NORMAN — Oklahoma passed the test.
Joe Castiglione and Bob Stoops passed the test. And now, isn’t it interesting to wonder what Kevin Sumlin was thinking back on Aug. 2, 2006, the day the Sooners said goodbye to Rhett Bomar.
It was Chuck Long’s offense and, of all the coaches, he was most affected by Bomar and offensive lineman J.D. Quinn’s dismissals from the roster for being ghost employees at a Norman auto dealership.
But Sumlin was affected, too.
He was co-offensive coordinator and receivers coach. He was Jay Norvell before Jay Norvell.
What did Sumlin think about the reigning Holiday Bowl MVP quarterback being shown the door?
Was he tempted to ride it out, hoping an institutionally imposed suspension might quell a potential NCAA uproar and leave the Sooners with their star quarterback in time for conference play?
Malcolm Kelly, Juaquine Iglesias and Manny Johnson played under Sumlin’s charge. Those guys might have thought the world of Paul Thompson, yet they had to be sad to see the guy they’d finally developed chemistry alongside go.
Could Sumlin have even hoped for no action on OU’s part? Could he have hoped it would all go away?
They’re interesting questions considering where Sumlin finds himself now, as head coach of resurgent take-the-SEC-by-storm Texas A&M, the program Heisman Trophy winning quarterback Johnny Manziel appears intent to drag through scandalous mud.
Because it sure looks like Manziel’s been caught dead to rights selling his signature to autograph merchants, that segment of the labor market between freelance scalpers and street agents.
And, while we wonder what Sumlin might have been thinking way back when, the only time scandal has threatened to haunt the Stoops era, it’s also a good time to recognize that it only threatened to haunt the Stoops era because it was dealt with so swiftly and completely.
Indeed, the 2013 Sooners are ripe with question marks, yet the program still shines, in part because of so many fine seasons the last 15 years, but also because, alongside Castiglione and university president David Boren, OU runs a tight ship.
Bomar was the nation’s hottest quarterback coming out of Grand Prairie (Texas) High School in 2004. After playing awfully through the first half of his redshirt freshman season, he caught fire by the end.
OU lost four games in 2005 and it remains one of Stoops’ most trying campaigns. Yet, by the time it all came together with a second-half San Diego comeback to top Oregon, the Sooner Nation couldn’t wait for next year.
Set the two Augusts against one another, ’06 in Norman and ’13 in College Station, and they stand in stark relief.
In one, you have a proud program unwilling to slide back toward scandal. In another, you’ve got a Johnny-come-lately band of Aggies, finally delivering the victories that had always eluded them to a desperate fan base, seemingly trying to somehow, some way to keep their whirling dervish of a quarterback from being sacked by the powers that be.
It’s quite the contrast. And, just maybe, a lesson about unintended consequences.
A&M left the Big 12, an insane move on its face, only to flourish so fancily under the direction of Johnny Football’s fabulousness.
The moment he beat Alabama, setting him up to become the first freshman to win the Heisman Trophy, he became too big for himself, his program and maybe his sport. Beating Kansas State wouldn’t have propelled him nearly so high.
Say goodbye to Johnny Football. Even if he survives, the moniker no longer fits for the knucklehead quarterback.
Also, say hello to the Sooners.
They may struggle this season. Or maybe not. Whatever, the headlines will be generated on the field.
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