My original idea for this post was to take the most prominent names currently being discussed as possible replacements for Charlie Weis and lay out the relative pros and cons of each. As I began to do that, however, it became patently obvious that one coach brought far more to the table than any other - Oklahoma head coach, Bob Stoops. Before I begin to lay out the case for Stoops, I should mention that this all hinges on the assumption that he's actually interested in the position. The Chicago Sun-Times reported as much this weekend and, for our purposes, we'll assume that's accurate.
With that, here's what makes Stoops such an intriguing choice:
He is young (49)
Stoops has successfully led a major college football program for over a decade winning a national championship (2000) and six conference championships (2000, 2002, 2004, 2006, 2007, 2008)
He has been equally adept at developing players (Tommie Harris, Adrian Peterson, Sam Bradford) and assistants (Mark Mangino, Mike Leach, Kevin Sumlin)
He has coached two Heisman Trophy winners (Sam Bradford, Jason White) and four others (Adrian Peterson - second in 2004, Jason White - third in 2004, Roy Williams - seventh in 2001 and Josh Heupel - second in 2000) who finished in the top seven
He is a tremendous recruiter. Since 2002, Oklahoma has six Top 10 recruiting classes and Scout currently has Oklahoma's 2010 class ranked #1
In 11 years, Stoops has just three more losses (28) than Weis has in five seasons
During his tenure, Stoops has enjoyed eight seasons of double-digit wins
Stoops enjoys a 33-12 (.733%) record against ranked competition and an overall record of 114-28 (.802)
Coaching at the school which owns the NCAA record for longest winning streak, Stoops has two of the seven longest streaks in program history. His 2000 and 2001 teams won 20 straight, while his 2002 and 2003 teams won 14 in a row. All of these wins came against Division IA opponents
Stoops is Catholic and attended the same high school (Cardinal Mooney in Youngstown, OH) as current Notre Dame players, Kyle and Dan McCarthy
Beyond the accolades, there have been a few criticisms of Stoops. Among the most prominent are having been on the receiving end of NCAA sanctions and an unimpressive graduation rate for his players. While those do, and should, give reason for pause, one would assume that, at least some of these shortcomings are attributable to the environment at Oklahoma. There is good reason Notre Dame has been able to maintain its standards (both in and out of the classroom) through numerous coaching regimes - namely, an obsessive committment to these ideals. Oklahoma, conversely, has a history of scandal in its athletic department. Obviously, this is not to exonerate Stoops; rather, I think it suggests the degree to which institutional control matters. Because of this, the same behavior would neither be allowed nor tolerated at Notre Dame.Of course, the question remains: would Bob Stoops leave his perch in Norman to come to South Bend? The timing would certainly seem to support the decision. With four losses in ten games, the Sooners are on pace for the school's worst record since the 2005 squad finished 8-4 (Stoop's worst record came with his first OU team in 1999 which went 7-5). As a result of these struggles, the chorus of disocontented Sooner fans has grown both larger and more shrill over the course of the season. Beyond that, though, the Irish also present a few intriguing possibilities. First, in spite of the program's struggles, Notre Dame still maintains a unique position in college football. Restoring the program to its position among the elite, and the resulting accolades such an accomplishment would bring, makes for an enticing prospect. Second, and perhaps more important, Stoops would be coming into a situation ripe for immediate success. Unlike when Charlie Weis took over for Ty Willingham, the program is stocked with a bevy of talented and experienced players. Assuming a coach with the prestige of a Bob Stoops could keep current players and recruits from bolting, Notre Dame would be in a position similar to that of Florida in 2005. When Urban Meyer arrived from Utah, he immediately benefited from the recruiting abilities of his predecessor, Ron Zook. While Zook's abilities as a head coach left much to be desired, his skill in recruiting is beyond doubt. Similarly, Weis has been able to bring in a tremendous group for which the next Irish coach will benefit. Will it be Stoops? Only time will tell but, if Notre Dame is smart, they will put their best foot forward in trying to secure his services.