Bob Stoops stopped by a table in the lobby of the Hyatt Regency Scottsdale Resort & Spa last week. It was doubling as a workspace. Media had posted up knowing full well that coaches and administrators had to pass by on their way to check in for conference spring meetings.
In quiet moment, Stoops was asked the Big Why at Oklahoma. Why, after Lincoln Riley's abrupt departure, was this the job for Brent Venables?
"You kiddin' me?" Stoops shot back. "It's Oklahoma."
Yes, but it also might have been Auburn, UCF, Kansas State, Florida State or any of the scores of other possible landing spots over the years for Venables, one of the game's best defensive minds. Heck, it might have eventually been Clemson if Alabama ever called Dabo Swinney home.
But it's actually a lot more than all that. It's a sense of loyalty developed at one of the low points of Venables' career that led to him returning to the Sooners.
Twenty-four years ago, on a raucous December afternoon in 1998, Kansas State fans were so sure they were going to the first BCS Championship Game that they lined up at pay phones in the Edward Jones Dome concourse as the Wildcats were trouncing Texas A&M in the Big 12 Championship Game. They were booking travel to Tempe.
The top-ranked Wildcats led by 15 with 9:20 left only to ultimately lose in double overtime. The then-27-year-old K-State linebackers coach watched his efforts fail as a national championship shot slipped through his fingers. When UCLA and Kansas State both lost that day, Florida State moved up to play Tennessee in that first BCS game. The Volunteers defeated the Seminoles for their sixth national championship and first in 31 years.
"I'm telling you right now, Tennessee, you would have had to take that one off the banner [because Kansas State would have won]," Venables told CBS Sports. "That was one of the top three [most] talented teams I've been on.