Andre Tippett and Bob Stoops, stars on Iowa's 1982 Rose Bowl team, elected to College Football Hall of Fame
Andre Tippett and Bobby Stoops were instrumental in reviving Iowa football in the early 1980s under legendary coach Hayden Fry. Now, the two former Hawkeyes have been united again as inductees into the same class of the College Football Hall of Fame.
Tippett and Stoops were both admitted to the 2021 class on Monday, as voted on by the National Football Foundation and announced on ESPN’s “SportsCenter.”
Tippett was selected as a former Hawkeye player who went on to star for the New England Patriots; Stoops was on the ballot as a national-championship-winning coach at Oklahoma. The Hawkeyes can proudly claim both, of course, as former captains (Tippett as a relentless defensive end in 1981, Stoops as a hard-hitting safety in 1982) and catalysts for a remarkable program revival.
Tippett and Stoops comprised 18% of the starting lineup on the stingy 1981 defense that led Iowa to an 8-3 record and a Big Ten Conference championship that stunned the nation, resulting in a spot in the 1982 Rose Bowl. Prior to that, Iowa's football program had been mired in 20 straight dormant seasons without a winning record under five different coaches.
That 1981 season, centered around a dominant defense that allowed just 129 points in 11 regular-season games, kicked off a string of long-standing program stability and success. That was the first of 14 bowl games in Hayden Fry’s final 18 seasons as Iowa’s coach, and Kirk Ferentz has led the Hawkeyes to 18 bowl bids in his 22 seasons since.
Perhaps most notably, Tippett’s induction into the Hall of Fame qualifies his No. 99 and name to be added to Kinnick Stadium’s “Ring of Honor,” the lowest ribbon along the press box. One of the three ways to qualify for that status is to be a consensus all-American and an NFF Hall of Famer.
Monday, Tippett became the 10th “Ring of Honor” Hawkeye, joining Aubrey Devine (1919-21), Randy Duncan (1956-58), Calvin Jones (1953-55), Alex Karras (1956-57), Nile Kinnick (1937-39), Gordon Locke (1920-22), Chuck Long (1981-85), Duke Slater (1918-21) and Larry Station (1982-85).
Tippett’s path to stardom was unconventional. The product of Newark, New Jersey, was discovered by former Hawkeye assistant/New York native Bernie Wyatt. But he needed time to get his grades in order, so Tippett first spent one year at Ellsworth Community College in Iowa Falls. After that, he made the transition to Iowa City … and became a legendary Hawkeye.
Tippett’s 20 tackles-for-loss in 1980 accounted for 153 yards of lost yardage, an 11-game total that remains a school season record. That was a precursor to his senior year of 1981, in which the defensive end was a team captain and became the first consensus all-American (of eight) at Iowa under Fry.
"We had personalities on that team," Tippett recalled in an interview posted Monday by the University of Iowa. "I knew I was going down a dark alley with Brad Webb, Pat Dean, Tracy Crocker, Lou King, Mark Bortz, Bobby Stoops, Mel Cole and Todd Simonsen, so I didn’t worry about anything.
"We had great football players and we came to ball. Bottom line, if I had to do it all over, I wouldn’t want to do it with any other guys."
Tippett, of course, would go on to great things in the NFL, too. He was a second-round pick of the Patriots and would accumulate 100 sacks over 11 seasons on his way into induction in the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2008.
Tippett, in a 2017 interview with the Register, fondly recalled his Hawkeye roots on an unforgettable journey. He is now 61 years old and no doubt welcomed the good news, particularly after a tough 2020 that saw his mother and stepfather die in April after they contracted the novel coronavirus.
“I love the Iowa program. I love the history behind the University of Iowa,” Tippett said. “I’m forever grateful for my time there.”
The year after Tippett’s departure to the NFL, Stoops was named Iowa’s team MVP in 1982. Recruited by Bob Commings out of Youngstown, Ohio, he would amass 230 tackles and eight interceptions during a four-year Hawkeye career. Brothers Mike and Mark also played defensive back for the Hawkeyes under Fry.
Stoops would spend time on Fry’s staff as a graduate assistant, before exploding onto the national scene as a prominent defensive coordinator at Kansas State and then Florida. He was famously hired as Oklahoma’s head coach after the 1998 season, in the same offseason cycle that saw Ferentz land at Iowa. With the Sooners, Stoops’ teams made four national-championship game appearances with one title, in the 2000 season.
He compiled a sparkling 190-48 record in 18 years at Oklahoma before abruptly retiring in June 2017.
Stoops’ wife, Carol, is an Iowa native. Stoops, now 60, returned to Iowa City as the Hawkeyes’ honorary captain before the 2019 season opener against Miami of Ohio.
“It is a huge highlight for me in my career to be back and to be in Kinnick Stadium,” Stoops said then in an interview published by the university. “These memories from my time at Iowa are incredibly special, as good as any I have had after that.”
Tippett and Stoops are the 16th and 17th members of the Atlanta-located NFF Hall of Fame with Hawkeye roots. Station (inducted in 2009) was the most recent player inducted. Other former Hawkeyes among the 78 players on this year's FBS ballot were former defensive lineman Jared DeVries (1995-98) and offensive lineman Robert Gallery (2000-03).
Tippett was one of 11 players elected to the Class of 2021, which will be inducted on Dec. 7. The others: Harris Barton (North Carolina), David Fulcher (Arizona State), Dan Morgan (Miami of Florida), Carson Palmer (USC), Tony Romo (Eastern Illinois), Kenneth Sims (Texas), C.J. Spiller (Clemson), Darren Sproles (Kansas State), Aaron Taylor (Notre Dame) and Al Wilson (Tennessee).
Stoops and Ruby Hubbard (Florida A&M) were elected as coaches.