Late on Thursday evening, the honeymoon period for new Texas Longhorns head coach Steve Sarkisian came to an abrupt end when news surfaced from Tuscaloosa that Alabama Crimson Tide analyst Mike Stoops, the former Oklahoma Sooners defensive coordinator, was set to become the new linebackers coach for the Longhorns.
Hours later, Sarkisian reversed course, telling Brian Davis of the Austin American-Statesman that he hoped to hire another linebackers coach on Friday.
A Friday press release announcing the other nine assistant coaches, as well as Director of Football Performance Torre Becton, only increased speculation that Sarkisian’s staff was finalized until it wasn’t. Sarkisian also held a Zoom call with media on Friday afternoon to discuss his new assistants.
On the surface, adding a former Power Five head coach with significant coordinator experience to Sarkisian’s staff as a position coach would seem like a home-run hire. But the rivalry with Oklahoma and poor performances by Stoops against Texas, including the 2018 Cotton Bowl game that resulted in Sooners head coach Lincoln Riley firing Stoops, all contributed to the social media firestorm that erupted.
But the backlash was about more than that history and the fact that Stoops hadn’t coached linebackers since he was an assistant at Iowa in 1991 — the previous behavior by Stoops in regards to the Texas program quickly took center stage on Thursday evening.
Heard Mike Stoops savagely bad-mouth Texas to an assistant principal at Williams Stadium a few years back when he was an OU assistant (unsuccessfully) trying to recruit one of our kids.— Jim Thrasher (@thrashman10) January 22, 2021
Have hated him ever since.
Love Sark's previous hires, but don't get this one. Please no.
So, what happened?
The same reporter who initially broke the Stoops-to-Texas news, AL.com’s Matt Zentiz, helped to fill in the gaps on Friday evening:
Stoops to Texas was enough of a done deal that Stoops informed Alabama and head coach Nick Saban of his plans, said goodbyes to people around the Crimson Tide program and was expected to fly to Texas on Friday to begin the process of finding a new place to live with his wife.
A Friday morning call from Sarkisian changed those plans.
Sarkisian, the former Alabama offensive coordinator, shared during that call that he could no longer make the hire.
The Stoops hire was far enough along that public-facing social media interactions by the former Oklahoma defensive coordinator indicated his future plans, as well:
If you really want your mind blown, go check out the Twitter page of @Mike_Stoops41 from the last 24 hours.— Geoff Ketchum (@gkketch) January 22, 2021
See the likes and new follows. pic.twitter.com/PqBXkmSsJ0
Even with the information from the Alabama side, it’s still not clear from the Texas side who nixed the Stoops hire. Was it just the public backlash on social media? Or did it come from other places, like the Board of Regents level, after chairman Kevin Eltife served a key role in the hire of Sarkisian? Did it come from big-money donors?
That question remains unanswered.
Whatever the case, Sarkisian now has a deeper understanding of how things work on the Forty Acres. May it be a learning experience, because Texas gonna Texas.