Meyer, Stoops meet in Hollywood


Florida coach Urban Meyer, left, and Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops pose with the Bowl Championship Series trophy after a news conference in Hollywood, Fla., on Wednesday.

The Associated Press
Published: Wednesday, December 10, 2008 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, December 11, 2008 at 12:27 a.m.

HOLLYWOOD — The surprise phone call came a little more than four years ago.

Florida coach Urban Meyer had followed the career of Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops from afar before December of 2004. Both grew up an hour apart in the same Northern Ohio region, with Meyer a native of Ashtabula and Stoops a native of Youngstown.

So Meyer called to ask the fellow Ohioan about Florida, where Stoops worked as defensive coordinator from 1996-98.

“I just told him all of the positives I felt were there at the University of Florida and there were many, from the administration, the facilities, the Southeastern Conference and recruiting,” Stoops said. “I just shared my experiences and the possibilities with it.

“Unfortunately,” Stoops added with a laugh. “I helped get him there.”

Stoops and Meyer shared the same stage Wednesday afternoon at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel and Casino. On Jan. 8, the two will share an even bigger stage as opposing coaches in the BCS Championship Game at Dolphin Stadium in Miami.

Meyer and Stoops have developed a cordial relationship since the initial phone call Meyer made four years ago.

“I wanted an unbiased opinion with nothing to gain and there are very few people out there like that,” Meyer said. “I don’t know if he knows this or not, but his thoughts were very instrumental in the decision that I made. I have great respect for his career path and obviously the way he does things.”

Growing up in Ohio, both share the principles of Ohio State iconic coach Woody Hayes, even if their offenses don’t resemble three yards and a cloud of dust. Florida has been as effective running the ball out of the spread as it has been throwing it this season, with a committee of ballcarriers that includes quarterback Tim Tebow and receiver Percy Harvin.

Oklahoma boasts Heisman Trophy candidate quarterback Sam Bradford, who has thrown 48 touchdown passes this season. But the Sooners also have a pair of 1,000-yard rushers in junior Chris Brown and sophomore DeMarco Murray.

The pinball scores of both teams may have Hayes spinning in his grave, but he would approve of the approach.

“I know the quality of football in the state of Florida, believe me, but I know in Ohio, it’s not talked about maybe as much, but there’s great, great football,” said Stoops, the son of renowned late Youngstown-area high school coach Ron Stoops. “There’s great coaching and a lot of strong programs when you take a look at the legacy of coaches.”

Both coaches will be going for their second national titles. Stoops is 109-23 in 10 seasons at Oklahoma, having made a successful jump from a coordinator to head coach for the first time at a major college program. Meyer worked his way up the ranks as a head coach at Bowling Green and Utah before Florida and has an overall coaching record of 82-17 in eight seasons.

Florida athletic director Jeremy Foley talked to Stoops when Steve Spurrier left to coach the Washington Redskins in 2002. But Florida hired former coach Ron Zook after Stoops chose to stay in Norman. Stoops said his strong relationship with the administration at Oklahoma was the main reason why he decided stay.

“I can understand what is great and special about the University of Florida,” Stoops said. “But also I felt like we were building something special at Oklahoma and wanted to see it through.”

Contact Kevin Brockway at 352-374-5054 or brockwk@gvillesun.com.

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