NORMAN â€” Bo Pelini is college football's reigning sideline maniac. He stole the crown from Mike Stoops. Who took the status from his brother.
They come by it honest. They come from Youngstown.
Ohio's symbol of the Rust Belt stands tall Saturday night, when the Big Reds collide for the Big 12 Championship down in Arlington. Pelini's Cornhuskers and Bob Stoops' Sooners.
Youngstown runs deep through the bones of the families Stoops and Pelini.
â€œIt's very much a blue-collar environment,â€ Bob Stoops said. â€œWork hard for anything you get. You gotta earn it. Nothing's given to you. Be willing to fight for it. That's everybody's nature back there.
â€œWe never had trouble fighting for it back then.â€
That nature remains today. Oh, it's slowly seeping out of Stoops, who isn't nearly as volatile as he was when he first arrived in Oklahoma. Isn't nearly as likely to go ballistic as he was 10 years ago.
When Stoops was Kansas State's defensive coordinator in the early 1990s, the coaching booth in the pressbox was next to president Jon Wefald's suite. Wefald eventually moved elsewhere in the pressbox.
Because of the coaches' emotional outbursts?
â€œThat's what the word was,â€ Stoops said.
But surely it was little brother Mike, right?
â€œMostly me,â€ Bob said. â€œI was crazy.â€
The Stoops brothers formed quite the tag-team duo on referees â€” and beaten defensive backs â€” at OU, but now Mike is blowing gaskets at Arizona and Bob has mellowed.
â€œIt's taken me 12 years,â€ said Stoops, who is still capable of sideline blowups, but they are rare. â€œI guess I've been in too many games now.â€
Stoops talked the other day how stunned he is when he goes back to Youngstown and hangs out with old pals, at how coarse is their language. â€œGeez, guys,â€ he'll tell them. â€œDo you have to talk like that?â€
And Nebraska is even more genteel than Oklahoma, so the same civility transformation might be coming Pelini's way.
But the Stoops' and Pelinis' old Cardinal Mooney High School coach, Don Bucci, told our Jake Trotter that Pelini â€œwas probably, of all the kids I coached at Mooney, the most competitive kid that went through there.â€
Pelini â€” and his brother, Husker defensive coordinator Carl â€” have upset some Nebraska fans with their sideline antics, and NU chancellor Harvey Perlman reprimanded Bo Pelini for accosting an official after Nebraska's loss at Texas A&M on Nov. 20. Pelini also lit into his own quarterback, Taylor Martinez, during that game.
But a fiery demeanor sometimes is more than bubbling emotions. Sometimes it's calculated behavior. Sometimes it's a son of Youngstown wanting kids from Nebraska and Kansas and Oklahoma and Texas to play with a little Rust Belt earthiness.
â€œYou want the players to be as competitive as you,â€ Bob Stoops said. â€œSometimes you feel like they don't know how to fight yet.â€
So you show them how much you care. Show them how much football means to you. Show them that que sera sera is not all right. Whatever will be, will be over your dead body.
â€œYou put yourself out there,â€ Stoops said.
At K-State and OU, the players Stoops inherited were beaten down. Lacked confidence and grit and competitiveness.
Stoops and Co. breathed fire into those programs. Pelini has done the same at Nebraska. The Youngstown way.
Berry Tramel: Berry can be reached at (405) 760-8080 or at email@example.com. He can be heard Monday through Friday from 4:40-5:20 p.m. on The Sports Animal radio network, including AM-640 and FM-98.1. You can also view his personality page at newsok.com/berrytramel.