Pelini named Sooners' co-defensive coordinator
Updated: January 18, 2004, 2:18 AM ET

NORMAN, Okla. -- Former Nebraska interim coach Bo Pelini was hired as Oklahoma's co-defensive coordinator and defensive backs coach on Saturday, joining the Cornhuskers' longtime conference rival.

He replaces Mike Stoops, who left Oklahoma to become Arizona's head coach last month. Pelini will share duties with the Sooners' other co-defensive coordinator, Brent Venables.

"Bo comes in with a great deal of experience and we're excited," Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops said. "He'll continue to build on a great tradition we've already established defensively."

Pelini joins a staff that produced the nation's third-ranked defense and was ranked No. 1 before a loss in the Sugar Bowl on Jan. 4.

"I like the fact that the defense is known for playing the way it does, smart, aggressive and tough," he said. "I'm looking forward to getting in there and contributing what I can toward winning a national championship. That's my number one goal."

He'll also get a chance to face his old employer when Nebraska visits Oklahoma on Nov. 13.

Pelini interviewed for Nebraska's head coaching position, but didn't get the job and was one of seven assistants fired last week by new coach Bill Callahan.

Kansas City chiefs offensive coordinator Al Saunders, Arkansas coach Houston Nutt and Dallas defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer all withdrew their names from consideration before Nebraska settled on Callahan.

Pelini became Nebraska's defensive coordinator in December 2002, taking over a unit that finished 55th nationally in total defense and turning it into the strength of the team in one season.

The Cornhuskers had the nation's 11th-ranked defense this year.

Pelini served as interim head coach after Frank Solich was fired Nov. 29, coaching the Huskers to a 17-3 victory over Michigan State in the Alamo Bowl.

His ties to Bob Stoops go all the way back to high school in Youngstown, Ohio, where Pelini played for Stoops' father at Cardinal Mooney High School.

Pelini was an assistant in the NFL for nine years, working with the San Francisco 49ers, New England Patriots and the Green Bay Packers before accepting the Nebraska job last year.

"He comes in with great credentials," Stoops said. "It's a great fit. Everyone understands we've been longtime personal family friends as well."