NORMAN — As Oklahoma athletic director Joe Castiglione explained what he was looking for in the Sooners’ next head football coach, it was obvious what he wanted — a 20 years younger version of the man sitting to his left.
The man was recently announced interim head coach Bob Stoops. One thing was made clear Monday as the OU brass made their first comments about Lincoln Riley’s departure and who will replace him — Stoops has no intention to do anything beyond December. He’ll make recruiting visits this week, serve as head coach in the bowl game, but will not be back at the helm long term.
In fact, when asked what he’ll do if OU still needs a coach following the bowl game, Stoops halted the question.
“Joe won’t take that long,” he said.
As he’s consistently done over his 20-plus years as athletic director, Castiglione did his best to eliminate any sort of timeline for hiring Riley’s successor. But he talked about the importance of finding the right guy quickly given the December signing period’s and transfer portal’s impact.
“The type of coach we’re looking for is like Coach Stoops or Lincoln Riley. That’s the kind of coaches we hire in our program,” Castiglione said. “They really possess the competency, the confidence, and the character. The ability to develop the chemistry in the program and have a clear vision for how they’re to put this program in a position to possibly compete for championships. And know they’ll be surrounded by all the resources and people that want the same thing. That is the Oklahoma way. The way it works is that we change with the ever-changing rules and environments that are required for us to be mindful of that, but we don’t change our guidance system and we don’t change our passion. Those are locked in.”
There were no insinuations about what kind of background Castiglione covets. How long that will take is a mystery. There are likely some potential candidates coaching in conference title games this weekend that could delay contact. Others are free to get involved.
“We get it. It’s a unique part of the challenge, but we’ll work through it and we’ll talk to people as quickly as we can engage with them,” Castiglione said. “If sometimes the situation is such that it doesn’t present you with an opportunity to engage, then you have to decide to move on.
“Again, it gets back to offense, defense, head coach, top assistant. And I’ll tell you one thing, who wants to be at the University of Oklahoma? That has something to do with it, too. You do all your assessments — interviewing, deep dives, and understanding who you want. Part of it also relates to who wants to be here and lead a great program and have the confidence to do it.”
Where that will take Castiglione is a mystery. He provided no obvious clues on Monday. There are clear-cut candidates in Clemson defensive coordinator Brent Venables or South Carolina coach Shane Beamer. Both spent time at OU as assistants and have strong relationships with Castiglione. In Beamer’s case, current players and coaches as well. For Venables, he spent 12 years with Stoops before moving to Clemson a decade ago.
If Castiglione really wants a younger version of Bob Stoops, there’s one out there. Kentucky coach Mark Stoops is seven years younger than his older brother and has turned the Wildcats into a consistent winner in the SEC.
There are many paths Castiglione can go down. When it comes to football, OU hasn’t had to do this since December 1998. Castiglione’s first major move as athletic director was to fire John Blake and bring then-Florida defensive coordinator Bob Stoops to Norman. The move brought 18 years of success and stability to a blueblood program that was teetering on irrelevancy for nearly a decade before that.
Stoops hired Riley as his offensive coordinator before the 2015 season and then anointed him as the successor when he stepped down in the summer for 2017. Everything seemed fine until Riley’s sudden departure on Sunday.
There have been many rumors that the root cause of Riley’s departure was OU’s impending move to the SEC. There still isn’t a definitive date for when that occurs, but the move will play a role in the search.
“I certainly want to talk to people that are excited about it. And if you’re not, then no need to apply,” Castiglione said. “We’re excited. I can say even as time has gone on, we’re focused on being the best member of the Big 12 while we are here, but there have been a number of things that have occurred since the announcement. We’re more confident than ever that we made the right move.”