NORMAN — Bob Stoops says he grew up in a home with no strong college football allegiance.
“I don't ever recall … my household ever rooting really hard for anybody in particular,” Stoops said.
Switzerland, huh? The old house on Detroit Avenue a bastion of neutrality?
We call a rebuttal witness. A primary source. Little brother Mike Stoops.
“It was fun growing up a Notre Dame fan,” Mike Stoops said. “We liked Michigan, too. Notre Dame and Michigan.”
Mass at St. Dominic's and the Notre Dame playback show were the Sunday morning staples in the Stoops homestead.
“That was really the highlight of the week,” Mike Stoops said.
So Saturday night on Owen Field, why is Bob Stoops coaching the Sooners and not the Fighting Irish? Why did Stoops not yield to the siren song of Notre Dame?
Why did a guy who grew up in a Catholic home, attended a Catholic school (Cardinal Mooney) and was coached by a Notre Dame grad (Don Bucci), spurn the Fighting Irish at least twice and maybe thrice? Why did Stoops decline the offer to follow in the footsteps of Rockne and Leahy and Parseghian?
Stoops' lips are sealed. He doesn't kiss and tell. But OU sources admit that at least twice Notre Dame has come after Stoops, and why wouldn't the Irish have courted the most natural of fits all three times?
Notre Dame fired Bob Davie in 2001, when Stoops was finishing off a two-year run of 24-2 and a national title.
Notre Dame fired Tyrone Willingham in 2004, when Stoops was finishing off a two-year run of 25-3, with back-to-back Big Bowl appearances.
Notre Dame fired Charlie Weis in 2009, when Stoops was completing his 11th season at OU, with a record of 117-29 and six Big 12 titles.
But Stoops was not enticed. Truth is, OU insiders say the Cleveland Browns and the University of Florida came closest to swiping Stoops from Soonerville.
Stoops acknowledged he's had other “suitors” but says he's stayed because his bosses, President David Boren and athletic director Joe Castiglione, have built up a trust and always have delivered to his program the opportunity to succeed.
They have supplied Stoops with an environment, and admittedly been proactive in his paycheck staying near the top in America, that makes him content.
“I like too much what I'm doing to look around or pursue something else, or if someone has pursued me, to follow through with it,” Stoops said.
“Whether I've taken 10 minutes to think about it, an hour, a day or two, I've always been forthright with my people on where I'm at.”
An OU regent told me a few years ago that Stoops never leverages interest on another job to better his situation in Norman. And Stoops says there's not much to ask for. New dorm, stadium renovations, practice and locker facilities. OU has stayed ahead of the curve on capital improvements.
“First for me comes giving me an opportunity to win,” Stoops said. “They have always been proactive in giving our program the opportunity to succeed at the highest level.
“If they were just paying me and not giving me an opportunity to be No. 1 in the country, then no, I would pursue something else.”
But OU has, and Stoops hasn't. In truth, he's been loyal to the school that hired him.
And so the man who grew up where, in the words of Mike Stoops, “Notre Dame runs deep,” still coaches on the Oklahoma plains, where Saturday night, we don't need a witness to know precisely how Bob Stoops stands on Notre Dame.
Berry Tramel: Berry can be reached at (405) 760-8080 or at firstname.lastname@example.org. He can be heard Monday through Friday from 4:40-5:20 p.m. on The Sports Animal radio network, including FM-98.1. You can also view his personality page at newsok.com/berrytramel.