The Norman Transcript

OU Football

January 1, 2014

Saban, Stoops relationship began some time ago

NEW ORLEANS — The personalities of college coaches have long been driving forces in the sport’s popularity. Players come and go. The coaches and the traditions of the schools are the only constants.

Oklahoma’s Bob Stoops and Alabama’s Nick Saban both have distinctive personalities. Both are highly competitive with well-earned reputations for demanding and getting the most from their players.

The Sooners close the BCS era with their ninth appearance in a BCS bowl game Thursday in the Sugar Bowl. Saban won three of the previous four national championships and has Alabama playing in a BCS game for the fourth time in five years.

Those close to them know there’s another side to both. Stoops pulled back the curtains on Saban in the time leading up to the Sugar Bowl. Long before Stoops ever came to Norman one of the coaches who helped him along the way was Saban, and the relationship has remained in place for four decades.

Stoops still recalls the first time they met when Saban was an assistant coach at Michigan State back in the mid 1980s. One of his recruiting areas was Youngstown, Ohio. A frequent trip was to Cardinal Mooney where Stoops and his brothers played and his father, Ron, was defensive coordinator. The relationship between the families was close enough that Stoops’ parents would go and visit the Sabans whenever their youngest son, Mark, who followed his brothers to Iowa and into coaching, played road games at Michigan State.

Saban recruited OU defensive coordinator Mike Stoops before he decided to follow in his brother’s footsteps and go to Iowa.

The relationship continued when Saban became the Cleveland Browns’ defensive coordinator in the early 1990s.

“My uncle and a few other people would go up there to watch them practice and study their defense and what they were doing,” Stoops recalled. “That’s a long time ago. He was always very good to my family and me and my dad and my uncle, Bob, who was a coach as well, of allowing us to be around and study what they were doing and for him to invite them to his place.”

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