A Close Connection

NORMAN, Okla. — OU head coach Bob Stoops and Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz go way back.

Way back to Stoops' playing days, as a matter of fact.

Stoops was a defensive back in the early 1980s, while Ferentz was a young buck in the coaching world when the two first met.

Ferentz recounts his version of the story.

"When I got here in 1981, that was my first coaching job — full-time coaching job in college," Ferentz started. "And Bob was a sophomore — excuse me, a junior on that team. And as you may know, that was a very historic year for football history. Iowa had 19 straight losing seasons going into that year and ended up winning the Big Ten and going to the Rose Bowl that season.

"And Bob was a junior on that team, but, yet, he was one of the leaders of the football team. No question about that. And not the biggest or fastest guy on the team but certainly one of the smartest and toughest, and that really is what epitomized that team as a tough, smart group.

"They did a great job. Bob was a great player here, great leader. And then stayed on as a G.A. and part-time coach for a couple years and took his first full-time job at K-State in the mid '80s, and then a year later Bill Snyder went to Kansas State and hired Bob. And nothing but good things have happened in his career since that time. So he's a guy I've got tremendous respect for as a person and certainly as a football coach. Just done a phenomenal job his entire career."

Stoops tells his part of the story.

"Yeah, we are very good friends, Kirk and Mary, my wife Carol and I," Stoops said. "He was very influential in my life. He was a young coach. I was a player. And then as a graduate assistant trying to become a coach, he was very good to me, always. Very close with him, related [well] to him because he was the youngest coach on the staff. His wife Mary was always great to me and my wife.

"So very much — there is a very close attachment there and not only to the Iowa program but to Kirk and Mary especially as people...He is just a coach. He loves football, always has related well to his players, always been very much a motivator and coach that players relate to. And I always recognize that. And I guess I related to him well as a young player myself and then even as a young coach."

But the story doesn't stop there during his playing days.

Stoops eventually moved on to an assistant coaching position at Kent State before accepting a job as the defensive backs coach for Bill Snyder and the Kansas State Wildcats in 1989.

Snyder promoted him to co-defensive coordinator in 1991 and assistant head coach as well as co-defensive coordinator in 1995.

A year later, Florida head coach Steve Spurrier came calling, and Stoops took the defensive coordinator position for the Gators, where he helped guide them to the 1996 National Championship with a win in the '97 Sugar Bowl over Florida State.

In the meantime, Ferentz became head coach at Maine from 1990-92 before working stints for the Cleveland Browns and Baltimore Ravens as an offensive line coach between the years 1993-95 and 1996-98, respectively.

It was at that point in 1999 when the two came in contact once again.

The Hawkeyes, Stoops' alma mater, sought out to replace the retiring long-time Iowa coach, Hayden Fry, and both were in the mix.

Each of the two interviewed for the position.

Stoops had his interview and just a couple days later, the Hawkeyes elected to offer Ferentz the opportunity.

"Well, that's water over the dam," Stoops said. "In the end, I was very fortunate and lucky that I had just also interviewed for Oklahoma. By the time I got out of that interview, Oklahoma had an offer there that I was excited about."

And thus the two parted ways, connected yet again, each with his own grand opportunity in front of him.

"To be quite honest, I felt, you know, I was at Iowa for 10 years, and I loved it," Stoops said. "I still love it. Some of my dearest friends are from there. But it was, like, I've been there, done that. This is something new, exciting. And, let's face it, too, a great tradition and great leadership at Oklahoma. I thought this is what I need to do, you know?

"And I felt really in my heart, you know, Iowa had their heart set on Kirk maybe as well. I'm not — I don't know what they were. But in the end, I thought, you know what, I love the opportunity at Oklahoma. My wife and I talked about it. It is like, hey, let's go with it. And that was it."

Since that time, Stoops has racked up 138 wins to just 34 setbacks, an .802 winning percentage, including seven conference championships and the 2000 National Title.

He's been victorious in three of the four BCS bowls, with triumphs in the Orange, Rose and Fiesta Bowl.

Ferentz has enjoyed his fair share of success as well, winning a pair of Big Ten Titles with a 96-65 overall record.

He's posted three 10-or-more-win seasons, including 11 victories in 2002 and 2009.

Both of those culminated in trips to the Orange Bowl, with him winning and losing one, and he's also won the Outback Bowl twice, Capital One, Alamo and Insight each once.

Now, it's time for the two to reconnect once again in this year's Insight.com Bowl.

"I hate the fact that we're playing each other; but, hey, it's a Bowl game," Stoops said. "It will work out."

The man who got the job vs. the man who interviewed for it but was not offered and went somewhere else.

Ferentz vs. Stoops.

Stoops vs. his alma mater.

Should be interesting.

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