Naveau: Stoops statue kept from public display

NORMAN, Okla. – How do you hide a 10-foot tall statue of a famous college football coach?

In the case of Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops the answer was not very well.

Oklahoma already has statues of its coaching legends Barry Switzer, Bud Wilkinson and Bennie Owen across the street from its Gaylord Family-Oklahoma Memorial Stadium in Norman, Okla., where Ohio State played against the Sooners on Saturday night.

And since Stoops, Oklahoma’s coach since 1999, has won more games than any of the other three, the school also commissioned a statue of him.

Stoops said OK, but specified that the statue should not be put up until after he retired and the school agreed.

“I don’t want that at all,” he said about having a statue while he was still coaching. “It would be weird to me. Not until I’m done and who knows when that will be.”

But then one day last December, onlookers were surprised to see the finished statue of Stoops being driven into Norman on the back of a flat bed truck uncovered. The statue was also standing up to its full height of 10 feet, so it was hard to miss.

Ten feet is two feet taller than the statue of Woody Hayes in front of the Woody Hayes Center at Ohio State and two and a half feet taller than the statue of Bo Schembechler Hall at Michigan. But, presumably with all those oil derricks, Oklahoma public art has to be on a grander scale to fit in.

Stoops was not happy. The Oklahoma athletic department was not happy. No one is sure exactly where the bronze version of Stoops is now, but it is almost certainly in storage somewhere.

There has been a construction boom in building statues outside football stadiums or football training facilities in the last decade or two.

Woody Hayes stands guard in bronze in front of the Woody Hayes Practice Facility at Ohio State. Michigan has a statue of Bo Schembechler in front of the building named for him.

Illinois has a Red Grange statue outside its stadium and Iowa has a statue of Nile Kinnick at its stadium, which is named for him. Notre Dame has statues of former coaches Knute Rockne, Frank Leahy, Ara Parseghian, Lou Holtz and Dan Devine outside its stadium.

But the idea of erecting a statue of a coach while he is still active does seem exactly as Stoops described it. It’s a little weird.

Probably the most famous current active coach statue is the one of Nick Saban at Alabama, where every coach who wins a national championship gets a statue.

Kansas State has one of its coach Bill Snyder, who turned its program into a consistent winner after it had four winning seasons in the 44 years before he arrived.

The newest active coach statue, unveiled in April, is of TCU’s Gary Patterson. Patterson’s teams have won 144 games and lost 48 but have played in only two major bowls.

The ultimate cautionary tale about giving a coach a statue while he is still active is the Joe Paterno statue.

A group of wealthy donors and friends of Paterno placed a statue of him outside Penn State’s Beaver Stadium in 2001. Eleven years later the school removed it after Paterno was fired amid allegations he did not do enough after getting reports of child sexual abuse by former assistant coach Jerry Sandusky.

Turning to Ohio State, could there be more statues in its future, like the one of Hayes or like the one of Olympic legend Jesse Owens at the track facility named for him?

At some point in the future when Urban Meyer is retired, it’s possible OSU would go the Alabama route and do statues of its national champion coaches – Hayes, Jim Tressel and Meyer.

Or maybe the next statue will be of a player. Some say it should be of Chic Harley, the World War I-era running back whose popularity is viewed by many people as the beginning of making OSU football what it is today.

But the obvious and universally popular choice, of course, would be two-time Heisman Trophy winner Archie Griffin. Or possibly Ohio State might go with two statues – one of Griffin and another of Harley.

But right now a statue of an active coach doesn’t seem like something Ohio State, which has so far resisted the lucrative lure of putting a name on its stadium, would do.
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