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Why a former Notre Dame quarterback will root for Oklahoma on Saturday

Don Bucci was a backup QB for the Irish when they played OU in 1952 and '53. But he will be cheering on OU this time around.
by Berry Tramel Published: October 23, 2012

By then, Bucci was coaching high school football in upstate New York, and in 1961 he returned to his alma mater, Cardinal Mooney High School. Became head coach there in 1966, retaining Ron Stoops as his defensive coordinator. Bucci stayed on the job 34 years. Today, six months shy of his 80th birthday, Bucci remains Cardinal Mooney's athletic director.

The Buccis and the Stoopses became fast friends. Bucci coached all the Stoops sons — Ron Jr., Bobby, Mike and Mark. Their families socialized together. Ron Sr. died of a heart attack in 1988, but Bucci's wife and Stoops' mother, Dee, remain fast friends today.

“The boys stay in touch to this day,” Bucci said. He and Bobby Stoops talked this week.

“I'm a Notre Dame man, but I'm all Oklahoma this week,” Bucci said. “Believe me. I know a lot of my friends I graduated with will be a little upset that I'm an Oklahoma Sooner this week.

“But Bobby was always one of my favorites.”

Bucci realized years ago that Stoops was headed for greatness. When Stoops was an assistant coach in 1988 at Kent State, his first full-time job, he returned to Cardinal Mooney on a recruiting trip.

“Usually when a former player comes in, they see their coach, a little bit nervous,” Bucci said. “He came in and I was just amazed at how polished he was and how confident he felt in what he was doing.

“Right then and there, I knew, some day, Bobby's going to be a great one.

“The football end of it was a no-brainer, because of his dad. All they talked at home was football. You knew the football end of it was OK.

“That was a long time ago. He had the personality. He was always a tough competitor. That's for sure.”

Stoops keeps trying to talk the Buccis into coming to Norman for a game, but they don't fly much more anymore.

So Bucci will watch this installment of OU-Notre Dame from his Youngstown home. He saw the first two wearing Notre Dame shoulder pads. Bucci will watch this one with a Notre Dame diploma on his wall, but a Sooner in his heart.

Berry Tramel: Berry can be reached at (405) 760-8080 or at 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