On the sidelines, Dick Tomey's stoic demeanor was often mistaken for softness. "That's not true," he would insist. "The fire's inside."

With Mike Stoops, there are flames everywhere.

"I let it all out, as you guys know" he said Monday. "I was frustrated the other night about officiating. … I probably let it get the best of me, and I shouldn't have. But that's me. That's who I am. It's nothing personal."

After Saturday's victory over Iowa, UA fullback C.J. Parish said he got text messages from friends in Texas saying, "Your coach is doing some weird stuff on the sideline."

Not that Parish is put off by his coach's volatility. "He's very brilliant," the fullback said. "He's a great person."

At 48, the mercurial Stoops has become the Earl Weaver of college football coaches, stomping the sidelines, riding officials, an irresistible magnet for TV cameramen and highlight-reel producers.

Is Weaver too dated as a comparison? OK, how about Kansas State basketball coach Frank Martin, a scowling, irascible character who seems perpetually annoyed.

To say that Stoops is intense doesn't do the word justice. He huffs and he puffs and he isn't afraid to blow off steam, no matter who, or how many TV viewers, may be watching.

Stoops didn't watch replays of the Iowa game and wasn't aware that he got as much screen time as quarterback Nick Foles, maybe more.

"You don't want that," he said. "You want it to be about your players and your program. That's unfair to our players."

A lot of Pac-10 football coaches have been, shall we say, indelicate on the sideline. Cal's Joe Kapp was an earful for anybody. ASU's Frank Kush, a legend, ruled by intimidation. Oregon's Rich Brooks? He could kick up a storm as well as anybody.

When the lights came on, none had the mellow-out gene. It ultimately cost Kush his job. The mission here is for Stoops to reach a peace with himself, and even the officials, before he becomes known more for his temper than for winning football games.

He is so animated, so confrontational, that you worry about his blood pressure and the other vital signs. On the day Michigan State's 54-year-old Mark Dantonio had a heart attack following his team's victory over Notre Dame, Stoops must have used up the warranty on his vocal cords while chastising the officiating crew at Arizona Stadium.

It's almost scary. Stoops father, Ron Stoops, a former Ohio prep defensive coordinator, died of a heart attack the night he coached his last football game at Cardinal Mooney High School in Youngstown. Ron Stoops was 54.

Florida coach Urban Meyer, 46, worried about persistent chest pains, checked into a hospital last season. He was so shaken that he briefly retired.

The occupational stress of a college football coach is extraordinary, especially if you're not at someplace like USC and Ohio State, where talent, finances and support arrive in excess. Stoops is so driven to succeed, such a perfectionist, that he goes through the season with his game face on and his foot on the accelerator.

"I like it," said UA left tackle Adam Grant. "It jacks me up. I feed off of his energy. Even at practice he's hopping around, getting me motivated. I'm all for it."

On Monday, Stoops was the picture of health and happiness.

He attended his weekly press briefing wearing a pressed blue shirt, with his hair perfectly combed and not a wrinkle in his slacks. He is a runner, a gotta-get-my-daily-workout guy who doesn't appear to have an ounce of excess weight.

But who knows what's going on inside of him or anybody?

"Anyone who says there isn't a lot of stress in these jobs isn't being truthful," said Stoops. "I run and try to do things to stay healthy. I work out as much as I can and try not to let the stress eat away at me. But these are tough jobs."

Stoops stayed up until 3 a.m. after the Iowa game and said that it takes him about an hour, after practices and games, to "wind down and get to where you can relax."

"Intensity gets the best of everyone if you're a competitor," he said. "But I don't take it out on anybody but myself."

In the happy minutes after Saturday's game, Stoops addressed his players and coaching staff in a locker room at Arizona Stadium. The officials were forgotten, and Stoops was so caught up in the moment that, impromptu, he did a little dance.

Everybody laughed. For at least a few minutes, the fire was out.

Contact Greg Hansen at 573-4362 or ghansen@azstarnet.com