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Stoops now Oklahoma's winningest coach

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MANHATTAN, Kan. (AP) - You could almost hear Bob Stoops shrug his shoulders in the frigid shed just up the ramp from the playing field, where his No. 22 Sooners had just squeaked out a win over Kansas State.

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At a school where Bennie Owen, Bud Wilkinson and Barry Switzer once plied their trade, Stoops had just trumped them all. He won his 158th game at Oklahoma on Saturday, breaking a tie with Switzer for the most wins in school history, and he didn't seem to care a lick.

''I do not look at anything individually,'' he said. ''I'm supported by a great administration that has been here for all 15 years. I've had great assistant coaches who've had a hand in it. They are great to work with every day. We've had a good group here for a period of time, but I do not have time to look at it, to be honest. It's something I will reflect back on down the road.''

Leave it to those around Stoops to reflect on it for him.

His younger brother, Mike Stoops, now his defensive coordinator, said that the entire team took pride in the record. It was built on the backs of guys such as Josh Heupel, who led the Sooners to the 2000 national title and now serves as Stoops' co_offensive coordinator, and Adrian Peterson, the Heisman Trophy runner-up and now a five-time All-Pro with the Minnesota Vikings.

The record is a testament to the consistency that the son of a grizzled, old Ohio high school football coach has brought to Norman over the years.

''He never changes his demeanor with the players or the coaches, what he expects of us,'' Mike Stoops said. ''The consistency to play at such a high level all the time, you know, can be directly attributed to his style, and it may push people the wrong way sometimes, but there's a meaning behind everything he does. We may not always understand it, but there is.''

That coaching style was honed under some of the best in the game.

Stoops got his start in coaching after wrapping up his playing career at Iowa under Hayden Fry, whose coaching tree also produced the likes of Bill Snyder and Barry Alvarez. After a year at Kent State, Stoops followed Snyder to Kansas State, where they turned around a moribund program.

From there, it was off to Florida to work under Steve Spurrier, and a stint as the defensive coordinator there resulted in the chance to take over a once-proud program fallen on hard times.

The Sooners had just endured three straight losing seasons under John Blake, and the six national titles that Wilkinson and Switzer won were fading into history. But Stoops wasted little time returning the luster to the program, going to the Independence Bowl in his first season and then knocking off Florida State in the Orange Bowl to win his own title the following year.

''Bobby is a tremendously talented football coach. I think everyone is aware of that, as well as Barry Switzer was,'' Snyder said. ''Two really wonderful coaches, both very talented and successful.''

Stoops has built on a quite a legacy at Oklahoma, which has more 10-win seasons (34) than any other program in the Football Bowl Subdivision. Entering this season, his average of 10.6 wins was tops among active coaches in the division with 10 or more years of experience.

But the one thing that has drawn the ire of fans over the years has been his inability to win the big game. Folks in the Heartland expected him to bring bushels of championships back to town when he won his first just two years into his tenure.

Instead, there have been plenty of one- and two-loss seasons.

Perhaps that's why Stoops was reticent Saturday, moments after a 41-31 victory over Kansas State, to spend too much time dwelling on his record. The Sooners are still just 9-2, at most places a good season, but another one in which they won't play into the national title conversation.

Mike Stoops said that shouldn't detract from what his brother has achieved.

After all, few have accomplished more.

''When you compare him to the likes of a Wilkinson or a Switzer, you're in a stratosphere that not many people are,'' Mike Stoops said, ''and I just think the way he goes about his business is probably the thing that all of us enjoy, how steady he is through the good wins and tough losses.''

AP NEWS
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The Associated Press
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