Friday, January 09, 2009
Some Sanity, Please
In the aftermath of a loss in any big game in any sport, fans of that team come unglued. In this country, nowhere is that more apparent than in college football. Millions of fans buy tickets, travel long distances, and donate large sums of money to support the school of their choice. Coaches reap a lot of the benefit of that interest, with six and seven figure contracts to coach young men on their way to the NFL and/or college degrees. With the steep increase in pay comes a steep increase in expectations. While some of those expectations are warranted, some fans have outrageous demands that they place on coaches, much more than they experience in their everyday lives at their own jobs or with their own families.
I was reminded of this Thursday night, as my Oklahoma Sooners lost yet another national championship game, 24-14 to the Florida Gators. The sentiment I am about to explain is not limited to OU fans, but also applies to fans of Ohio State, Texas, Florida, or any other big-time college program you can name. Combined with the anonymity of the Internet, anyone with a computer and a Web connection can get behind a keyboard and post some hot but absolutely stupid opinions about any subject, including a great football coach.
OU has now lost five BCS bowl games in a row. It would be just as easy to insert Ohio State and Jim Tressel in this conversation, as they have lost three BCS bowl games in a row.
After Thursday night’s game, I visited a leading OU fan message board. There were some OU fans calling for the resignation of Bob Stoops. How asinine! Somebody was drinking too much. In the last ten years, Stoops has only won six conference championships, won one national championship, and played for three others. In addition, his teams’ success has resulted in unprecedented financial success for the OU athletic department. Yet for some, that’s not enough. Especially when said team has lost five BCS bowls in a row. Some fans expect a national championship every year, or their self-importance is wounded. Many of these are the same type of fans that jump on the bandwagon of whatever team happens to be good at the time. There is a good chance these people were nowhere to be seen when John Blake was leading the Sooners to records of 3-8 and 5-6, and Oklahoma had little hope of a return to national relevance. Many are derisively referred to by Oklahoma State fans as “Wal-Mart” Sooner fans, or fans that have never set foot on the campus but bought a shirt at Wal-Mart and adopted the team because they live there and the team is successful. Some of these types of fans, on the other hand, are actually graduates of the school. I cannot properly explain how silly this is. A newspaper writer in Oklahoma in the 1950’s explained it to his editor much better, though in a very politically incorrect way: “How much rice can a Chinaman eat?”
There should be reasonable expectations for a highly paid coach. Coaches like Bob Stoops, Texas’ Mack Brown, Ohio State’s Jim Tressel, and others like them are expected to contend for conference and national championships every year. That is reasonable when a coach is making upwards of 2 and 3 million dollars per year. At that level, consistent and consecutive seasons of 8-4, 7-5 or even worse are unacceptable. Just ask former Tennessee coach Phil Fulmer, among others. However, it is totally unreasonable and outrageous to expect a coach to win a national championship every year. It takes some good fortune on top of talent and strategy to actually win a national championship.
I’m not happy that OU is not currently successful in big-time bowls. However, I’m not willing to throw this group of coaches off the bridge because they had the audacity to lose big games.
Bob Stoops isn’t going anywhere. If he does, it’ll be on his own terms. To expect OU to force him out is a totally ridiculous idea, and isn’t going to happen.
Note: I didn’t go to OU. However, I have a college education, and have been on the OU campus more times than I can count, sometimes for academic reasons. I even went to games when John Blake was the head coach and the team often couldn’t line up properly. I’m not a Wal-Mart Sooner fan.