It was the 'other' Bob Stoops visiting Saban at Alabama
BY DAVE SITTLER World Sports Columnist
Wednesday, August 05, 2009
8/05/09 at 12:54 PM
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THE GENESIS of last week's Bob Stoops-Nick Saban skull session in Tuscaloosa, Ala., was a man who loves to tell people he's "the real Bob Stoops."
Anyone interested in college football knows Bob Stoops has been Oklahoma's coach for the past decade. But who knew he had an uncle by the same name?
A lot of people in Ohio apparently are aware of the original Bob Stoops, the younger brother of Ron Stoops, the late father of OU's coach. But it's Bob Stoops' nephew and namesake who has gained widespread acclaim.
The elder Bob Stoops was a coach (it runs in the family) on the Ohio high school level and then an assistant for 13 seasons at Youngstown State for Jim Tressel, who won four Division I-AA national titles before leaving for Ohio State.
"He tells everybody, including my players, that he's the real Bob Stoops," said OU's 48-year-old coach about the uncle. "He (coached) many places in Ohio, but mainly in Youngstown."
It was the elder Stoops brothers, Ron and Bob, who first came in contact with Saban when he was an assistant at several colleges in the area and also Michigan State's head coach.
Youngstown, Ohio has long been a hotbed for college prospects. So when Saban recruited the city's high schools, he became fast friends with Ron Stoops, the defensive coordinator at Cardinal Mooney, and Bob Stoops, the head coach at Youngstown South.
Three of Ron Stoops' sons — Bob, Mike and Mark — played their college ball at Iowa. So whenever the Hawkeyes played at Michigan State, OU's Bob Stoops said, "my dad would go by Nick's house and see him.
"Nick had a long relationship with my uncle and my dad and a lot of people back home in Youngstown. And he's always been good to me."
That's news to a lot of us who covered the 2003 BCS national championship game, when Saban's LSU team beat Stoops' Sooners in the Sugar Bowl, 21-14. The pregame news conferences centered on the upcoming contest instead of any long-term relationship between the two coaches.
Given that their friendship dates back more than 20 years, it's not as surprising now as it was a week ago when tulsaworld.com first reported Stoops had visited Saban.
Both men built their reputations as defensive coordinators, with their speciality being the secondary. During a recent coaches meeting, they started comparing notes and decided to continue the conversation in Tuscaloosa at Saban's invitation.
"We were talking and both realized there are some good things we both do that fit each other," Stoops said. "So we spent a day sharing ideas on defending multiple-back teams, which we'll see more and more."
Stoops had defensive coordinator Brent Venables and secondary coach Bobby Jack Wright accompany him on the private flight to Alabama. The three OU coaches spent "an entire day" watching video tape with Saban and his assistants.
"We also worked on different wrinkles in each other's defense that should help both teams," Stoops said.
When the Stoops-Saban Summit was confirmed, most assumed the two defensive gurus had huddled to discuss ways to stop the offensive expertise of Florida head coach Urban Meyer, who has won two of the last three BCS national titles.
Florida defeated Alabama in the Southeastern Conference title game last December, 31-20. But the Crimson Tide, with its defense holding its own, led 20-17 after three quarters before Florida quarterback Tim Tebow led the Gators to two fourth-quarter touchdowns.
A month later, OU's defense battled Florida's offense to a 7-7 standoff at halftime of the BCS title contest in the Orange Bowl. But with the Sooners' high-scoring offense suddenly grounded in the red zone and Tebow again working his second-half magic, the Gators posted a 24-14 victory.
Stoops said Meyer's offense wasn't the emphasis of last week's session with Saban. He said it centered on exchanging philosophies in several areas, as well as sharing a few tricks of the trade.
"They've always played really good defense," Stoops said of Saban-coached teams. "And we have that same reputation.
"But it's funny how sometimes you see something differently through someone else's view. Or how they project it to you, and it makes sense."
It's long been a practice for coaches to swap information in the offseason. Earlier this week, Stoops sent his entire staff to spend two days in the training camp of the NFL's New Orleans Saints.
"Coaches who have some type of relationship often get together and share ideas," Stoops said. "I think our trip to Alabama was beneficial for both of us."
If the Stoops-Saban schemes swapped in August help OU reach its second straight BCS title game next January, the Sooners can personally thank a 69-year-old retired coach when he visits their bowl practices to tell them he's "the real Bob Stoops."
Bryan Terry, The Oklahoman