The Football Coach Who Was Built to Stay
When we operate with situational values, we never fully invest in ourselves or our teams — and those we lead never fully commit.
Former Oklahoma Football Coach Bob Stoops was on the golf course near his home in Norman recently when his phone began ringing repeatedly. His round wasn’t going well, so he decided to answer.
On the other end were Oklahoma President Joe Harroz and Athletic Director Joe Castiglione, who told Stoops that Oklahoma Coach Lincoln Riley was leaving for the University of Southern California.
“How can I help?” a stunned Stoops asked.
Castiglione wasn’t surprised by the reaction.
“It’s the same thing he always says,” Castiglione said. “He is continuing to build on the great tradition he helped create himself.”
Even though Stoops, 61, was no longer the coach at Oklahoma, he was still fully invested in the success of the program. Why? Because he has sustainable values — he wants the team to maintain the level of success that it had under him.
Stoops removed his ego from the equation, aiming to serve the program the best way he could, without asking for anything in return. His supreme devotion and selflessness ensure future generations will understand and appreciate the traditions of Sooners football.
Everything Stoops did as coach was for the present with an eye on the future. His 2016 decision to leave the sidelines and allow Riley to step into the head role was yet another example of his sustainable values.
On the other side of sustainable values lie situational values, when the leader merely assesses the current circumstances and does what is best at that moment, often for him/herself. The leader believes his/her current job is a stepping stone to another, more lucrative, and prominent position, and thus makes all decisions with short-term implications. Once he/she leaves, they could care less what happens. They often just want the program to fail in hopes that everyone wants them back.
When we operate with situational values, we never fully invest in ourselves or our teams — and those we lead never fully commit. But when we go all in — and never think about the next job — we sustain for the present and the future. We start building something bigger than ourselves that can last years down the road.
It’s increasingly difficult to develop sustained values in an outcome-based world, but leaders who believe in establishing a legacy, who are never tempted by the greener grass and financial windfall, often leave behind something that very few do: a rich, indelible legacy that withstands the test of time.
Stoops was cognizant of this all along, which is why he was shocked upon hearing the Riley news. He truly believes there is no better place than Oklahoma, and his actions prove this each day.
He’ll coach the Sooners in their bowl game, and maybe that will be the last time he ever prowls the college football sidelines.
But he will be revered for decades to come in Norman and leave behind a transcendent legacy of hard work and loyalty.
To him, that’s worth more than some extra bucks.
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