NEW ORLEANS —
Perhaps it’s because they come from similar places. They’re a decade apart in age, but Saban grew up in Fairmont, W.Va., about 150 miles south of Youngstown.
Both were the sons of fathers who coached football. Stoops’ at the high school level. Saban’s father was a youth coach in Fairmont. Both moved their ways up the coaching ranks as defensive assistants before landing as head coaches.
Mike Stoops believes the backgrounds have always been part of it.
“When you come up in football and you can relate, maybe we just relate to him very well and understand him, you know, his philosophy and his dedication to being a perfectionist and being great,” he said. “I mean, I think everyone respects that.”
For whatever reason, the Stoops family has always been one Saban’s felt extremely comfortable with.
“They’re great people, No. 1, they’re outstanding coaches,” Saban said. “There are some people in the coaching profession that you just sorta have a professional relationship with that you always like to trade ideas and you have a mutual respect for. Coach Stoops has always been one of those guys we’ve done that with.”
It’s no secret OU liberally lifted the 3-4 scheme it employed this season from the Crimson Tide. It’s no secret the defensive staffs are offseason sounding boards for one another.
Monday, Alabama offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier said he could see the Crimson Tide evolving into an up-tempo, no-huddle offense. Odds are that will include a trip to Norman for talks about how to do it.
The relationship between Saban and Stoops will continue long after Thursday’s meeting in the Sugar Bowl. It’s their first meeting since Jan. 4, 2004, when Saban-coached LSU upset the Sooners in the national championship game.