Sibling Mark by Mike's side through tough first season
Make no bones about it.
Arizona football is Mike Stoops' team.
But there's another Stoops lurking in the background of this year's Wildcats, looking to put his stamp on UA football the same way his brother Mike, now his boss, did at Oklahoma the past five seasons while coaching alongside another Stoops sibling.
"It's a lot of fun for me," said UA defensive coordinator Mark Stoops of the opportunity to roam the Arizona Stadium sidelines with his brother, Arizona's first-year head coach. "This is the first time I've coached with any of my brothers. I get to see my nieces and nephews."
Mark Stoops, who came to Arizona this season after spending the past three years coaching defensive backs for national power Miami, said that reaching the head coaching pinnacle, like Mike and brother Bob at Oklahoma, is the ultimate goal, but he contends that the idea is nowhere near the forefront of his thoughts currently.
"I want this program to be successful for Mike, and Mike wanted Oklahoma to be successful for Bob," he said.
With Arizona struggling out of the gates this season to win just one of its first six games, the Stoops brothers have been forced to deal with an issue not often a part of their game plans at Miami and Oklahoma the past three seasons.
"It gets hard. We get down and get discouraged at times, but you can't at all let it get you," said the younger Stoops. "We have to come out each and every day and push ourselves to get better and helped the team get better."
Mark Stoops helped Miami to a three-year record of 35-3 - the Hurricanes reached the Rose Bowl, Fiesta Bowl and Orange Bowl during his seasons - before coming to the desert to take over a team fresh off a 2-10 mark a year ago. Turning UA football around is something Stoops said he looks forward to accomplishing.
"It's certainly a challenge and it's difficult going through times like this," Stoops said, "but I'm glad to be here to help him and help this program get better."
Stoops contends that a major reason why he thinks the Wildcats have a chance to duplicate Mike and Bob's success at Oklahoma is that an emphasis has been placed on family within the Wildcat program since Mike's hiring last November.
"We put so much time in there, and our spouses - I don't have any kids - and the other coaches' kids pay a great sacrifice for us to do what we do," Stoops said. "There's a lot of time in there and there's a big commitment that's involved in there, so you have to include them when you can and make them feel a part of it."
Stoops said having family members around - like on Wednesday nights when coaches' wives and children show up with treats for the Wildcats players after practice - puts the players at ease, knowing that there's a time for tough love and a time for togetherness.
"It's always important. The players feel that," Stoops said of the new atmosphere surrounding the program. "They understand that it goes far beyond football and that we are all in this together, like a family."
With Bob's Sooners attempting to win another National Championship this year, and the extra first-year adjustments Mike and Mark are putting into their program, Mark said the little bit of time everyone does get to spend together is cherished.
He said the entire Stoops clan - all 30-plus family members - get together for a week each summer at a beach house on the outer banks of North Carolina.
"That's the one time of year, the one thing we always try to do to spend some time with each other," he said.
As for Arizona's early season troubles: Mark said Bob understands and offers as much advice to his younger brothers as he can.
"He knows what we're going through," Mark said, adding that he and Mike either watch or tape Bob's games every week, and vice versa. "Even when I was at Miami we won darn near every game. It was very difficult for me to win a game and then to go watch them. If they lost, it wouldn't be a successful weekend."
"Everything in the profession is what goes around comes around," Stoops said, adding that the Wildcats will get to that higher level, even if it takes time. "That's why when we were at the top we never took it for granted. I appreciated every day I was there. You have to appreciate where you're at, and you can never get too high or too low."