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There was plenty of discussion about the OU football coaching vacancy at Thursday’s OU Board of Regents meeting.
There was board chairman Michael Cawley, after a joke about wearing a red tie, saying, “You’d better not wear a USC tie, either,” referencing Lincoln Riley’s departure to become the Trojans’ coach.
OU President Joe Harroz had plenty of jokes himself, from telling the assembled sports reporters in the room at the OU Health Science Center to look at the next agenda item — on a non-sports topic — to saying he was going to leave the presidency to go into coaching football after seeing the recent explosion in coaches’ salaries.
But while the jokes were plentiful, there was no resolution to the coaching search that began with Riley’s sudden Sunday departure.
“We have to move quickly,” Harroz said. “We know that. We understand it’s a new environment with the (NCAA transfer) portal. But we’re moving aggressively. We’ve got a seasoned and talented team. We’ve gonna have a new head coach and this is going to be a road bump.”
Harroz said he was in constant communication with athletic director Joe Castiglione about Castiglione’s search.
A year ago, it looked like coaches’ salaries could be leveling off — or even taking a dip — due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the changes brought on with the new name, image and likeness regulations.
But with the latest turn of the coaching carousel — with Riley and Brian Kelly leaving for new jobs and Michigan State’s Mel Tucker, among others, signing big extensions — it’s clear salaries remain on an upward trajectory.
“It used to be there’d be one or two outliers, salaries like that, and now there’s more,” Harroz said. “There is so much changing in college athletics right now that everyone’s watching. It’s something that we think about.”
Harroz went back to his comments over the summer when OU’s upcoming move to the SEC was officially approved by the board.
“I sat in here and did a 45-minute piece when we moved to the SEC, when we announced we’ll move to the SEC in ’25, that we have two principles," Harroz said. "That is, No. 1, that we’ll maintain excellence and that, we mean competitive, not just to get into the (College Football) Playoff but to win ’em, and also that we will continue for as long as absolutely possible to be a program that is self-sufficient, that doesn’t use student dollars through tuition and fees or state dollars for our program, and we’re committed to those two things.
“And having a good coach — not a good coach, a great coach — and being competitive in the market place is just a reality.”
The lone action item on the agenda tied to the coaching search was the approval of interim coach Bob Stoops’ contract, which calls for him to be paid $325,000 for coaching the Sooners in the upcoming bowl game and leading up recruiting efforts until a new coach is in place.
After Riley told them of his decision to leave Sunday, Harroz and Castiglione immediately called Stoops.
The pair asked if he could be at the OU facility in 25 minutes.
“Well, I’m at the (golf) course, need to take a shower,” Stoops said. “I can be there in 20. Goodbye.”
Harroz said he twice brought up the salary discussion with Stoops, who twice turned him down.
“I’m tired of asking,” Harroz said. “He always does the right thing. We ought to do the right thing and that’s the reason we had this agenda item.”
Though making a quick hire remains critical, having Stoops around gives the Sooners a bit of a break there.
“How comforting is it, in a moment like that? When you’re caught by surprise?” said Harroz, who became close to Stoops when Harroz served as OU’s general council. "It’s immeasurable. I’d take him in a foxhole every day.”
This article originally appeared on Oklahoman: OU football coaching search is 'moving aggressively', Joe Harroz says