LEXINGTON, Ky. (WKYT) - Mark Stoops has never coached with Nick Saban, he has coached against him. He actually has a relationship with him that goes back to his high school days. As an assistant at Michigan State, Saban recruited Stoops.
"My two brothers were at Iowa, so I visited Iowa," said Stoops at his weekly Monday news conference. " I visited Ohio State. And I knew if I didn't go to Ohio State, I was going to go to Iowa because of the relationships I had with all of those coaches and I wasn't going to go anywhere else. So I cancelled my visit to Michigan State. That phone call didn't go very well. And I was really young and naïve and had no clue. I knew I wasn't a great player or anything like that, but I couldn't believe – he made it very difficult for me, and I remember getting off the phone and saying, Wow."
That recruiting story about Saban goes back to the 1980s. Stoops told another story that delt with his Uncle Bob who was coaching high school football in Youngstown, Ohio and Saban came in to recruit.
"I always thought my uncle was exaggerating," said Stoops. "He and my Uncle Bob were at an establishment after recruiting one day in the spring; my uncle was the head coach at an inner-city school in Youngstown. Coach Saban and my uncle were out, and Coach will tell the story better than me, but they were talking Xs and Os and they were so wrapped up in the Xs and Os that they had no idea somebody came in and robbed the place at gunpoint. "They were talking and drawing plays on a napkin is the way my uncle describes it, and then I heard Coach verify it: They're sitting there writing Xs and Os and the police are coming in asking, 'What happened?' And he says, 'What do you mean what happened?' They said, 'Did you see anything.' He said no, they didn't see anything. They were working on football."
This week Stoops will be working on Xs and Os, going up against the defending national champion, the No. 1 team in the nation. He goes into it with a lot of respect for Nick Saban.
"This coaching profession is built on respect, and it starts there," Stoops said. "I have great respect for what he's done and how disciplined he is and the work ethic that he has. But I always things that he does things right, he does things with class, treats people the right way. And how could you not admire that?"