IF YOU WERE going to start your own college football factory — which might not be a bad idea, given the revenue streams these days — Bob Stoops should be on your short list. He has everything you’d want in a coach, unless a prickly side is a sticking point.
Granted, the condition is usually irritated by sportswriters. An occupational hazard. They pose the most aggravating questions, such as the other day in Tulsa when Stoops was asked about the “gap” between SEC football and everybody else this side of the NFL.
You know you’ve touched a nerve with Stoops when the eyes flash and chin rises. He’ll make a case, then turn the tables on his questioner by saying, “You tell me,” each word delivered like a dart. Once he called and apologized for making such a response. I told him he shouldn’t have bothered, because it’s great theater.
Besides, Stoops is competitive, which usually is a good thing. But it became an issue this week when he told a Tulsa sportswriter that just because the SEC keeps winning BCS titles “doesn’t mean everything else is always the best.” Noting the bottom of the league, he said, “Half of ’em haven’t done much at all.”
“So,” Stoops told the sportswriter, “you’re listening to a lot of propaganda.”
Yes, Bob, he certainly was.
Let me concede that, like Stoops, many of us may suffer from SEC-fatigue. We hear and read about it so much, a backlash was only natural, no matter what your allegiances.
Most of us don’t like to be constantly reminded of someone else’s success. It’s why we don’t live with our in-laws.
But as hard as they may be to swallow, facts are facts, Bob, and there’s no propaganda here:
The SEC has won a galactic-record seven national titles in a row, and eight of the past 10. You might remember the first of the eight, Bob. That was you against LSU in the Superdome.
Four SEC teams won the eight titles. Over the past 13 years, two Big 12 teams have won it all. Talk about top-heavy leagues.
Last season, the top six teams in the SEC were 30-0 against the bottom eight, which would seem to support Stoops’ theory about overall strength. Until you consider that those top six teams finished in the top 14 spots of the final AP poll. With so many powerhouses to play every week, the bottom is bound to suffer.
Four of the five SEC teams that didn’t go to a bowl game last year? Missouri, Auburn, Arkansas and Tennessee. Not exactly lightweights. Auburn won a national title a couple of years ago, Tennessee is only a good coach away from returning to national prominence, and Arkansas might have made a run last year if Bobby Petrino could stay off motorcycles. The fifth team was Kentucky, a basketball school. The Big 12 has one, too. It’s called Kansas.
Judging on talent alone, which is also how teams win, consider that a record 63 SEC players were taken in the NFL draft, which was a quarter of the players chosen overall and twice as many as any other league. Jerry Jones took one, and not until the sixth round. Maybe this tells you all you need to know.
Not to get too personal, Bob, but you haven’t beaten an SEC team in 10 years, since before Nick Saban reinvented Alabama. You’ve lost to LSU and Florida in national title games, and you got rolled by Johnny Football in JerryWorld. He’s probably still running wild in your nightmares.
You can hate the SEC because it always dominates the football conversation, but you can’t knock the football. All you have to do to appreciate it is watch.