Stoops: Great coach….better man! Remembering a lost rivalry.

Stunned.

I think we all were when we learned that Bob Stoops would retire after 18 seasons as the head coach at Oklahoma. After all, he’s only 56 years old. With a record of 190-48, he is arguably one of the greatest college football coaches of the 21st century.

“Big Game Bob” likely would have gone down as one of the greatest college football coaches of all-time had he delivered more than one National Championship to the Sooner Nation. He had his chances.

His Sooners won nearly 80% of the games he coached, making him the 6th active winningest coach in college football. Although I probably watched him coach the Sooners both in person and on TV hundreds of times, I met him only once on a chance visit of 10 minutes. But 10 minutes is all it took for me to know he was a better man than a great coach.

Two days before I met Bob Stoops, I was in Lincoln, Nebraska.  I grew up in Nebraska and graduated from the University of Nebraska. We were on our annual pilgrimage to Lincoln to see my beloved Cornhuskers play. This trip also represented my daughter’s official visit to Nebraska. She was a senior in high school and would be a college freshman next fall.

Nebraska would lose on a last second field goal to Wisconsin, 23-21. Nebraska’s record fell to 2-3. Their worst start since 1960! So long ago, it was two seasons before Bob Devaney would arrive on the scene in Lincoln. Ugh.

On Monday, we began our trip back to Texas. We would make one more campus visit on the way home. Destination…Norman, Oklahoma.

My daughter wanted to check out the University of Oklahoma. I’m thinking, “Does she have any idea how many Friday’s after Thanksgiving were ruined by the Sooners during my childhood?”

As some will remember, Nebraska and Oklahoma had one of the greatest rivalries in college football. Year in and year out, the stakes of this game had huge implications. The winner punched their ticket to the Orange Bowl and many times it would be an opportunity to play for the National Championship.

While I hated Oklahoma when they played Nebraska, it was a rivalry built around mutual admiration and respect. I enjoyed watching Oklahoma when they weren’t playing Nebraska. Secretly, I was “OK” if my daughter decided to attend Oklahoma. But come on, what are the odds of that? She’s been brainwashed since the day she was born. GO BIG RED!

On a beautiful day in October, we arrived on the campus of Oklahoma for a tour. As serendipity would have it, my wife grew up with Clark Stroud, the VP of Student Affairs. He gave us a personal tour of campus. On our first stop, we visited the field house. This is where they kept all the trophies of past Big 8, Big 12 and National Championships.

Also on display were all the uniforms the Sooners had worn through the years. And of course, five Heisman trophies.


Pretty cool stuff and then I saw the 1979 Orange Bowl trophy. I felt sick…again.

In 1978, Nebraska beat one of the greatest OU teams I can ever remember. The backfield featured Thomas Lott, Kenny King, David Overstreet and Billy Sims. They were loaded. It was quite a sight to see that group line up in the wishbone and run the triple option!

Late in the game, OU was in the red zone and it looked like “Sooner Magic” was about to rear its ugly head once again. Billy Sims was heading toward the end zone when he took a big hit from Jim Pillen. Sims fumbled the ball and Nebraska recovered on the 4 yard line. OU would fumble 9 times that chilly November day in Lincoln. Nebraska prevailed, 17-14.

I still remember standing on the field with my Dad as we watched the student body rip down the goal posts. Our reward…a date with Oklahoma on January 1st in the Orange Bowl! Despite a late 4th quarter rally by the Cornhuskers, Oklahoma would win easily, 31-24.

Well, the field house was also where the coaches kept their offices. As we entered the hall of the coaches’ offices Clark said, “Let me see if the coach is in.” We waited as he walked into Coach Stoops’ office. A few minutes later he waved us on in.

As we entered his office, he smiled and welcomed us. He was gracious with his time and very friendly.  He asked my daughter what she was interested in studying. He even took time to show my son and I his rings and watches from past bowl games.

Then he asked us where we were from and I said, “We’re from Texas, but we’re coming back from the Nebraska game in Lincoln.” Always the recruiter, Bob says, “How is Nebraska doing this year? I haven’t kept track of them much lately.” Subtle. Nicely played, Coach.

It was a fun conversation and a great experience. Upon reflection, this meeting with Coach Stoops had a profound effect on me when you consider how his day must have been going. Two days prior, OU was undefeated entering their game with Texas in Dallas. OU would lose to a bad Texas team, 24-17. You would have never known it from our meeting.

On a Monday after losing to Texas, how excited do you think he was to talk to a family from Texas who were Cornhusker fans? He had nothing to gain from the meeting or the conversation.

He could have easily said, “Not today Clark. Tough weekend. I hope you understand.”  Yet he not only agreed to meet us, he made us feel welcome.

It reminded me of the quote by Malcolm S. Forbes.

You can easily judge the character of a man by how he treats those who can do nothing for him.”  

Bob Stoops is a man of character. He treated us just like we were one of his top recruits. That left a lasting impression with me.

The University of Oklahoma left a lasting impression on my daughter. “Sooner Magic” is alive and well. Next year, my daughter will begin her sophomore at the University of Oklahoma!

Congrats on a great career, Coach Stoops. As my daughter likes to say, “BOOMER.” College football will miss you.

 

 

 

Level 53 – Overcoming Failure

You failed! Again. And again.

Okay, I admit it. Over the last several days, I’ve been locked out mutiple times trying to slay the beast that is Level 53. I’m stuck. Yes, Candy Crush!

I know what you’re thinking, “How can he only be on Level 53?” Well, I just am.

Candy Crush - Level 52 fail

I’ve played Level 53 over and over and failed and failed. I’ve worked on improving my craft. I’ve tried different strategies. I’ve tried aligning my color bomb/sprinkled chocolate with a blue planet striped candy, but I got the same result. Failure.

I could have given up. After all, it’s just a game. The thing is, I’m a competitive person. If I’m not careful it can morph into addiction. Obviously, my addiction for Candy Crush is pretty moderate by proof of my current level.

Well, early Saturday morning, I beat Level 53 in Candy Crush. It was AWESOME!

But how did I do it when my skills alone simply weren’t enough to get the job done? Three things happened.

First, I did work on improving. I refined my strategy and over time, I got better. There is no substitute for experience. Problem was, it was never enough to beat the level. I simply wasn’t smart enough to win.

Improving my skill was important, but the key was that I never gave up. I persevered until the third and final piece of the puzzle presented itself.

The final key ingredient was to be presented with the right situation. The timing had to be just so. I needed the stars to align. What I needed was a little serendipity!

Finally, the red striped candy lined up with the color bomb/sprinkled chocolate multiple times. The striped yellow teardrop cozied up to the packaged green pillow – over and over again.  The screen lit up and I heard, “Divine.” “Sweet.” “Delicious.” Not only did I beat Level 53, I had a couple moves left when the screen declared, “Sugar Crush.” 

I knew I was smart enough to beat Level 53! I’ll cover lessons on self awareness in a future post.

We all face challenges and failure daily. Challenges much bigger and much more important than leveling up on Candy Crush.

The reality is that we will fail over and over, again and again. That’s life. How we respond to failure is a choice. Will we accept failure or keep trying?

For most mere mortals, overcoming failure requires three key ingredients:

  1. Practice. Practice. Practice. Work on perfecting your craft. Always be looking for ways to improve and learn. As LeBron James likes to say, “strive for greatness.”
  2. The Power of Perseverance. Never, ever give up. If you want to learn more on this subject, check out Angela Duckworth’s compelling book on this topic called Grit.
  3. The right environment. Good timing. Or just call it what it is…LUCK!

When all three of them come together, you will LEVEL UP. Not only in Candy Crush, but in life.

As Michael Jordan famously said, “I failed over and over and over again in my life….and that is why I succeed.”