XFL gig per­fect for semi-re­tired Stoops

Ex-col­lege coach to lead Dal­las in 2020


He still has the beard. Don’t miss that. As you pon­der Bob Stoops’ re­turn to coach­ing, un­der­stand what be­ing the new head coach and gen­eral man­ager for the XFL’s Dal­las fran­chise re­ally is: A part-time gig.

It’s likely the only way Stoops, who shocked the col­lege foot­ball world when he re­tired from Ok­la­homa ex­actly 20 months ago to­day, could have been per­suaded to again grab a whis­tle.

“When I stepped away a cou­ple of years ago, I made it very clear I wanted my own time,” he said at an in­tro­duc­tory news con­fer­ence in Ar­ling­ton, Texas. “I wanted to be the boss of my own time and live that way.”

He has. Since hand­ing over the reins of the pro­gram to Lin­coln Ri­ley, Stoops has played a lot of golf. He’s trav­eled. He’s watched his sons play high school and col­lege foot­ball. He has grown the beard, a care­free salt and pepper.

Free from the 24/7/365 grind of coach­ing col­lege foot­ball, he has learned to slow down, re­lax and en­joy him­self. He has been, as he put it Thurs­day, “the boss of my own time.”

Along the way, he has dropped hints that re­tire­ment isn’t easy, that he went from try­ing to beat Texas to bat­tling bore­dom. Af­ter decades in foot­ball, it was jarring for Stoops, who was 56 when he re­tired, to awaken each morn­ing with­out a set plan. He usu­ally headed to the golf course. But in De­cem­ber 2017, when he was only six months into re­tire­ment, he told me his life was “strange and different,” and added, “I don’t know what I’ll do in the win­ter.”

It took an­other 14 months to fig­ure it out, but now we know. The XFL, set to kick off in 2020, will play games Fe­bru­ary through April. For Stoops, 58, this is quite lit­er­ally sea­sonal em­ploy­ment. It will fill the time when the golf weather in Nor­man, Ok­la­homa, isn’t of­ten great. At least as im­por­tant, it might fill the void cre­ated when he left foot­ball.

“I got to think­ing af­ter a cou­ple of years, some days I’ve got too much time on my hands,” Stoops said.

The key part of that phrase is “some days.” He isn’t look­ing for a full-time job, at least not any­thing like the all-con­sum­ing grind he was im­mersed in for years. Coach­ing and run­ning the XFL fran­chise won’t ex­actly be a hobby. It will re­quire plenty of work. But there will be many days dur­ing the year when he can wake up with­out re­spon­si­bil­ity.

Ad­di­tion­ally, the XFL job is likely to pro­duce far less stress, a rea­son cited by many around Stoops when he stepped down. There won’t be 3 a.m. calls about play­ers in trou­ble. He won’t have to do the calls and texts and travel that come with re­cruit­ing, which is the year­round, non­stop fuel for col­lege foot­ball suc­cess — and a cat­a­lyst for burnout.

All of the above is why af­ter Stoops re­tired, the idea that he might re­turn to col­lege foot­ball or jump to the NFL al­ways seemed far-fetched to those who know him best. Thurs­day’s an­nounce­ment doesn’t change that.

Still, it was clear Stoops missed the game. He has re­mained an ubiq­ui­tous if un­ob­tru­sive pres­ence at Ok­la­homa, at­tend­ing most games and some­times sit­ting in on po­si­tion meet­ings with Ri­ley and the quar­ter­backs.

In De­cem­ber, on the day Ohio State’s Ur­ban Meyer an­nounced his re­tire­ment, I caught up with Stoops in a New York ho­tel lobby. He had ad­vice for Meyer — along with an ac­knowl­edg­ment of what, for him at least, had been the most dif­fi­cult part of be­ing out of foot­ball.

“All of it,” he said. “The in­ten­sity, the com­pe­ti­tion, the chal­lenge of this.” But he ze­roed in on one as­pect: “For all of us that played as well as coached, it’s been 40 years of my life I’ve been with a gang of guys. It’s like, you al­ways had your crew and all of the sud­den you don’t have a crew any­more.

“You’ve got your play­ers and your coaches and a fra­ter­nity of guys you’re con­stantly in­ter­act­ing with every sin­gle day, and all of the sud­den you go to be­ing alone. So that’s not easy to han­dle.”

Thurs­day, Stoops em­pha­sized how much he looks for­ward, as much as any­thing, to build­ing a coach­ing staff. Soon, he’ll have an­other crew to hang with, and a re­turn to the chal­lenge of in­tense com­pe­ti­tion. But the grind is much less than it ever was at Ok­la­homa, and all of it is only part time.

“This just seems like a good win­dow and op­por­tu­nity to get back in and have a good fill of it and work­ing with the guys,” Stoops said. “The win­dow of time that it en­tails fits my life at this point.”

In other words: Stoops can re­main hap­pily semire­tired.


Bob Stoops, who last coached Ok­la­homa Jan. 2, 2017, will be coach-GM of an XFL fran­chise.

Ge­orge Schroeder Colum­nist USA TO­DAY

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