Mark Stoops hired as UK’s head football coach



UK announced Tuesday that Mark Stoops will be the next head coach of the football program that went 2-10 this season under Joker Phillips.

A press conference is set for Sunday in Lexington, with the time and location to be announced. Stoops and Barnhart will be available for questions, along with Tim Couch, a former UK All-American quarterback and announcer for Fox Sports South who was involved with the search.

“I don’t know of anybody that would be a better hire than him,” said Oscar Combs, founder of The Cats Pause and a Kentucky Journalism Hall of Fame member. “I’m really amazed that the fan base has come back together so quickly.”

He said Stoops already is a popular hire.

“Many people were convinced that they weren’t going to be able to hire anyone of any substance other than people with baggage,” Combs said. “And now that they have hired someone with a pretty good pedigree without the baggage, it is pretty popular.”

Stoops has been the defensive coordinator and secondary coach for Florida State since 2010.

“I am thrilled to be named the head football coach at the University of Kentucky,” Stoops said in a UK Athletics news release. “My family and I are excited and looking forward to becoming a part of the Big Blue Nation. … I promise the faithful of the Big Blue Nation I will be focused and driven to create a positive, winning atmosphere for the program and an environment that all of Kentucky can be proud of.”

Stoops’ Florida State squad is ranked second in total defense in the FBS. Also, Florida State is seventh in scoring defense and fourth in rushing yards allowed per game.

“I was very happy when it was all said and done that they got a coach who will be recruiting in the South,” Combs said. “The big thing is his recruiting ties to the state of Florida, and specifically the Miami area.”

Stoops also served as defensive coordinator and secondary coach for Arizona under head coach and his older brother, Mike. In 2009, the Wildcats’ defense was ranked 25th. In 2008, Stoops’ Arizona squad finished 24th in total defense nationally.

“I’m excited for Mark, happy for him and proud of him. He’s earned it. He’s done really well everywhere he’s been,” said Bob Stoops, Mark’s brother and head coach of the Oklahoma Sooners, via OU Athletics. “I know he’s really prepared for the job. I believe that Kentucky, as he does, has a lot of potential, a lot of resources to build, so I know he’s excited about the opportunity.”

Many UK football players and those close to the program tweeted about the hiring congratulating Stoops on Tuesday.

“We welcome Mark Stoops as our head coach to the #BBN,” sophomore linebacker Bud Dupree tweeted.

Freshman cornerback Cody Quinn and sophmore defensive tackle Christian Coleman also took to Twitter to welcome Stoops.

Tim Couch tweeted: “Wanna welcome Mark Stoops to #bbn!! I think he is a great hire, let’s all support him and his vision for our program! Go Big Blue!”

UK President Eli Capilouto spoke about Stoops in the news release.

“I enjoyed my time this week with Coach Stoops,” Capilouto said. “I am impressed with his commitment to student-athletes, both in the classroom and on the field. I am also deeply impressed with the way Mitch Barnhart has conducted this important process. I am confident that Coach Stoops has the character and skill to build the winning program the Big Blue Nation wants and deserves.”

Combs believes the hiring implies that all the pieces are coming into play for a major commitment to the football program.

“It’s starting to look even more that everybody is coming together at UK — fans, athletic director and president,” Combs said. “The big stories will be the different things that happen in the next 30 to 60 days, as far as improvements and funding.

“Maybe there has never been any division between President Capilouto and Barnhart, but it definitely seems like they are on the same page now. The president is in his second year now, and he had a lot of financial fires to put out when he got here. It’s not like athletics will take any money from academics at Kentucky.”

Combs thinks this will end up being a marquee hire by Barnhart.

“It was probably a career-making decision. He not only hit a home run of a coaching hire, he hit a home run for his own popularity in this state,” Combs said. “I don’t think it should have come down to this hire, but the way things have went down, this was without question his most important hire.”