NORMAN, Okla (KSWO) - It's hard to remember a time when Oklahoma wasn't a national football power. That might be easiest way to sum up what Bob Stoops has meant to OU. He arrived in Norman in 1999, and took over a program that hadn't finished with a winning record in six years. All Stoops did was deliver eighteen winning seasons... ten Big 12 titles and one National Championship. That magical run came to an end on Wednesday with a stunning announcement.
"Yes, I'm stepping down after eighteen years as the head football coach here at Oklahoma," Stoops said. "I feel like I've been absolutely the luckiest, most fortunate guy in the world. I've been incredibly blessed to experience what we have over the last eighteen and a half years."
That news sent shock-waves through the Sooner State. Fans, media and even those in the OU program were in a state of disbelief.
"When he told me I was a little bit shocked like you all," said OU defensive coordinator Mike Stoops. "It was probably two weeks when he told me what he was thinking. I was certainly hoping he would change his mind. It was hard. It's different for me. We've been through a lot."
"I don't think any of us besides Coach Stoops and his family knew it was coming, that he was thinking about it. So it was very surprising for us," said senior quarterback Baker Mayfield. "After hearing him talk, you've got to understand it. I mean he's been here for so long. Head coach is a stressful job and it takes a lot out of you. He knows that he can step down right now and it's not going to make this program destruct or go downhill whatsoever."
For most, the timing of this blockbuster news seemed odd. The Sooners have won the last two conference championships. And they just built a multi-million-dollar locker room and training facility that will almost certainly give them a big boost in recruiting. For Stoops, that's what made this the perfect time to step away.
"I didn't want to miss the right opportunity to be able to step away and hand this baton off to Lincoln Riley and to help this all just keep going in a great direction," Stoops said. "When you look at all of the positives just coming off the last couple of years, we just moved in to a state of the art building, the coaches all being in place that have proven themselves to be excellent coaches. The recruiting class, excellent team coming back. It was the right opportunity to be able to seamless transition and that was important to me."
"Very few people make that decision on when it is time to go. And I would say that I've never seen it made with greater unselfishness and greater concern, not for himself mainly, but for the good of the institution and the strength of this program," OU President David Boren said. "He has decided to hand on this program to new leadership at a time when it has never been stronger."
"He gave me a chance a few years ago that I'll never forget. His guidance has been incredible. To be the guy to take over for him is an incredible honor," said new head coach Lincoln Riley.
Riley, at just 33-years of age, now has some huge shoes to fill. Stoops steps away as OU's all-time winningest coach. He averaged ten and a half wins per season. The word mentioned most in Norman on this day was bittersweet. But the one person who did not use that term was Stoops himself.
"To everything there is a season you know? And it's time. And that's okay. I feel more grateful and appreciative and blessed that I had 18 and a half years doing this with great people, a great fan base, and an incredible, legendary school," he said.