IRVING, Texas -- Before Kevin Sumlin became a successful head coach at Houston and Texas A&M, he learned plenty during five seasons and two national championship game appearances on Bob Stoops’ staff at Oklahoma.
Even before that, they were assistant coaches competing for recruits in the same area.
"Both of us had tough jobs trying to get guys to leave Miami and Fort Lauderdale to go to Manhattan, Kan., and Minneapolis, Minn., or West Lafayette [Ind.]," Sumlin said. "Over the course of time, we have kept in touch and then he hired me. ... It was five great years from a learning standpoint."
The two coaches will be on the opposite sidelines Friday night in the Cotton Bowl, a matchup of former Big 12 rivals. Both are 10-2 with five-game winning streaks.
Stoops and the Sooners this season earned a share of their eighth Big 12 title, and would have almost certainly been in a Bowl Championship Series game if not for BCS-busting Northern Illinois. With Heisman Trophy-winning freshman quarterback Johnny Manziel, Sumlin and the Aggies won 10 games in the coach’s first season, and their first year in the SEC.
"You can see it, what he’s doing now, he’s an incredibly bright coach. I knew that," Stoops said Wednesday as they shared a podium with the Cotton Bowl trophy between them. "Competitive, great worker, and I think what Kevin, the best thing he brings to A&M is the way he relates to his players,
Sumlin was the offensive coordinator at Texas A&M in 2002 when the Aggies upset the top-ranked and undefeated Sooners in College Station, derailing Oklahoma’s shot at a second national title in three years. Sumlin was hired after that season by Stoops, a Kansas State and Florida assistant in the 1990s while Sumlin was at Minnesota and Purdue.
After three years as special teams coordinator/tight ends coach and two years as co-offensive coordinator at Oklahoma, Sumlin got his first head job. He won 35 games in four seasons at Houston, which was 12-0 and on track for a BCS appearance in 2011 before losing in the Conference USA title game.
Texas A&M hired him the next week.