A Sooner football coaching staff is a family affair

Friday, August 20th 2004, 6:38 am
By: News On 6

(AP)_Bo Pelini, who lost out on the Nebraska head coaching job, said he feels "fortunate to have landed" at Oklahoma.

The health and well-being of Oklahoma's defense remains in the family.

Brent Venables, who shared the coordinator title with Mike Stoops, has long been referred to by the Stoops Clan as "the other brother." Bo Pelini, whom coach Bob Stoops hired to replace his brother after Mike became head coach at Arizona and who now shares the coordinator's title, might well be called the "other cousin."

The Stoops and Pelini boys grew up together in Youngstown, Ohio. Pelini and two of his brothers played for Stoops' dad at Cardinal Mooney High School.

"I've known Bo his whole life," Bob Stoops said.

"Staff camaraderie is very important to me -- the way they work together, how guys fit into your style of coaching and recognize how it works. I believe Bo does that in a great way. He's had success everywhere he's been. All that and his experience coaching defense really fit well. He will have a strong influence on what we do."

Despite the loss of several high-profile players, OU expects its defense to follow recent tradition. And Pelini, 37, relishes being on Stoops' staff after 13 years in the business.

"Absolutely," Pelini said. "Especially after the way things ended last year.

"It's good to have a comfort level, and obviously I have a comfort level with Bob because I know him, and I know his principles and things that are important to him. But this whole staff has a a lot of quality people from top to bottom. I feel fortunate to have landed here."

Coaching stops include an early stint at Cardinal Mooney, 13 years in the NFL and an eventful 2003 season as defensive coordinator at Nebraska, where he re-energized the famed Black Shirts and led the Cornhuskers to victory over Michigan State in the Alamo Bowl as interim head coach after Frank Solich was fired. Many Huskers fans felt the popular Pelini should have succeeded Solich.

Some of those close to the program felt that Pelini's sometimes abrasive style (see Mike Stoops) cost him that chance. He chastised Kansas State coach Bill Snyder after he left in his No. 1 quarterback for a late touchdown drive in a 38-9 victory and refused to apologize. He also drew an unsportsmanlike-conduct penalty protesting a call in the bowl game, after which Nebraska fans chanted his name.

Others theorized that NU athletic director Steve Pederson felt that Pelini wasn't ready to be a head coach and wanted his own man.

"I don't know why I didn't get the job," Pelini said. "To be honest ... it was out of my control. They asked me to do a job, and I did it as best I could. I just let it all take care of itself. If it was meant to be, it would have happened. Things happen for a reason, and I'm just happy where I ended up.

"It was a great experience personally and professionally. I learned a lot of things to do, and a lot of things not to do. Ultimately, it helped me land here -- which makes it even better. Because this is a great place."

Pelini replaces a fiery personality in Mike Stoops, who along with Venables led OU to a top-10 finish nationally in total defense each of the past four seasons. Some wondered early if Pelini and Venables could establish rapport similar to that of Mike and Brent, also a Type A personality. Not a problem, Venables said, noting they have children approximately the same age, now live in the same neighborhood and have a relationship away from the office.

"Oh, it's been fabulous," Venables said. "The transition was overnight.

"From Day One since he's been on the job, our focus has been on getting our ideas together, how we'll organize and direct things and how we'll run the defense. We're both extremely motivated to play great defense, and our schools of thought are on the same page."

Pelini agreed with Venables' assessment.

"Brent and I have a great relationship," he said. "He's a great guy. I've learned a lot from him, and hopefully he will learn a lot from me. I feel like we've meshed together well, as has the whole defensive staff.

"I think it's a great fit and a great mix. We're enjoying ourselves, and I think it's just going to keep getting better."

What they're saying about Oklahoma defensive coordinator Bo Pelini


"Pelini is a very calm person who you can talk to on and off the field. With Mike he laughs, you pretty much had to catch him off the field if you wanted to talk to him. On the field, he was yelling. Pelini has some of that same fire, don't get me wrong. They're both good guys."

-- Safety Donte Nicholson

"We feel like a great coach left and another great coach came in. I feel privileged to have played for both of them."

-- Cornerback Antonio Perkins

"Mike had his way of coaching, and it worked obviously. We won a national championship and did some great things. Pelini's style is more relaxed, more of a teacher-type coach, but he's in your face when he needs to be. He will have all of us ready to play."

-- Cornerback Eric Bassey