Stoops' industrial-grade filter weeds out irrelevant matter
FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. -- Bob Stoops is cranky. He has been cranky for a few weeks now.
Oklahoma reached the FedEx BCS National Championship Game instead of Texas, the team that beat the Sooners and finished the regular season with an identical 11-1 record.
Stoops did not enjoy having to campaign for the right to play for the crystal football. He believes that you play the game under the rules and you accept the result. The BCS format selected Oklahoma, not Texas, and that should be that.
It wasn't, and Stoops had to defend Oklahoma's credentials for the right to play Florida. That made him cranky.
Those questions have stopped, but with the Sooners now in Miami, he must answer other questions.
He is asked about Oklahoma's four-game losing streak in BCS bowl games over the past five seasons. He is asked whether defense is a lost art in the Big 12 Conference. He is asked whether he will be the next coach of the Denver Broncos.
Those questions make him cranky, too.
It's not that Stoops is thin-skinned. His answers arrive with their chest out, the way Stoops attacks most tasks. With a record of 109-23 (.826) and six Big 12 championships in 10 seasons, Stoops has reason to be arrogant. But he is not. He is somewhere between humble and unimpressed.
The reason he is not arrogant is the same reason those questions make him cranky. They have nothing to do with the next game.
As he walked to the locker room Sunday after practice at Barry University in Miami Shores, Fla., Stoops discussed the lens through which he views his coaching existence.
"There's so much that goes on that doesn't matter, and doesn't influence the game or what you do, that you just have to weed it out, you know?" Stoops said. "Focus on what does matter."
Stoops, 48, said he learned as a 30-year-old co-defensive coordinator at Kansas State in 1991 that, in order to do his job effectively, he had to filter what landed on his desk every day.
"Being a coordinator, calling defenses and where we're all leading up to the game, what are the things that are going to matter, that make a difference that you have to pay attention to? And which ones do I not have to?" Stoops said.
"And as a D-coordinator, I only had to pay attention to half of it. And then as a head coach I had to pay attention to a lot more. You grow in it."
Stoops grew. He evolved. But he didn't change his approach.
"God, they're so many things that are so similar to just what he was as a coordinator when I was at Kansas State playing for him," Oklahoma defensive coordinator Brent Venables said. "I'm just saying his consistency. He's just a guy's guy. He's not a coat-and-tie, stiff dictator where he's standing on the sideline watching. He's a guy who likes to roll his sleeves up, regardless of what it is, get down on his hands and knees and let's go get it. Coaches respect that. Players respect that."
Listen in on Stoops answering questions from the media. If you're real quiet, you can hear the slight whir of the filter in his head. It is an industrial-grade filter, and it sweeps away anything that does not have to do with winning the next game.
Stoops regards questions as if he were an inspector at a manufacturing plant watching his product come down the assembly line. If he deems it relevant, he answers it. If he does not, he sweeps the question into the reject pile.
On the Denver Post report of the Broncos' interest in him: "We're preparing for a national championship, and that's all my focus and all my concentration's on, so obviously I'm not a candidate. I'm sure probably someone might have told me other than you guys if I was a candidate."
On the Sooners' four-game BCS losing streak: "You got a chance to win a national championship. That's what I'm focused on. No, that stuff doesn't [bother me]. We've won our share of games."
On whether he warned his players from making conclusions based on other bowls: "It doesn't much matter. All that matters is what you do. You can spin those things any way you want to, if you choose to. We don't much pay attention to it."
On the matchup against Florida coach Urban Meyer: "Again, I don't look at anything that way. In the end, it's programs. I'm not going to be on the field. Or Urban. Guys got to make plays, and you got a big group of assistant coaches and a big team around you. You got to go out there against the other team and execute in that opportunity in that moment."
At the end of his 10th season, Stoops is coaching in his fourth BCS title game. He is on his fourth offensive coordinator. Five assistants have left his staff to become FBS head coaches. And still, the Sooners roll along.
"Sometimes people think it's easy to do this," Oklahoma athletic director Joe Castiglione said. "That kind of gets lost in all the debate."
If the Sooners beat the Gators on Thursday night, Stoops will be cranky no longer. If they lose, and the nickname "Big Game Bob" remains in mothballs, that long record of success will continue to be taken for granted, and more questions will be asked.
Better keep that filter in working order.
Ivan Maisel is a senior writer for ESPN.com. Send your questions and comments to Ivan at firstname.lastname@example.org. His new book, "The Maisel Report: College Football's Most Overrated & Underrated Players, Coaches, Teams, and Traditions," is on sale now. For more information, go to TheMaiselReport.com.
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