Bo Pelini, Bob Stoops: Will Their Friendship Survive the Men of Steel Matchup?
“Friends…How many of us have them?” That is the memorable chorus from Whodini’s hip-hop classic. The ditty could serve as musical accompaniment to the voice of a highlight reel.
To solid artistic effect, the reel could depict the successes and failures of Bo Pelini and Bob Stoops.
Will the head coaches of Nebraska and Oklahoma continue to do lunch or name their future children after one another? I’m not sure they’ll have time for lunch or for future children, but I hope they remain friends. Their Youngstown, Ohio connections are too important to the struggling city to have it any other way.
What the sports world needs now are examples of love and sportsmanship, not more begrudging over athletics competition.
Sports set the tone for overall relations in America, one could possibly argue.
Athletics in America supply settings and events where people of all nationalities, creeds and colors come together for one purpose. Beating the living daylights out of your friends in a friendly game of football is the American way.
After the bloodletting has ended, good sportsmen and women usually shake hands and rekindle their friendships. Bragging rights should never become mocking or bullying rights.
The brothers Pelini and Stoops can relate. Youngstown, Ohio natives have experienced mocking since the city’s steel industry began declining in the 1970s. Maybe it’s what gives them their gritty edge—like Youngstown natives such as Kelly Pavlik and Ray “Boom Boom” Mancini.
Midway between New York City and Chicago, Youngstown’s skyline glistens like the lights on a football field. I could have referred to the brothers Pelini and Stoops as “Monsters of the Midway,” but it’s reserved for a certain North Side football team.
Mark “Bo” Pelini and Robert Anthony “Bob” Stoops form something more like a clash of the men of Steeltown, America. The Steel Valley is known as a five-county metropolis surrounding Youngstown—including territory in Pennsylvania.
The physical heart of America’s Manufacturing Belt, it was once the largest steel producing region in the world. Athletics still play a major role in providing hope for better lives there.
Bo and Bob are alumni of Cardinal Mooney High School’s powerhouse football program. The school is in the heart of the Ohio-Pennsylvania hotbed.
Youngstown is a very diverse city. To me, this is validation that sports events remain one of the outlets in America for so-called “races” to meet.
Youngstown, like much of America, was once in the valley of the shadow of racial intolerance and pure hate.
The warm and fuzzy Valley reminds me of the 1983 high school football flick All the Right Moves. The drama starred current drama king, Tom Cruise. A precursor to Remember the Titans, and to Friday Night Lights, it was filmed on location in Johnstown, Pennsylvania.
Cruise’s character was a defensive back seeking to leave, via scholarship, the steel mill counties struggling with the 1980s recession. The similarities with the Stoops and Pelinis are almost "Lake" Erie (excuse my play on words).
Bo Pelini started at safety for the Buckeyes. According to the Big Ten Football Media Guide, Bobby Stoops was MVP in 1982 as a defensive back for the Iowa Hawkeyes.
The Stoops family is legendary at Cardinal Mooney High. Ron Stoops Sr. coached Ron II, Bob, Mike and Mark at Cardinal Mooney. Until he died of a heart attack after a game, he was the school’s defensive coordinator for many years.
At Mooney, legendary status to a lesser extent—it could possibly be argued—belongs to the Pelini family. Like his younger brother, Bo, Carl Pelini—NU’s defensive coordinator—is a Cardinal Mooney alum and former assistant coach there.
During an interview immediately after the 2010 Bedlam Series game, Stoops said he was a friend of both Bo and Carl.
Bo and Bob sound like the perfect names for twin dogs if you ask me. The friends, or road dogs, began coaching as graduate assistants under Hayden Fry in the Iowa Hawkeyes football program. Stoops commenced in 1983 and Pelini in 1991.
Bo is 42 years old, Carl is 45 and Bob is 50. I’d be very surprised if they were ever critical of one another in public.
Most coaches turned analysts cringe when it comes to criticizing other coaches. I believe there is an unspoken rule: critiques by coaches on coaches should be meek and offered only when absolutely necessary.
It has been said by coaches and journalists that coaching is a fraternity. I’d define it as an alliance amongst friends and family. Often families don’t work well together, and often coaching staffs are dysfunctional.
Defensive coordinator, Buddy Ryan, didn’t get along with Mike Ditka, who was the head coach of the Chicago Bears. They won a Super Bowl. Ryan and Ditka seem to be getting along better in their latter years.
Buddy fell out of Ditka’s coaching tree and became the head coach of the Philadelphia Eagles.
Stoops' coaching tree is impressive. Several of his former assistants have become head coaches at other Division I-A programs, including Pelini.
Bo was a defensive coordinator under Stoops in 2004—a year after Pelini did roughly the same job at Nebraska. Regardless of the outcome on Saturday night at Cowboys Stadium in Dallas, Texas, the Stoops and Pelinis will stay friends.
I have a lot of friends, but I’m not sure who I can depend on. Witness the power of writing—I could call out friends and family who I cannot depend on, but I won’t. Can’t we all just get along?
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