After a few false starts, Nick Saban’s Finishing School for Fired Coaches has a new graduate. Mike Stoops will be the defensive coordinator at Florida Atlantic the program has announced. Pete Thamel reported the move just before it was announced.
The move comes after Stoops reportedly was in negotiations for the North Texas defensive coordinator job only to pull out to become the Texas linebackers coach. That was set to happen until it wasn’t, when UT higher-ups reportedly nixed his hiring to Steve Sarkisian’s Longhorns staff. (Texas wound up hiring Montana State head coach Jeff Choate for that spot instead.)
With Jim Leavitt off to become SMU’s defensive coordinator, Stoops will now head east to work on Willie Taggart’s staff.
The move is a comeback for Stoops, who spent two seasons under Saban’s wing following his dismissal by Lincoln Riley that came two days after his OU defense surrendered 48 points in a 2018 loss to Texas.
Part of the reason Stoops’s second tenure in Norman did not work was because his intense coaching style did not connect with modern players, something he reflected on in this 2018 interview:
You have alluded to this before, but why do you think you have had such a difficult time connecting with players today?
I think kids nowadays take things more personal, maybe don’t have the ability to take criticism as well as maybe back 15 years ago. It’s coaching; it’s not criticism. But I think they take it personally. The lack of trust is part of that, too. They need to know you’re out for their best interest, always. I think that’s the most important thing that kids have to know.
That’s where some of the disconnect comes. It would never be personal. No coaches want to yell just to yell. They’re coaching to teach and trying to make you understand the point. If you’re not precise in this game, you’re going to get lit up. Some kids think they’re being picked on or that coach doesn’t like me; well, it has nothing to do with that. It’s just about trying to put them in the best possible position for their own success.
You have to be a strong-minded person and you’d better have thick skin. Not everyone’s going to like you, but they’d better respect you and what your knowledge is and what you’re trying to teach.
I’m not out there running for prom king. That’s not what I’m there to do. I’m there to teach and get our players in the best position, and get them to understand why it has to be that way.
This is a very humbling game. You’ll get your ass humbled in a hurry in this game if you think you have all the answers. That’s why Nick Saban is the way he is. You can’t take your foot off the gas or you’re going to get run over. Kids have to understand that.
After alluding to Saban in that answer, it will be interesting to see if those two seasons in Tuscaloosa will change Stoops’s approach moving forward.
With the move, Stoops becomes the fifth Alabama analyst to get a job this off-season, joining Butch Jones (Arkansas State head coach), Major Applewhite (South Alabama offensive coordinator), AJ Milwee (Texas quarterbacks coach) and Charlie Strong (Jacksonville Jaguars assistant head coach). That’s in addition to the four on-the-field assistants that have left for bigger jobs.
As always, stay tuned to The Scoop for the latest.
Sources: FAU expected to hire Mike Stoops as defensive coordinator. He's the former head coach at Arizona and a long-time DC in the Big 12 at Oklahoma and Kansas State. He'd been at Alabama as an analyst the last two seasons.
— Pete Thamel (@PeteThamel) January 28, 2021