SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. --Bob Stoops is putting his foot down in Norman. After a disappointing regular season which saw the Sooners suffer losses to Texas Tech, a team which came in as a 29-point underdog, Baylor, a team which had never beaten OU, and Oklahoma State, a team which destroyed the Sooners 44-10 with a Big 12 Championship on the line, Stoops is taking a hard line approach with his team.
The Sooners have undergone a facelift since the regular season finale. Nine players have left the program including highly recruited players such as Brandon Williams and Justin McCay. Even players who were young contributors, such as defensive tackle Torrea Peterson, have been shown the door out of Norman.
Starting defensive end Ronnell Lewis was suspended for the season finale against OSU and he did not make the trip to Arizona because of academic issues.
During Wednesday's Insight Bowl Media Day, senior linebacker Travis Lewis opened the door and let everyone in on the issues surrounding this program. Issues that have been talked about since the first whispers of problems arose after the word of departures started surfacing.
"I think Coach Stoops decided to put his foot down," said Lewis. "The guys that weren't contributing, guys that were going by the wayside and trying to get a free ride are no longer here. That's his only message.
"I don't think it was a chemistry issue. This is Oklahoma. If you're going to be at Oklahoma, you need to win, you need to contribute, you need to do all the little things to make this team succeed. The players that weren't doing that, he said, OK, it was nice of you being here, I appreciate you, but go do your own thing."
On Thursday, during his last press conference before the Sooners kickoff against Iowa in Friday night's Insight Bowl, Stoops was asked to comment on Lewis' assessment of everything that has happened since the end of the regular season.
"I have put my foot down every year this time of year," said Stoops. "There have always been guys that all of a sudden aren't back, or as people see, all of a sudden they are transferring.
"Some of them have been told they need to transfer because I'm not renewing their scholarship. And for a variety of reasons, which I have laid out before, whether it be continual and habitual skipping class, not being eligible to play or suspended from practice for these kind of academic reasons or for drug testing reasons or for walking out or skipping out on a weight workout, you are here to go to school and to be a heck of a football player, or at least try to be.
"And if you are not living up to those obligations, you are not earning your way and you are bringing the team down. So I'm not saying all these guys, but some of them, that's what happens. It is just noticeable this year than other years. And we've had more this year."
With so much hand-wringing over the direction of the program following the Sooners' loss to Oklahoma State, fans have wondered what Bob Stoops planned to do to right the ship. Coaching changes, leadership and personnel decisions have been the focus for most fans.
But house cleaning appears to be the first step in turning around the attitude of this team for Stoops.
"It's made us a stronger, more complete team," said Lewis. "I think along the way, we forgot about the little things we were doing right, like not missing a class or attendance - just being at practice and meetings on time. Just those little things we all took for granted through the season. Not that we forgot about them, but we started taking them for granted. As our head coach, our leader, Coach Stoops felt like he needed to make some changes around here. I agreed with him."
"In the end, I think it is the right thing to do," added Stoops. "And it sends a message to other players, they get it usually. We'll see. We'll see where it goes from here."
As for how it's affected the team in the short-term, Stoops was asked if he's already seen a noticeable difference in the bowl practices.
"Yeah," he answered. "You know why? Because that two percent of my team isn't eating up 90 percent of my time all of a sudden. It is pretty simple. You feel a lot better, that's for sure."
Stoops was careful not to put all the blame of a disappointing season on malcontents. After all, it wasn't just these players who were causing all the issues with losses to Texas Tech, Baylor and the thrashing in Stillwater.
"I think there were some other significant issues through the year that were hard to overcome. You lose your leading rusher, not easy to overcome. And second half of the year, you lose your top two receivers, not easy to overcome," said Stoops. "You have back-to-back years where you are going on the road to play two teams that have had the best seasons they've had in the history of their program.
"Some of it is a little bit circumstances weren't the best. And then, you know, some of it our part. I'm not taking away what we can do better as a team, whether it be how we come into a game, whether we have done a good job coaching, whether I have done a good enough job having them prepared.