Harbaugh and Stoops charge their teams with different fiery personalitiesby Javier Morales on Nov. 03, 2010, under Sports
Stanford coach Jim Harbaugh and Arizona coach Mike Stoops are practically polar opposites in public, which strangely makes for a healthy relationship between them — like the plus and minus of a battery that generates energy.
They are fiery in public in their own way. Harbaugh generally speaks what’s on his mind to the media and other coaches. Stoops does not hold back against the referees and his own coaches in the heat of the moment. Despite their different personalities — and each trying to guide their team to elite status from the depths of the Pac-10 three years ago — no reports exist about a personality clash between them.
Harbaugh had this to say Tuesday about Arizona’s defense, which leads the Pac-10 in sacks (3.38 a game): “It really comes down to this: They’re well coached, they know what they’re doing and they believe in their system.” They’re well-coached. Can you imagine Harbaugh saying that about former USC coach Pete Carroll and assistants Lane Kiffin and Steve Sarkisian?
Can you also imagine Stoops berate an opposing coaching staff within earshot of the media after a game? Harbaugh’s loud comments to his team outside the locker room following a 41-0 drubbing of Sarkisian’s Washington team last weekend were calculated, make no mistake about it.
Seattle Times reporter Bud Withers, one of the better college football scribes who writes it as it is, did not have sensationalize Harbaugh’s frank comments regarding Sarkisian’s staff following the game. Harbaugh did that for him. Withers’ account (which is not G-rated, so have your children look the other way):
“Stanford seemed almost flawless on both sides of the ball, scoring touchdowns on its first four possessions and completely smothering the UW offense. So feckless were the Huskies against the Cardinal defense that they ran a mere 42 snaps.
All of it made for a buoyant Harbaugh in a holding area between the Stanford locker room and the media awaiting the Cardinal.
“Dominating!” Harbaugh hooted at his players. “We kicked their ass every which way! One hell of a job on both sides of the line! Dominant, dominant!”
Then Harbaugh referenced Pete Carroll, Lane Kiffin, Steve Sarkisian and the UW head coach’s defensive coordinator, Nick Holt, and said, “What are you guys, 5-1, 6-1 against that group (in his four-year tenure)? That’s the highest-paid coaching staff around!”
After Arizona enjoyed an equally impressive win over Washington the previous week (44-14 in Tucson), Stoops and Sarkisian embraced in the middle of the field, chatted a bit and showed a general respect for each other. It was far from a terse Bill Belichick-Eric Mangini — or better yet — Harbaugh-Carroll “What’s-your-deal?” exchange.
Stoops did not yell for the public to hear that his team kicked the keister of Sarkisian and his highest-paid staff. That’s not Stoops’ style. Stoops, 48, is somewhat conservative and old-fashioned despite being only two years older than Harbaugh.
Harbaugh is more of the Twitter and YouTube generation. In fact, Harbaugh has a Twitter account and Stoops does not.
Surprisingly, Harbaugh’s tweets are mostly used to announce scout team players of the week and guests on his radio show. No juicy stuff like taking a shot at an opposing coach or program, although in a recent tweet, he pointed out that Oklahoma — coached by Stoops’ brother Bob — has the lowest NCAA graduation rate at 44 percent.
The tweet: “And higher next year. RT @AP_Top25: NCAA grad rates in @AP_Top25 today. Leading way is Stanford at 86 percent. Lowest? Oklahoma at 44.”
Harbaugh’s attitude toward established traditional programs such as USC and Oklahoma makes it obvious that he wears his competitive nature on his sleeve. He earned the nickname “Captain Comeback” in the NFL for routinely making something out of nothing.
In 14 NFL seasons, he never took a team to a Super Bowl but his gutty performance in 1996 almost took the Indianapolis Colts (before they were good) that far.
Harbaugh’s version of Captain Comeback with Stanford is his recruiting challenges. Programs like USC and Oklahoma can recruit high-caliber athletes with their brand name. Harbaugh must operate with higher academic entrance standards, which makes his job more demanding if he tries to attract recruits interested in USC and Oklahoma.
Stoops and Harbaugh generally recruit a different talent pool, which lends to them being civil with each other. Stoops’ background at Oklahoma makes him more in tune with recruiting Texas as much as California. Harbaugh’s focus is more national. They clash on some recruits, such as former Sabino wide receiver Keanu Nelson, who is a freshman with the Cardinal.
Overall, Stoops recruits against Harbaugh far less than other coaches, such as ASU’s Dennis Erickson and UCLA’s Rick Neuheisel.
Although their personalities are different, Stoops and Harbaugh share similar backgrounds from Ohio — Stoops is from Youngstown and Harbaugh from Toledo. They come from football coaching families.
In addition to his father, Jack, who coached for 41-years, including 14 at Western Kentucky, his brother John is the head coach of the Baltimore Ravens. His brother-in-law, Tom Crean, is the head basketball coach at Indiana University.
The Stoops coaching tree includes father Ron Sr. (longtime coach at renowned Cardinal Mooney High school in Youngstown), Ron Jr. (defensive secondary coach at Youngstown State), Bob, Mike, and Mark, former defensive coordinator at Arizona who is now at Florida State in the same capacity.
They also have Big Ten playing careers competing for legendary coaches — Harbaugh at Michigan for Bo Schembechler and Stoops at Iowa for Hayden Frye.
Finally, they can also appreciate what it’s like coaching a cellar-dwellar in the Pac-10 to national prominence. In Harbaugh’s first season in 2007, Stanford finished 3-6 in the Pac-10 and 4-8 overall after going 1-8 and 1-11 the year before under Walt Harris.
Arizona, 4-5 and 5-7 in 2007 (Stoops’ fourth season), is now resurrected after the damage left behind by John Mackovic.
Since 2007, the Wildcats are 23-11 overall and 15-8 in the Pac-10 and Stanford is 20-13 and 14-9. They both have 7-1 and 4-1 records heading into Saturday’s showdown at Palo Alto.
The game should be decided well into the fourth quarter with plenty of sideline intensity shown by both coaches. In the end, Stoops and Harbaugh will likely be cordial at midfield without a “What’s-your-deal?” moment. Harbaugh might tell Stoops, however, to give USC hell the following week.