Sometimes, Change Isn't Easy

This hasn’t been an easy week for Bob Stoops.

Bob Stoops fired three assistant coaches in 48 hours.

Actually, it’s probably been one of the hardest during his 14-year tenure at Oklahoma.

On Monday morning, it was announced that James Patton had accepted a job at Indiana. Patton had spent the past seven seasons as the offensive line coach for the Sooners.

Then on Tuesday, the real shockwave occurred.

Stoops has been criticized in the past for never openly firing an assistant coach. He’s also been criticized for being reluctant to shaking up the coaching staff.

Not only did he fire three coaches in a 48-hour span, but he also let go of two longtime assistants and one very close friend.

Stoops met Bruce Kittle in college at the University of Iowa in 1979. Both were on the football team and later became close friends. They were even in each other’s weddings.

Now, let’s fast forward to 2011.

Offensive coordinator, Kevin Wilson had just taken the head coaching job at Indiana. This left a spot open on the coaching staff at Oklahoma. Stoops then turned to Kittle who was currently serving as the on-campus recruiting coordinator.

Jackie Shipp had been at Oklahoma during the entire Stoops tenure.

A move that became a head scratcher for many, Stoops gave Kittle the chance he was dreaming of. On January 14th, 2011, Kittle was announced as the offensive tackles and tight ends coach after serving just one year in the program.

From the time of his hiring, he would be criticized by both fans and the media alike.

Jackie Shipp’s road to Oklahoma was about as opposite as you could imagine from Kittle’s. Shipp was a star for the Sooners in the early 80’s, and was a first-round draft pick (14th overall) by the Miami Dolphins in the 1984 NFL draft. In Stoops inaugural year in 1999, he was hired as the defensive tackles coach.

Shipp’s prominent pupils included Tommie Harris, Dusty Dvoracek and Gerald McCoy, to just name a few.

But after McCoy’s departure in the 2009 season, the defensive tackle position turned from a strength into the weakness of the defense. Shipp was all of a sudden feeling pressure as the production of the defensive tackles greatly decreased.

After the beat down the Sooners suffered to Texas A&M in the Cotton Bowl last month, there was more panic and questions than ever before in the Stoops era.

Losing several starters on a defense that was gashed down the stretch, the Sooners are now entering the most critical offseason they have faced since Stoops’ inaugural year in 1999.

Stoops knew that changes needed to be made, and he did possibly one of the hardest things he’s ever done, as he fired both Kittle and Shipp on the same day.

Bruce Kittle spent two seasons as an assistant at Oklahoma.

Some had labeled Stoops as complacent. Others said he had lost his luster. But by showing a longtime assistant and a longtime friend the door, he proved that he still has his edge and desire to compete for championships.

If you’ve ever been in the position to fire someone, you know how hard it can be. Telling another person they have just lost their job and their source of income can be one of the toughest things to do for any individual. Stoops did something that very few have done, and something that takes an unbelievable amount of courage by firing two close friends in the same day.

The message that Stoops is implying is simple. No one man is bigger than the program. He realizes the program isn’t where it should be right now, and he’s making changes to ensure it gets back to where it needs to be.

So, whether you agree or disagree with the changes, you have to give it up to Stoops for the difficult decisions he’s made in the past week.

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