|Oklahoma moves on from NCAA ruling|
|Written by Admin|
|Monday, 23 July 2007 13:15|
This month, the NCAA ruled that the Sooners must vacate eight victories from the 2005 season and cut two scholarships for the 2008-09 and 2009-10 school years. The sanctions stem from the case involving quarterback Rhett Bomar and offensive lineman J.D. Quinn, who were kicked off the team in August for being paid for work they didn't perform at a car dealership.
``It's a new chapter. We go through something every year, it seems like,'' junior receiver Malcolm Kelly said Monday, the start of the Big 12's media days. ``I guess that's part of the game, the way things are supposed to be. They keep throwing it at us and we keep taking it.''
The Sooners held a team meeting the day after the NCAA's ruling. It's hardly been mentioned since.
``Now, everybody's really moved on,'' senior tight end Joe Jon Finley said. ``There's nothing you can do about it. We're just looking forward to this season.''
The school is appealing the ruling, mainly to get back the eight wins. Even if the NCAA shoots down the appeal, Coach Bob Stoops doesn't think it will hurt his program at all.
``There's nothing there that would inhibit us from continuing to win championships,'' Stoops said. ``Most of the penalties are, to me, in the past. In the end, there's nothing there we can't overcome.''
The program proved its resiliency in 2006:
- Bomar and Quinn were dismissed just before preseason practices began, leaving Stoops scrambling to find a starting quarterback.
- In September, an incorrect ruling by officials cost Oklahoma a victory in Oregon.
- In October, Heisman Trophy candidate Adrian Peterson broke his collarbone on a touchdown run against Iowa State.
The Sooners still beat Nebraska in the Big 12 championship. They lost to Boise State in a memorably wild Fiesta Bowl and finished 11-3 - a remarkable record considering the season's highs and lows.
``So many things last year - the way the season started to injuries to some official decisions - there was a lot there,'' Stoops said. ``But I believe our team learned a lot from it, too. We fought our way through it. Everybody kept their focus on what they should, and that was the game in front of us.
``By the end of the season, it was probably one of the more rewarding and fun ones. It makes it pretty special, having overcome so much.''
With 15 returning starters, Stoops expects the Sooners to be better this season - as long as he finds a competent quarterback.
Junior Joey Halzle and redshirt freshmen Sam Bradford and Keith Nichol will compete for the job in preseason practices. It's a much healthier situation than last year, when converted receiver Paul Thompson was thrust into the role after Bomar was dismissed.
``I feel a whole lot better about our situation than we did starting off last year, the way it all happened,'' Stoops said. ``This is nothing new.''
The Sooners have more depth at running back, too, though Stoops is the first to admit that no one is as physically talented as Peterson was.
Allen Patrick and Chris Brown, who got most of the carries when Peterson went down, are back and redshirt freshman DeMarco Murray will share the load, too, Stoops said.
``We look to use each of them 20-25 snaps,'' Stoops said. ``We'll use them to complement one another. In the end, it'll be better (than last year), because we'll be able to keep a fresh set of legs hitting the defense.''
Stoops expects the Sooners to contend for the Big 12 championship, and maybe the national title beyond that. Last year is forgotten, he said, except for the Big 12 championship trophy.
``That trophy is sitting there, like every other one,'' Stoops said. ``It's maybe more pleasing than any of them. It shows that this program isn't about any one guy. It's not about Adrian, it's not about the quarterback, it isn't about this, that or the other. And that we can overcome.''