NORMAN, Okla. — Two prominent Oklahoma boosters who support Sooners coach Bob Stoops say the team’s early struggles have made some other boosters restless.
Jim Ross, a boxing announcer for CBS Sports best known for his work in professional wrestling, and Wallis Marsh, founder and CEO of the Extex Companies in Houston, say they have gotten many calls about this the past few weeks.
Losses to Houston and Ohio State already have knocked the Sooners out of the national championship picture. Oklahoma plays No. 21 TCU on Saturday and No. 22 Texas the following week — both possible defeats.
“If we lose a couple more games, this unorganized tropical depression could become a named storm,” Marsh said, referring to a possible attempt to pressure the athletic department to make a coaching change. Marsh said the most prominent boosters don’t want that, but there is uneasiness, even among some of Stoops’ supporters.
“The people that are close to the program, the people that support the program, the people that love the program the most aren’t in that camp right now — yet,” Marsh said. “It’s starting to fester.”
An Oklahoma spokesman said athletic director Joe Castiglione does not respond to requests about the standing of coaches.
Stoops has a 180-48 career record. He is the winningest coach in Oklahoma history and the longest-tenured coach in major college football. His teams have played for national championships four times since he took over in 1999, and he won the national title in 2000. He has won nine Big 12 titles and entered this season favored to win again. Just last season, Stoops led the Sooners to the College Football Playoff.
The Associated Press ranked Oklahoma No. 2 in its all-time poll , and Ross said the long-term success has spoiled the fans. The Sooners have won seven national titles, but not winning one for more than a decade has some folks thinking Stoops might have overstayed his welcome.
Ross, who lives in Norman, isn’t one of them.
“In our right minds, how could you look at Bob Stoops’ record, running a clean program and being a great mentor to these kids — he treats them like they’re his. … It’s hard to believe that we’re even having this conversation,” he said.
Marsh, who graduated from Oklahoma in 1990 and remembers the down years in the ’90s, said he appreciates Stoops bringing the program back to prominence. He said there was some negative sentiment from other boosters going back to the 2012 season, when the Sooners were embarrassed by Johnny Manziel and Texas A&M in the Cotton Bowl. Oklahoma beat Alabama in the Sugar Bowl after the 2013 season, but the Sooners started the next season ranked No. 4 before stumbling to an 8-5 season.
Last season’s trip to the playoff created a high and raised expectations. The Sooners started this season No. 3, but the losses to Houston and Ohio State brought the doubters back out, and LSU’s firing of coach Les Miles added fuel for dissatisfied Sooners fans and boosters. Miles was let go after last Saturday’s loss to Auburn, despite having led the Tigers to a national title in 2007 and being one of the most successful coaches in school history.
“I do know that the Les Miles firing has fired up our fan base,” Marsh said. “People that have been quietly been disgruntled at going 10-3 and playing at a good bowl game now have a sort of lynch mob mentality for change.”
Stoops said this week that he felt bad for Miles.
“You hate it for him,” Stoops said. “But I also know this business. I’ve been in it a long time and get that there’s a certain level of winning that people want and if you’re not doing it . there’s a lot of reasons, I think, that go into all of those decisions for everybody, and that’s our business.”
Ross said the boosters who understand football best appreciate the fact that Stoops has kept the Sooners at a high level in an age of parity.
“Some vocal members of the fan base and a lot of keyboard warriors that are sitting in anonymity believe that the criteria for having any issue with Coach Stoops is that he hasn’t won enough national titles,” Ross said. “Are you kidding me?”
Oklahoma opened last season ranked No. 19 and finished No. 5, despite adding a new offensive coordinator in Lincoln Riley, and a new quarterback in Baker Mayfield.
“Nobody’s espousing the great coaching job Bob did last year for a team that obviously overachieved and made it to the Final Four … It’s about today. It’s about right now,” Ross said.
And right now, fans and boosters of a blue blood are smarting after Ohio State, the No. 1 team in the AP’s all-time rankings, rolled the Sooners 45-24 on Sept. 17. They’ve had a bye week to stew in their anger and tweet their venom.
“I think right now, there’s a lot of disorganization to it,” Marsh said. “It’s going to need a catalyst to organize. If we beat TCU or Texas, I think it could be dead. If we lose to TCU or we lose to Texas, I think there’s a chance it could get organized.”
Follow Cliff Brunt on Twitter @CliffBruntAP .