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August 17, 2011

Q-and-A: Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops

Big expectations are nothing new for coach Bob Stoops and Oklahoma.

Stoops has led the Sooners to seven Big 12 titles, four national title games and the 2000 BCS crown, forging a 129-31 overall record and a 78-18 conference mark in Norman.

This season's team is primed to add to that glistening resume. The Sooners are loaded, especially an offense led by Heisman-contending quarterback Landry Jones. That's why Oklahoma is the preseason No. 1 team in the coaches' poll.

Any team that wins a championship must overcome adversity. And it already has struck Oklahoma. Star linebacker Travis Lewis suffered a foot injury that will keep him out for at least the first month of the season. He led OU in tackles in each of the past three seasons and is the defense's inspirational leader and top talent.

"We're disappointed for Travis," Stoops said. "He has worked very hard, and I know he'll want to get back as quickly as possible."

Still, optimism bubbles in Norman for a Sooners teams that faces a big test Sept. 17, when it visits Florida State in what will be one of the top non-conference games of the season.

Rivals.com recently spoke to Stoops about a variety of subjects.

Do you care that you will open the season No. 1?

"At the end of the day, all that matters is the work you do and what you do when the season comes around. I get it. They are out to get people reading and to sell magazines, but it doesn't do anything to us."

What do you think of playing nine conference games in the new Big 12?

"We have traditionally played a difficult non-conference schedule. So for us, it doesn't really change much to have another conference game. Maybe for some teams that have been scheduling four very easy games, it changes for them. But that hasn't been the case for us.

"At the end of the day, it's probably good for us. I think the hard part will be determining bowl eligibility at the end of the year. Are you hurting yourself by cannibalizing yourself? It's one more loss for the league."

Will you miss having a league title game?

"The years when you are undefeated and looking at a national championship, it would be nice not to have one. In the years when you aren't in the title hunt, like last year, playing Nebraska was really exciting and the highlight of the year. So I am kind of mixed on it."

Do you think the Big 12 will stay at 10 teams?

"Whatever they feel. I'm sure getting to 12 would be a positive, provided it would be the right markets and people who bring more to the league. I trust our leadership in the league between presidents, athletic directors and the conference office to know what's right for us."

With Nebraska off to the Big Ten, will you miss the rivalry with the Huskers?

"It is disappointing. It's always exciting playing them. The fans from both sides always get excited about it. There are a lot of great memories and a lot of great games. It's unfortunate that we don't have it anymore. We played a great game in the Big 12 championship last season."

If you could change any rule in the game, what would you alter?

"I don't think our overtime is very fair in that it doesn't reward defense. You are giving teams the ball in field-goal range. Then it just gets down to field-goal kickers - or it can.

"But I feel you should have to earn the field goal, too. That's why I think the ball should be put at the 45-yard line. And you would have to earn your three points. I think it would shorten games as opposed to just trading field goals. This way, if you are playing great defense, you don't give the other team the opportunity with the field goal. You will make them earn it by gaining 10 yards or more to get into field-goal position."

"It is disappointing. It's always exciting playing them. The fans from both sides always get excited about it. There are a lot of great memories and a lot of great games. It's unfortunate that we don't have it anymore.
- Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops,
on no longer playing Nebraska
There's a perception that college football is out of control, with several high-profile schools in NCAA trouble. What do you think could be done to better control the sport?

"All circumstances are different. I think it's obvious that they are being policed because there are things being found out. As much as anything, players, as well, need to be accountable. It is being found out. And when it is, it's being dealt with. You have to continue to do things the right way, players and coaches."

Is it asking too much for a coach to watch more than 100 players on his roster?

"I think it is. To think that we are going to be there for every single guy isn't realistic. But I think what is realistic for us, when we do know of things, to discipline them and provide the right guidance and right discipline and direction."

You have to face Florida State for a second year in a year, which means you will battle brother Mark Stoops, who is the Seminoles' defensive coordinator. Why are you so opposed to playing your brothers?

"Obviously because someone has to lose. Unless it's a championship game, that's no good."

Landry Jones is being mentioned as a Heisman candidate. Can he be as good as some of your other quarterbacks, like Sam Bradford, Josh Heupel and Jason White?

"There is no question. He is made the same way as those guys are in that he's a humble, hard worker, very driven player. He's incredibly talented, has a big arm, is bright; he has all of the intangibles our other great quarterbacks have had. And he's right in the same mold. They way he throws the football, the way he leads, his demeanor. He is on his way to being one of those special guys in the company of the great ones we have had here.

"Look at him last year; statistically, he was ahead of a lot of them. So he has a chance to be really special."

Do you have any areas you are worried about on this season's team?

"I don't know about 'worried.' But us as coaches don't talk often enough that these guys are just college players. They all need to get better. There's a lot of maturing and gaining strength and speed through the summer, working technique. So, to me, it's polishing everything up so they continue to develop and reach their potential. These are all young players and we had a really young team last year. As much as anything, it's continuing to develop as players."

You are a good friend of former Kansas coach Mark Mangino, who used to be on your staff. Do you think he'll coach again?

"He will, definitely. He'll definitely get back in. He spent about eight days out here in the spring sitting in our meetings and watching practice. He's still as sharp as ever. I'm sure he'll have opportunities."

Would you hire him?

"In the right situation, sure."

Do you think former Texas Tech coach Mike Leach, another former OU assistant, will get back into coaching?

"Of course, definitely. He's another bright guy who, in the right situation, will do well. I'm sure it's to come in the right time."

When you took this job in 1999, did you think you would be here this long?

You never know. In this profession, people always ask for a long-term projection. I never have been one to look that far out. To me, it's all about year to year. You are grinding from one year to the next just to try to make improvement. And you don't know from year to year your family situation, your administration, your president and athletic director and changes. So, a lot affects your job in different ways.

"I have been fortunate for all of that to have gone so well. I've really been pleased, always excited about the coming year here. I've had the same president and athletic director going on 13 years. I have been fortunate to be in a very strong and stable situation that has been fun and great to coach in."

Do you think you'll retire from Oklahoma?

"I'm only 50, so I'm a long way from that. You never know. I don't get that far out. The administration can change, family situations can dictate something, so you never know. Right now, I'm really excited about what we are doing and the direction we are going."

Are you going to coach until you are 80?

"I hope not. That is something I do not see me doing."

Tom Dienhart is a national senior writer for Rivals.com. He can be reached at dienhart@yahoo-inc.com, and you can click here to follow him on Twitter.

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