NORMAN, Oklahoma — Those close to Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops say he's one of the best because he takes nothing for granted.
Stoops is the only coach to have won every BCS bowl game and a national title. He has coached two Heisman winners — Jason White and Sam Bradford. Last season, he passed Barry Switzer as Oklahoma's winningest coach. He has a career record of 160-39 and closed last season with a stunning upset victory over Alabama in the Sugar Bowl.
Those who work for him say he's a meticulous planner, yet he gives them space. Those who play for him say he's demanding, yet easy to talk to.
The man who hired him, Oklahoma athletic director Joe Castiglione, said he respects the fact that Stoops doesn't consider success a birthright. Even with a No. 4 preseason ranking, Stoops has constantly reminded folks that this team hasn't accomplished anything yet.
"He's strong, but he also has some humility about him that I think is healthy, and is a good part of why he is consistently successful," Castiglione told The Associated Press.
His Sooners open the season Saturday at home against Louisiana Tech, and he is aware that there is plenty of work ahead if his lofty expectations — and those of the fans — are to be met.
"At the end of the day, it gets down to your pride," he said. "Every opportunity, you have a chance to win or lose. Guys understand that we don't usually show and not get someone's best shot. We've always got to be ready for that and it's been that way for 16 years. Maybe it wasn't that way in '99 (when he was hired), but it was after that. It's no different. It's a challenge every week."
Stoops has dealt with controversy, too — especially this year. Running back Joe Mixon was suspended for a year after police say he punched a young woman at a restaurant. The school is trying to suspend linebacker Frank Shannon for a year because it says he violated the school's rules against sexual assault. Recently, Dorial Green-Beckham was denied a waiver for immediate eligibility after being kicked off Missouri's team following numerous off-the-field issues. Stoops said he feels Oklahoma deals with such situations fairly on a consistent basis, and doesn't believe they should cloud Oklahoma's image.
"I've been here 16 years," he said on Oklahoma's media day. "There's a long track record of what we've done here. Reflect on that."
Stoops came to Oklahoma in the shadow of the legendary Barry Switzer and won a national title in his second year. Though his success has drawn attention from suitors over the years, Stoops has stayed in Norman and become the nation's third-longest tenured BCS coach, behind Virginia Tech's Frank Beamer and Troy's Larry Blakeney.
"That's one of the things that stood out about OU — the solidity of it," Oklahoma quarterback Trevor Knight said. "How he's going to be here. I think it's just the way he runs the program, the leader he is — that trickles downhill to the rest of the coaching staff, and even to us — just the way he approaches each and every day and the way he manages his life."
There's more to it than just having elite athletes and knowing the game, though. Defensive tackle Chuka Ndulue said Stoops knows how to reach people.
"He's a great coach," Ndulue said. "He knows how to talk football. I always say he could teach my mother what a safety has to do in certain fronts. Being able to just communicate with your players, getting the best out of them, just because he's been doing it for so long — I can't even explain it."
Defensive coordinator Mike Stoops, Bob's brother, praises Bob's confidence in his assistants. Jerry Schmidt, the school's director of sports enhancement, says he's successful because of the power Stoops gives him. Second-year offensive line coach Bill Bedenbaugh said Stoops understands the importance of life beyond football, something that hasn't always been the case from his previous bosses.
"He's a family guy," Bedenbaugh said. "The hours that you put in, you want to spend time with your family. He allows you — he expects you — to do that. That's the different thing about him. I haven't been around many guys that are like that in letting you have time with your family. That's an important part — a big reason my wife loves it here too."
Such praise is among the reasons Stoops got a raise in the offseason. His salary for this season, about $5.25 million, is among the highest in college football.
"In a phrase, he's worth every penny," Castiglione said. "It's commensurate with the financial resources we have and that have been generated based on the success the program has achieved under his leadership."
Stoops said the consistency around him has helped his success. President David L. Boren has been at the school since 1994 and Castiglione has been there since 1998.
"I consider myself, fortunate, lucky, blessed to be at a place like this for so long," Stoops said. "My family has been raised in one place, which doesn't happen much in my profession. Mostly, and I've said it a lot, because of the leadership here through Joe Castiglione and his staff and the support and their vision to continue to push our program forward."
That leadership has supported a $370 million project to renovate Memorial Stadium. Stoops said those kinds of commitments help him look good.
"What it does is allows us as assistant coaches and me as a head coach to say, 'Look at the environment that we come into every day to be at your best. With the nutrition we are giving you, with the weight room we are giving you and the training to build yourself . the academic center right across the street from the dormitory and you only have to walk right across the street to get all your tutoring and mentoring or whatever it may be.' They do help a coach, no question."
Castiglione said the key to the program's overall success is Stoops' natural tendency to focus on those around him.
"I really think that his true joy comes in his ability to make others successful," Castiglione said.
Follow Cliff Brunt on Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/CliffBruntAP .