Bob Stoops, Hawkeye and Sooner

Bob Stoops, whose Oklahoma football team is ranked No. 1 in some preseason polls, said he was never offered the Iowa coaching job after Hayden Fry retired. But Stoops tells columnist Ron Maly that "I have a great love for Iowa and the Iowa program. I'm always rooting for them.'' Stoops also says Iowa's Kirk Ferentz is "an excellent coach and is doing a great job.''

In the event anyone still has a question, Bob Stoops has the answer.

I told him that some people are still a bit puzzled about what happened when Iowa was looking for a new football coach following Hayden Fry's final season in 1998.

Naturally, a large number of Hawkeye fans got excited when athletic director Bob Bowlsby and Iowa's search committee interviewed Stoops, who had been Steve Spurrier's defensive coordinator and assistant head coach at Florida since 1996.

Stoops had been a defensive back for the Hawkeyes from 1979-82, and later was an Iowa graduate assistant and volunteer coach.

So it seemed natural that school officials would want Stoops to be Fry's successor. After all, he was the hottest young coaching prospect in the nation—at least among assistants.

But, for one reason or another, the Stoops-to-Iowa move never materialized. Kirk Ferentz was named the Hawkeyes' coach Dec. 2, 1998 and is now heading into his fourth season after records of 1-10, 3-9 and 7-5.

But certainly don't feel sorry for Stoops. He is the envy of many other coaches. He now is in charge of one of the best collegiate football programs in America, and is making a lot of money in the process.

In three seasons at Oklahoma, he has a 31-7 record, coached the 13-0 Sooners to the 2000 national championship, went 11-2 last season and has a team this season that could finish No. 1 again.

Indeed, Oklahoma is already atop some preseason rankings.

So what really happened between you and Iowa, Bob?

"I don't know why there's any discussion about it,'' Stoops answered. "I was interviewed for the Iowa job, and I was never offered the head coaching job. It's pretty simple. I had already been offered the job at Oklahoma.

"In the end, when you're offered a job at a place and not offered the job at another place, you do what you feel is the right thing to do.''

Despite not being given the opportunity to succeed Fry, who had coached him at Iowa, Stoops continues to have strong feelings for the Hawkeye program.

"I have great love for Iowa and the Iowa program,'' he said. "It's very special to me. I'm always rooting for them. I think Kirk Ferentz is an excellent coach and is doing a great job.

"Believe me, I'm all for them and rooting for them hard.''

Stoops and his family have had close ties to Iowa for a long time. Brothers Mark and Mike also played for Fry's Hawkeyes, and Mike now is Oklahoma's associate head coach and co-defensive coordinator.

When Ron Stoops, the father of Bob, Mike and Mark, died at 54, some Hawkeye tradition was with him in his casket.

"There's been a lot said about that,'' Bob Stoops explained. "Some of it is overblown. Coach Fry and several other Iowa coaches brought our No. 41 Iowa jersey—all of us wore No. 41—folded it, and set it next to my father in the casket. I left my Rose Bowl ring with him, too.

"At the time, Mark was still playing for Iowa, Mike was a graduate assistant at Iowa and I was an assistant coach at Kent State.''

Ask Bob Stoops about coaches whose styles have impressed him over the years, and guys from Iowa are well represented.

"When I'm asked about coaches, I bring up people like John Wooden, Dan Gable, Steve Spurrier and Hayden Fry,'' he said.

Gable, of course, is the legendary former Iowa State wrestler and Iowa wrestling coach.

"I bring up Dan Gable's name immediately,'' Stoops said. "I spent a lot of time with him when I was at Iowa. When I was a young graduate assistant, I'd go to the wrestling room to watch those guys work out and wrestle.

"They'd actually get me in there to work out. I always admired the way Dan motivated his athletes and the way he worked. He was a great example for a coach.''

Others in addition to Mike Stoops who are assistants at Oklahoma include former Iowa quarterback Chuck Long, who coaches the Sooners' quarterbacks and is in his first year as offensive coordinator, and Jonathan Hayes, a former Iowa player who is special teams coordinator and tight ends coach.

For the first time since Stoops has been at Oklahoma, he'll coach against Iowa State this season. The Cyclones play at Norman on Oct. 19.

"I have great respect for (Iowa State coach) Dan McCarney,'' Stoops said. "I learned a lot from Dan, Bill Brashier and Barry Alvarez—the way they motivate--when they were assistants at Iowa. Dan was a big influence on me.''

Stoops admitted his team "has a chance to be pretty good'' this season.

"We have a lot of good players back who were with us on our national championship team,'' he said.

It doesn't bother Stoops one bit that his team is ranked as high as No. 1 in the preseason.

"For so many years, Oklahoma has been one of those teams with a legitimate chance to win the national championship, and it's good to be in that position year in and year out,'' he said. "If we do our job, and do it well, we have a chance.''

Oklahoma's season starts Aug. 30 at Tulsa. The Sooners then play Alabama on Sept. 7, with every intention of continuing a string of sellouts at Memorial Stadium in Norman.

Oklahoma has sold out every game in the 75,081-seat stadium since Stoops began coaching there in 1999.

Something tells me the folks in Norman think they've got the right guy steering the ship.

[Ron Maly covered the Iowa-Oklahoma game at Norman, Okla., on Sept. 15, 1979. Coach Barry Switzer's Sooners won, 21-6, but Bob Stoops—then a young Iowa defensive back playing in his second game—recalls that "we fought them to the end. We actually contained (1978 Heisman Trophy winner) Billy Sims. He ended up getting his 100 yards, but he was working for it. That was a good, hard-fought game, and Coach Hayden Fry was instilling in us a great deal of confidence in those early games.'']

Maly's e-mail address is

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