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‘I’m as stunned as anyone:’ Legendary coach praises Stoops in retirement

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NORMAN, Okla. -- Add OU legend Barry Switzer to the list of surprised Sooners Wednesday, blindsided by the news that football coach Bob Stoops was retiring.

A phone call from a reporter seeking comment led Switzer to call a close source, who confirmed the news.

"I’m shocked because three or four days ago I was in his office," said Switzer, who was showing a former player around. "We went into his office, we visited, took pictures, did all those things you would do and then I get this call this afternoon, so I’m as stunned as anyone."

Stoops announced his retirement after 18 successful seasons as head football coach. Along with a national championship, Stoops became the winningest coach in OU history.

His announcement Wednesday came suddenly, after about a week of thought, Stoops said, handing the prominent program to offensive coordinator Lincoln Riley when it's near its strongest to ensure a "seamless transition."

"The coaching life is really equated to a relay race and I really am grateful to my opportunity to run the race I have and really feel confident as I pass the baton on to Lincoln Riley," Stoops said in a press conference. "Lately here in the last week-and-a-half I knew it was what I wanted to do for me personally and the right thing to do moving forward for the program and for the University."

President David Boren called the day "bittersweet." Switzer, whom Stoops passed to become the Sooners' all-time wins leader, seemed to feel the same.

"I hate to see it," he told NewsChannel 4. "He was great for our program, he was good to me, better than I could ask for for any coach that came in here and followed me. We’re losing someone special."

In a statement, Stoops said it is simply his time to move on, noting his health has nothing to do with it. He hasn't said what he'll do next, though Boren said he will serve as a special adviser to the athletic director.

Current Athletic Director Joe Castiglione joined Boren in praising Stoops' character and integrity, something Switzer echoed.

"Forget him as a coach, he was a great person and he was a good guy to me and that’s more important than anything," he said. "Bob is an icon and he’s done something in coaching that very few can do and he got to do it at Oklahoma and that’s kind of special."