Brent Venables Taking Over In Norman: How The Oklahoma Campus Is Reacting

The Shock Departure Of Lincoln Riley

After a very disappointing loss against the Bedlam rivals, Oklahoma State, the student body at the University of Oklahoma was already feeling defeated. The next day, shock broke out on campus. Rumors had leaked that our beloved head coach was leaving us for LSU after five seasons and four Big 12 Championships. He adamantly stated that he would not be the next LSU head coach but kept his plans under the rug. A few days later, betrayal hit the team and the campus like an earthquake. Lincoln Riley announced he would be the new head coach for the University of Southern California.

As students, we felt dumbfounded, but that did not compare to the coaches or players. According to player statements, Riley had not told the team of his plan to leave the program. In fact, it was said he told the team, “I’m not going anywhere.” OU outside linebacker Nik Bonito allegedly yelled at the coach in the locker room, stating his feeling of betrayal and abandonment of his coach. Running back coach and ex-NFL player DeMarco Murray used very strong language and said, “save your tears, we know they’re fake,” once Lincoln announced his departure after the team found out via news outlets.

The campus retaliated heavily. Signs were painted saying “TRAITOR” and were left around campus on our stadium and our famous seed sower statue in the middle of campus. Local bars changed the names of their drinks to “traitor,” “snake,” and “FLR,” standing in solidarity with the campus and the players. Even our defensive tackle, Perrion Winfrey, went as far as to post a picture with Lincoln Riley on Instagram with the tag “world of snakes” on Lincoln Riley.

The news of Riley’s departure didn’t just slam morale, but it scared current and future players from remaining with the University’s program. After hearing about Lincoln’s decision, players like Jaden Haselwood, Austin Stogner, Theo Wease, Marcellus Crutchfield, and Brey Walker almost immediately entered the transfer portal. Spencer Rattler also entered the portal, but I believe that to be unrelated. He would have transferred anyway after this season after being benched and replaced during the OU-Texas game in October. It’s rumored Riley asked Rattler to join him in USC, and Rattler responded with a simple “good luck” and declined to follow the coach.

OU fans and students are upset to lose their beloved players, but most of our focus is on our true freshman QB1, Caleb Williams. Williams made his first appearance in the OU/TX game after Rattler was benched for weak performance. In his career at OU, Williams has played 5.5 games and reached a milestone of 1,650 passing yards and 18 touchdown throws. Williams has been not only a great quarterback for our program but also a big part of our community. Caleb can be seen around campus with a big smile and welcoming demeanor that differed significantly from Spencer’s coldness and arrogance. He has been given the name “Superman,” and he is looked at as our hero. After posting a sad-looking picture on his Instagram after the OSU loss and news of Riley’s departure, his page flooded with comments. He has over 3,000 comments from students and fans begging him to stay. No quarterback has had this much love from the student body on campus before. We all loved Baker Mayfield, Kyler Murray, and Jalen Hurts, but Caleb encompasses the spirit of Oklahoma and is the backbone of what’s left of our morale. Hopefully, our new coach will bring the spirit and coaching ability to keep Williams wearing crimson and cream into next season.

The New Era: Brent Venables

oklahoma sooners

The student body of OU was frantic when we began our search for our new head coach. Rumors included candidates like Brent Venables, Josh Heupel, Matt Campbell, and Mark Stoops. The clear favorite was Venables, but the lack of information was draining our campus. We were relieved briefly with the announcement of ex-coach Bob Stoops making a return as our interim coach for our bowl game. Bob Stoops led the Sooners to a 190-48 record in his 18-year career at OU. In that time, he led us to 10 Big 12 Championship wins, 1 National Championship win in 2000, and a 2015 CFP game. Even with our feelings of defeat after losing our players, we do not feel as alone with Stoops back on our sideline.

After two weeks of worry, stress, and confusion, OU finally announced Brent Venables as our new Oklahoma football head coach. After the announcement, the weight of grief was almost immediately lifted on campus. Students flocked to the airport with signs and cheers to greet Venables as he exited his plane. This warm welcome differed strongly from the welcome of Lincoln Riley at USC when he was only greeted by the pilot of his plane. This goes to prove OU’s spirit can’t be matched or defeated anywhere.

Venables had previously worked for the OU football department from 1999-2011 as an assistant coach, defensive coordinator, and hype man on the sideline. His energy helped rally the team when Stoops was the head coach and helped lead OU to a national victory in 2000. The coach has also built a reputation of excellence on his own as the defensive coordinator at Clemson by reaching staggering defensive numbers. He led his team to the most sacks nationally by a landslide. He also helped the Tigers reach second in pass defense, third in scoring defense, and fourth in total defense in 10 years.

OU President Joseph Harroz Jr. announced Venables as the official 23rd head coach for the University of Oklahoma on Monday by giving a little slide at Lincoln Riley. He stated, “In Sooner tradition, all the great (OU) coaches’ names start with a B.” He refers to Barry Switzer, Bob Stoops, and now Brent Venables. The crowd erupted into cheer since we all have learned to forget about Lincoln and only look forward.

Venables has created a stacked list of coaches to join his staff. As of today, he has pulled Jeff Lebby, former Ole Miss offensive coordinator, and Jerry Schmidt, former Texas A&M strength and conditioning coach. He is continuing to look for qualified and impactful coaches for his new team.

It seems that my beloved program is now safe in the hands of a new coach. The Sooner tradition does not leave with one coach. OU DNA is real, and it will continue to grow into a better program now that we have found a suitable and dependable coach. The future has not dimmed on Sooner Football just yet.

Maggie is a current political science major at the University of Oklahoma and wants to pursue a Masters Degree in Sports Management in her future. She has followed the NFL, MLB, and NCAA Men's Basketball all of her life. She's been very excited with NLCS appearances by the Dodgers, but is still patiently waiting and crossing her fingers for an AFC Championship from her Cleveland Browns. She even named her dogs "Dodger" and "Jackie" in support of her favorite MLB team and the legendary Jackie Robinson.

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