0

FSU vs. Oklahoma: More like Stoops vs. Stoops

Photo by Sue Ogrocki

Photo by Sue Ogrocki

NORMAN, Okla. -- Bob and the older Stoops brothers used to get littlest brother Mark jumping on the bed and then swat at him with pillowcases, trying to take his legs out from under him. They'd coax him onto the high dive at the pool, getting him to do backflips and other acrobatics he probably shouldn't have been doing at age 5.

Looking back, the Oklahoma coach can revel in the memories from a childhood spent sharing the same bedroom -- and sometimes even the same bed -- at their Ohio home. So, why spoil it by going against one of his brothers in what could be an elimination game?

Bob Stoops will lead his 10th-ranked Sooners (1-0) against No. 17 Florida State (1-0) on Saturday, with brother Mark in his first year as the defensive coordinator for the Seminoles. It'll be a bit of a reunion with the Stoops' sisters and their mother coming to Norman, but an unwanted one at that.

"You don't really want to play your brother," Bob Stoops said Tuesday. "You want to play your brother in a championship game because not only does someone lose, someone's going to win a championship, too. To me, that's the only time you're really looking to do it."

Bob and Mark were never adversaries growing up in Youngstown, Ohio, or as they followed similar paths to becoming coaches in major college football. Like Bob -- and Mike, the head coach at Arizona -- before him, Mark played defensive back at Iowa before going into coaching. And all three became defensive-minded coaches.

Bob and Mike worked together under Bill Snyder at Kansas State, and then on the staff at Oklahoma after Bob was hired as the head coach. When Mike was picked to lead Arizona's program, he brought in Mark as his defensive coordinator.

"There's not much of a rivalry there," Mark Stoops said. "We all root for one another. In this day and age ... the pressure that we're under and the jobs that we have to do, the last thing that we need to do is jab each other."

There was plenty of jabbing -- or at least roughhousing -- that went on in their childhood. Bob says Mark "was like our toy, and he'd do anything" the older brothers put him up to.

"We were always scuffling or in something, especially me," said Bob, the second-oldest Stoops brother and almost seven years older than Mark. "But Mark was too young. He couldn't be in the middle of it. There wasn't anybody fighting him.

"So, pretty much, we'd throw him around the room, and he was in the hospital getting stitches about every other week -- in fun ways."

That fun included Mark smacking his head when he'd get walloped off the bed in the room the four brothers shared. They'd take turns with who'd get the two twin beds and who had to share the double bed in the room. Their parents got the one of the other two bedrooms in the house, and the Stoops sisters shared the last one.

It led to a naturally close bond in the clan, with all four brothers following father Ron into coaching. Ron Jr., the oldest Stoops brother, was hired as an assistant secondary coach at Youngstown State in January. Before that, he had worked for nine years as a defensive coordinator at Cardinal Mooney High School, where his father had been a coach.

"To me, there's no rivalry because we all want to see the other guy do better," Bob said. "Growing up, the only rivalry is if you got on each other's nerves, there would be a fight break out."

And, of course, there was football.

Bob still gets a kick out of the memory of Mark's first games after he'd spent so much time following the older Stoops brothers around to practices.

"He was like Dick Butkus and Walter Payton out there," Bob said. "He played middle linebacker and he'd kill everybody. He'd play running back and he had all the moves as a young guy."

Bob and Mark spoke briefly on the phone Monday, but just about basic feelings from each team's opening victory. Then, they broke it off. After all, they'll be seeing each other soon, wishing they could both come out as winners.

"How we all were is we all wanted to see the other guy do better than us," Bob said. "I think most brothers are that way."