Thomas Wolfe wrote that You Can’t Go Home Again. But that is not exactly true. When Mike Stoops comes calling this Saturday at Kinnick Stadium, along with his football team, the Arizona Wildcats, the former Hawkeye will be seeking to run roughshod over his alma mater.
This is not exactly the kind of behavior we expect from adopted sons coming home for a reunion.
The three Stoops brothers, Bob, Mike, and Mark, helped Hayden Fry, Iowa coach from 1979-1998, rebuild the Iowa Hawkeyes from the ground up. It all started with the oldest brother Bobby (Bob) Stoops, who now coaches the No. 12-ranked Oklahoma Sooners.
Bob Stoops started for Iowa for four years as a defensive back, and he was named All-Big Ten. In 1982 he was named one of the Big Ten's most valuable players. Until he moved on to Kent State in 1988, Bob Stoops stayed on at Iowa as an assistant coach.
Following in his brother’s footsteps, Mike Stoops came to Iowa, where as a senior in 1984 he earned All-American honors. He was also twice named a first team All-Big Ten defensive back at strong safety.
As a player and then as a coach, Mike Stoops was involved in eight Iowa bowl games, including the 1986 Rose Bowl. He is one of the most honored and acknowledged Hawkeyes in the school’s storied football history.
The Arizona Wildcats' defensive coordinator is brother Mark Stoops, who followed Mike to Iowa, playing defensive back from 1986-1989. He was a three-year letterman for Iowa from 1987-1989. The youngest Stoops competed in four bowl games at Iowa.
Like his older brothers, Mark stayed on to coach under Fry as the first step in his coaching career.
All three brothers wore No. 41 on their jerseys. Mike and Mark are looking forward to returning to Iowa to see family and friends but are not exactly embracing the prospect of defeating or trying to defeat the team they played for in their youth.
While the Stoops brothers were playing and coaching football at Iowa, coach Kirk Ferentz worked to develop the Hawkeye offensive line from 1981-1989. As players and then as coaches, the brothers got to know Ferentz and his family, and they have remained friends throughout their coaching careers.
This complicates matters on Saturday. One team must win, naturally, and that means the other must lose. The question is: Who will take home the victory, and who will bear the defeat?
Saturday will mark the 12th meeting between Arizona and Iowa. The last time these two teams met, on Sept. 19, 1998, was not a pleasant time for the Iowa Hawkeyes, as Arizona stung the Iowa defense with three long pass plays in key touchdown drives, taking a 35-11 win.
This is Mike Stoops’ sixth year as head coach of the Arizona Wildcats. He continues to grow and improve as a head coach. Last season he led Arizona to its first eight-win season in 10 years. To the delight of fans and the Pac-10, the Wildcats ended their year with a 31-21 win over Brigham Young in the Pioneer Las Vegas Bowl.
In 2008 the Arizona Wildcats were ranked 16th nationally in scoring offense and 24th in total defense. This year they have started out the season undefeated, 2-0, as they take the field in Kinnick Stadium in Iowa City. In fact, they have won their last four football games. They have one of the stingiest defensive units Iowa has faced so far.
For the Iowa faithful, this game will cement the promise they anticipated at the start of the season when Iowa was ranked. That view was shattered early by a tremendous effort from Northern Iowa, who did their best to ruin the Hawkeye season.
In the end Iowa survived, hanging on to win during the last seven seconds by blocking two field goal attempts. Iowa won 17-16 and were grateful for that miracle finish.
The following week the Hawkeyes journeyed to Ames, Iowa to face in-state rivals the Iowa State Cyclones, having an easy time of it after a hard-fought first quarter. Iowa won 35-3.
The running game showed promise, and the passing game delivered big time. Coach Ferentz liked what he saw.
"We're further along than we were a year ago, and we have a lot of the same guys back," Ferentz said. "The guys are more experienced and a little more capable of playing better out there."
Ricky Stanzi delivered four touchdown passes into the Cyclone end zone—a new record for the junior Iowa quarterback.
The Iowa defense shut out the Cyclone offense after the Clones scored with an opening quarter field goal. The defense capitalized on six turnovers, five interceptions, and one fumble. They accumulated impressive numbers on the afternoon.
Emotions will run high in Kinnick Stadium on Saturday as the Arizona Wildcats face the Iowa Hawkeyes. The Stoops brothers Mike and Mark will inhabit the dreaded pink locker room of the opposition. They will face their friend and former coaching brother on the opposite side of the field as they attempt to take down a team they hold in high esteem.
In the end, their loyalties will be devoted to the team they brought with them, the team they have molded and developed into a respectable and promising force in the Pac-10.
You can go home again—but you cannot recapture the past or let it alter the course of your true ambition and your dreams of the future. The Wildcats will go after the Hawkeyes with all the talent and power they possess, and the Hawkeyes will fight to end to defend their home advantage and secure their third victory of the season.