By Greg Gulas
Former University of Oklahoma head football coach Bob Stoops and his brother Mark, current head coach of the Kentucky Wildcats have never forgotten their Mahoning Valley roots.
They returned to the area on Sunday night and it was Bob who gave the welcome on behalf of his family at his alma mater, Cardinal Mooney High School’s Ron Stoops Hall of Fame induction ceremonies at The Lake Club.
Earlier in the afternoon, both brothers visited Stambaugh Stadium to take in Youngstown State’s first outside practice of the spring.
“It’s great to be here watching YSU football practice, to see my brother Ron, Bo [Pelini] and all these guys working out,” Bob said. “Cardinal Mooney and the Mahoning Valley are both incredibly special to me. The influence of head coach Don Bucci, my father and so many coaches through the years, along with the great people at Cardinal Mooney that helped develop all of us is really special.
“The success, tradition, the developing faith and character from everyone is a part of who I am. It’s fun to be able to come back for a change. I haven’t been able to do that for so long because I was busy. Fortunately, my schedule has opened up.”
Brother Mark spoke at Friday’s Quad Cities Coaches Clinic at the Hollywood Gaming at Mahoning Valley Race Course.
He said it’s very special that the hall of fame is named after his late father.
“It means a lot to our entire family,” Mark said. “It’s a great honor for my dad, for his legacy and for my mother to keep his spirit and name alive. Cardinal Mooney and the Mahoning Valley laid the foundation of who we are, who I am. The education that I received at Cardinal Mooney, more importantly the life lessons, the friendships forged and the camaraderie that we developed is still with me today.
“You come back home and not only do you visit family, but your many close friends and lifelong friendships.”
Prior to the season, Bob retired as Sooners head coach and was replaced by Lincoln Riley, who led Oklahoma into the College Football Playoff.
“Lincoln did a great job and it’s one of the reasons it got me to thinking about stepping aside,” Bob said. “I knew that he was the right guy who would take it over and not only continue to have the success that we enjoyed, but even have more success. I was hopeful of that and believe that will happen. He’s got all the intangibles and showed it this year.”
Retirement hasn’t exactly set in for Stoops just yet.
“Every day is a little different and I have to be honest, it isn’t great being retired just yet because it’s too new,” he said. “It’s all too strange, but I knew that would be the case. It’s just that it has taken time to adjust and hasn’t been that long, basically about six months. So far, it’s been a little more travel, a little longer workout during the day and a little more golf.”
Bob said his family appreciates those who have supported the hall of fame banquet over the years, as well as its scholarship fund.
“My father was a great man. I loved what he did, he loved Cardinal Mooney and loved the opportunity to work with all the young people there,” he said. “He and coach Bucci had a great relationship. Coach did a great job of working with all of us and the guys on the team as we developed character, toughness and the mentality to succeed.
“We had a lot of success through the years and I don’t believe my dad would trade a day of his life for all of those years, working at Cardinal Mooney High School and with everyone there.”
Mark said it was special to have his high school coach visit this year and take in a Wildcats game.
“Coach Bucci came down and after the game I was asked about some things, which doesn’t happen very often,” he said. “Just to have the opportunity to mention my dad and coach Bucci with him right there, about the work ethic and discipline of coach and what he instilled in his program is second to none. That was special.”
Bob believes that Sooners quarterback Baker Mayfield will go early in the upcoming NFL Draft.
“He should be an early first-round pick, it just depends on who needs a quarterback,” he added. “The guy is a proven winner for three years against great competition and at the top level. He’s an incredible leader with arm talent, which in my opinion isn’t talked about enough.