops went publicly silent after being fired as Oklahoma’s defensive coordinator.
He had a lot to say Wednesday.
A candid, relaxed Stoops spoke for 20 minutes with former OU defensive lineman Dusty Dvoracek on the Sports Animal’s Monsters of the Midday radio show.
Stoops later called the station again a few hours later, but this time to confront radio host Jim Traber about reports he’d made earlier in the week, which Stoops had deemed inaccurate.
It was a lot to take in.
Stoops confirmed to Dvoracek that OU coach Lincoln Riley dismissed him on Sunday. Stoops dispelled rumors that it was on the recommendation of OU president James Gallogly or athletic director Joe Castiglione.
Stoops said “everything kind of came to a head Saturday” after OU’s 48-45 loss to Texas.
“After the game, we [Stoops and Riley] hugged each other. I told him how sorry I was and we hugged each other, walked out of the locker room, we went and said we would talk on Sunday,” Stoops said. “We talked Sunday morning for about a half-hour. Talked about some of the issues, what happened … We left each other, talked about the future, what's gonna be best for our program. We talked about five, six hours later and came to this conclusion. That's exactly what happened.”
Stoops used the word “ludicrous” to describe rumors that he and linebacker Curtis Bolton got into a physical altercation at halftime of the OU-Texas game. A FOX 25 photojournalist reported seeing Bolton walking out of the Cotton Bowl tunnel and into the State Fair of Texas before two players pulled him back in.
The locker room rumor was Stoops’ main point of contention when he phoned Traber, who reported on his show that Stoops and Bolton got physical at halftime. Stoops challenged Traber’s acccount and they engaged in a contentious back-and-forth before eventually smoothing things over.
“Whoever would report such an erroneous situation and defame me and him is beyond ridiculousness. That hurts as well,” Stoops told Dvoracek earlier. “I didn't say one word to Curtis at halftime, didn't even know he left. Didn't know until after the game. That's how crazy that is. Lincoln was upset, rightfully so, at our performance and he did most of the talking. Again, that's just 100 percent false.”
Speaking with one of his former players in Dvoracek, Stoops seemed at peace with the circumstances given how difficult they are. Riley had a tough choice to make, Stoops admitted.
“Me and [Riley] will always be friends,” Stoops said. “It was a great three and a half years together. He couldn’t have been kinder to me. His family loved me.”
Stoops’ time in Norman spanned multiple eras. He coached OU’s defense from 1999-2003 — which included winning the national championship in 2000 — then again from 2013 until now. But he said it’s been “very uncomfortable for me the last few years,” as his units have regressed.
Tuesday, freshman defensive back Brendan Radley-Hiles tweeted, then later deleted, this message: “It’s different when you love the coach you playin for…” with a happy birthday wish to interim defensive coordinator Ruffin McNeill.
Dvoracek referenced the tweet and asked Stoops if there had been a disconnect between he and players from this generation. Stoops said young people have changed, that he noticed it in 2012 even with a great secondary group of Tony Jefferson, Demontre Hurst, Aaron Colvin and Zack Sanchez.
“Those guys, they were the first group that I started to notice that they were a little bit different,” Stoops said. “They had their own ideas and thoughts and identities. They still played to a very high level when we pushed them to go out there and perform. … I'm a stickler to detail and being precise in everything you do. Maybe that just wears on players. I still believe it's the right way to approach any game.”
The future awaits Stoops.
According to his contract, which was released to The Norman Transcript through an open records request, OU owes him a base salary of $22,917 per month plus an additional $2,000 per month for health care and other expenses until the end of his deal. It expires Jan. 31, 2020.
Stoops’ base salary equals $275,000 annually, but he was set to make $950,000 per year including personal services, appearances and a $50,000 stay benefit. He is also not eligible for incentive bonuses should OU reach the Big 12 championship or College Football Playoff.
What’s next for him?
Stoops told the station it’s too probably soon to start coordinating defenses again. He suggested the possibility of working in the media or serving as an understudy to someone like Alabama’s Nick Saban or Georgia’s Kirby Smart: “Somebody of that magnitude and trying to rethink, relearn, reteach,” he said.
“I just want to rest, get healthy. It’s been a great strain on all of us, my whole family,” Stoops said. “Just want to rest, heal, reflect and see where it takes me. I really don’t know. I would say I’m in the same situation Bob [Stoops, brother] is in. I don’t know. I could see myself doing a lot of different things.”