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Bob Stoops retires as Oklahoma head coach

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Offensive coordinator Lincoln Riley will step into the role vacated by the Sooner legend.

NCAA Football: Sugar Bowl-Auburn vs Oklahoma Chuck Cook-USA TODAY Sports

When Oklahoma Sooners head coach Bob Stoops waved to fans after the Sooners defeated the Auburn Tigers in the 2017 Sugar Bowl, no one knew that he was really waving goodbye.

Perhaps Stoops didn’t even know it himself, but in bombshell news broken by The Oklahoman on Wednesday, the longtime Oklahoma head coach stepped down after 18 seasons, 190 wins, and one national championship.

It was the only head coaching job that the Youngstown, Ohio native had ever held during his career. However, since Stoops is only 56 years old and numerous reports in the aftermath of his retirement indicated that it wasn’t a decision he made due to his health, it seems possible that he could coach again at some point.

“After 18 years at the University of Oklahoma, I've decided to step down as the head football coach,” Stoops said in a statement. “I understand there has been some speculation about my health. My health was not the deciding factor in this decision and I've had no incidents that would prevent me from coaching.

“I feel the timing is perfect to hand over the reins. The program is in tremendous shape. We have outstanding players and coaches and are poised to make another run at a Big 12 and national championship. We have new state-of-the-art facilities and a great start on next year's recruiting class. The time is now because Lincoln Riley will provide a seamless transition as the new head coach, capitalizing on an excellent staff that is already in place and providing familiarity and confidence for our players. Now is simply the ideal time for me and our program to make this transition.”

Stoops was the longest-tenured head coach in college football.

Offensive coordinator Lincoln Riley, who is only 33 years old himself, but has been a tremendous success since taking over for Josh Heupel in 2015, now finds himself at the helm of one of the most storied programs in college football.

The decision by Stoops marks a seismic change for the Big 12 — during the 18 seasons Stoops was the head coach in Norman, he dominated the conference, winning 10 titles.

The yearly grudge match in the Cotton Bowl was rarely too big of a moment for Stoops, either, as he also dominated the Longhorns for long stretches, including five straight from 2000 to 2004. Two of those games were blowouts, as were two more in 2011 and 2012.

The news could possibly have a recruiting impact on Texas, as the ‘Horns currently hold commitments from two Oklahoma natives, though the Sooners did just receive a pledge from Texas quarterback Tanner Mordecai, reducing the odds that Riley will pursue Southmoore product Casey Thompson.

The player to watch is defensive end Ron Tatum, though the good new for Texas is that Riley would seem unlikely to make wholesale staff changes that would impact Tatum.

On the flip side, the decision by Stoops could help the ‘Horns with defensive recruits who wanted to play for the legendary head coach.