SportsPulse: USA TODAY Sports’ Dan Wolken breaks down the game of the former Crimson Tide quarterback and explains why Oklahoma is a perfect match.
Former Oklahoma defensive coordinator Mike Stoops is finalizing a deal to join Alabama’s staff in an off-field position, a person with knowledge of the move told USA TODAY Sports. The person requested anonymity because the move is not official.
Stoops becomes the latest in a line of prominent coaches to work with Nick Saban as part of the program’s support staff in a role as an analyst or consultant.
Stoops, the younger brother of former Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops, was the Sooners’ defensive coordinator from 1999-2003, building dominant defenses as the Sooners won a BCS national championship and were among the nation’s elite programs. He was Arizona’s head coach from 2004-11, going 41-50, then returned to Oklahoma in 2012.
But in his return, the Sooners’ defense never reached its former dominance. In recent seasons, defensive deficiencies derailed Oklahoma’s opportunities to win a national championship.
Stoops was fired last October by Oklahoma coach Lincoln Riley, a day after a 48-45 loss to Texas – the highest offensive output scored by Texas in the long history of a heated rivalry.
After that midseason loss, Oklahoma’s defense ranked 96th nationally in yards per game and 79th in points allowed. The Sooners won seven consecutive games – including a rematch with Texas in the Big 12 championship game – to reach the College Football Playoff. But they did it because of a historically good offense, surviving several shootouts.
Oklahoma’s defense finished the season (after a 45-34 loss to Alabama in a Playoff semifinal at the Orange Bowl) ranked 101st in points allowed; the loss to Alabama was the fifth time in 2018 an opponent scored at least 45 points, the first time in school history that had happened.
Several coaches who have worked in support roles at Alabama have later moved into on-field coaching positions for the Crimson Tide. Among recent examples: Mike Locksley, hired as an analyst in 2016, he thebn became Alabama’s offensive coordinator and was recently hired as Maryland’s head coach. Former Tennessee coach Butch Jones was an analyst last season for Alabama. After he was fired as USC’s head coach, Steve Sarkisian joined Alabama in a support role for the 2016 season and served as offensive coordinator during the national championship game after Lane Kiffin left to coach Florida Atlantic. Reports have indicated Saban will rehire Sarkisian as offensive coordinator.
Last month, before Alabama’s semifinal matchup against Oklahoma in the Orange Bowl, Saban told reporters those arrangements had often “worked out well for both” the coaches and the program.
“We have coaches who have a track record of being very, very good coaches, very productive, they make some mistake or get in some circumstance of situation that maybe creates this downward plummet but they still have a lot of positive values,” Saban said then. “We can get them in our program, maybe they learn a better way to do things. But we also can take advantage of the good things they know and they’ve done.”