Do you realize how rare the Brown-Stoops rivalry is? Two coaches, each one of the biggest winners in the game, each holding a MNC, playing each other every year, for more than 10 years? College football is full of great rivalries, and great coaches make great matchups, but the length of this particular head-to-head rivalry sets it apart. This is the 11th year they tee it up, and that puts them in rare air. It seems that long term great matchups wear coaches out.
I made a list of long term continual rivalries between great coaches, and this is what I found. Note- many matchups were eliminated because they just didn't last that long. For example, Vince Dooley and Bear Bryant were in the SEC together for 18 years, but only went up against each other 6 times (the Bear won, 4 - 2). There were probably some great ancient Big 10 running battles in the '30s between Pudge Briffelheimer of Minnesota and Rocky Psarkeweicz of Wisconsin. I just don't care about them.
Bo Schembechler-Woody Hayes ('69 - '78). Bo wins, 5 - 4 - 1. Neither won a MNC during this period. Actually, the series was better known for killing MNC runs. This was a great series because it happened so late in the year. There were no surprises; each team knew exactly what they had and what they needed. Woody Hayes had owned the Big 10, and after a losing streak to Michigan, he exploded in 1978 and killed his career. Woody was kind of tightly wound, and Michigan gaining an edge was wearing him out.
John McKay-Ara Parseghian ('64 - '75). McKay wins 7 - 3 - 2. Ara won a MNC in 2 of the 3 years he beat USC. McKay won 3 MNCs during this period, too. This series may have had less extreme bitterness than any other with such high stakes, perhaps because the two coaches were just too much the gentleman. Or perhaps you just can't get too bitter when you're getting MNCs at this rate.
Darrell Royal-Frank Broyles ('58 - '76). Royal wins, 14 - 5. Texas won 3 MNCs in this period, and Arkansas won one. This is the most lopsided of the series. This series is notable for the sportsmanship, respect, and friendship of the two coaches. Not many elite coaches are that well-adjusted.
Barry Switzer-Tom Osborne ('73 - '88). Switzer wins, 12 - 5. Note- that's 17 games in a 16 year period. In 1978, Osborne won his first game against Switzer, and was rewarded with a rematch in the Orange Bowl. He wasn't happy, and let people know about it (he lost that game). Switzer won 3 MNCs in that period, and Osborne didn't win any of his 3 until after Switzer was fired. Credit to Nebraska for making the sensible decision to not fire their coach, who was one of the three best in the country, during the time Switzer was clubbing him.
Steve Spurrier-Bobby Bowden ('90 - '01). Bowden wins, 7 - 5 - 1. Note- again, 13 games in 12 years. Spurrier won his only MNC in '96, when he lost to FSU, but got a rematch for the championship. Bowden won 2 MNCs in this period.
So, from '99 - '08, Stoops leads 6 - 4. Both coaches have a MNC. After Stoops jumped out to a 5 - 1 lead, Brown came roaring back. The story on this series will probably be written soon.
What does this history teach us? Well, for one thing, that even "Hall of Fame" coaches don't last long when they have to play other great coaches every single year. It wears them out. Lesser coaches get fired. Think of all of the "Hall of Very Good" coaches that saw their careers derailed by being in the same conference as these guys- Les Miles was smart to bail when he could. How much longer will Brown and Stoops tee it up?
Another thing to note is how valued the wins are. If all of these great coaches were to list their 20 best wins in their career, almost all of their classic coaching rivalry games would be listed. In Bo's old age, thoughts of his win over the defending MNC Buckeyes in '69 kept him warm at night (it warms Royal, too, as it opened up Texas' path to the MNC). I imagine Stoops is still being asked to autograph the Roy Williams/Chris Simms SI cover. When you beat a great team led by a great coach, it MEANS something.
Which leads to the third point. Many of these coaches are great because of the great matchups. In this miserable economy, isn't it terrific that we get to enjoy this one?