Bob Stoops won’t be rooting for his brother Saturday when South Carolina and Kentucky meet in Williams-Brice Stadium.
That’s how much Steve Spurrier means to Oklahoma’s longtime football coach. Stoops’ younger brother Mark is in his first year at Kentucky and could get a program-catapulting win today against the No. 13 Gamecocks. Still, the man who hired Bob Stoops at Florida in 1996 means too much to him to pull against the Gamecocks.
“I won’t root as much as anything,” Bob Stoops told The State this week. “Of course your brother, it’s really hard, but Coach (Spurrier) and Jerri (Spurrier) and their whole family I am really close with.”
Spurrier hired Stoops away from Kansas State, where Stoops was co-defensive coordinator, the season after losing 62-24 to Nebraska in the Fiesta Bowl, and the Gators went 32-5 the next three seasons. In 1999, Stoops was hired by Oklahoma. He won a national title the next season and has been there since.
“He’s an appreciative guy,” Spurrier said when asked why he and Stoops remain so close. “He’s appreciative that he got a chance to be a head coach at Oklahoma after three years as an assistant (at Florida).”
Spurrier calls Bob Stoops “Bobby” or “Stoopsie” and the two talk often in a business in which Spurrier says it’s tough to retain many close friends. Both men say they are similar, but neither can, or will, say how.
“I don’t know how to explain that,” Stoops said. “It’s just we are.”
“He and I have a lot in common,” Spurrier said. “He plays a little golf. I play a little. We have just remained good friends.”
They are so close that Stoops bought a condominium in Crescent Beach, Fla., where the Spurriers have a home, and the families often spend time together.
“My wife and Jerri and me with Jerri and Coach, we just all have been great, great friends ever since our time there coaching,” Bob Stoops said. “Really, very much in a lot of ways like family, like extended family.”
The Spurriers and Stoops, and Texas A&M coach Kevin Sumlin, spent a week vacationing and golfing in Ireland this summer.
This will be the first meeting between a team led by a Spurrier and a team led by a Stoops. The Gamecocks played Florida State in the 2010 Chick-fil-A Bowl when Mark Stoops was the Seminoles’ defensive coordinator. The Gamecocks lost that day 26-17 despite outgaining the Seminoles 414 yards to 308 yards.
“I always love seeing coach Spurrier,” Mark Stoops said. “I have a tremendous amount of respect for him. Anytime you play an offensive mind like coach Spurrier, you have to change things up. He’s just very good, great play caller, and they have great balance in their offense right now. It’ll be a real challenge, but it’ll be exciting.”
Mark Stoops and Spurrier have spent time together at Crescent Beach and visited during the week leading up to the Chick-fil-A Bowl.
“He’s a good guy, really good guy and good coach,” Spurrier said. “It’s a tough job there at Kentucky, especially right now, but they supposedly have one of the best recruiting classes going into next year, so maybe they are heading in the right direction.”
Mark Stoops has picked up at least some football from Spurrier through his brother. Bob Stoops learned plenty about coaching defense from the offensive-minded Spurrier, Bob Stoops said.
“Being smart and being aggressive and as much as anything knowing what you are asking players to do and then take away the strengths of what the offense wants to do,” Bob Stoops said.
None of that will factor in Saturday’s outcome, though, Bob Stoops said. And neither will his loyalty to family or friends.
“It makes it really hard,” he said. “I’ll just stay out of it.”