Mark Stoops has become the Kentucky football coach, and considering UK is a basketball-crazy school that just finished 2-10, with victories only over Kent State and Samford, it seems like a dead-end job.
UK played only two SEC games closer than 20 points – home losses of 27-14 to Mississippi State and 29-24 to Georgia.
Would Bob Stoops have taken this job 15 years ago? Big Brother turned down, among others, Minnesota before taking the OU job in December 1998.
Stoops turned down Minnesota two years before. The Gophers had gone six straight seasons without a winning season (18-48 overall).
That seems about where Kentucky is, except the Wildcats have been competitive in recent years. Joker Phillips was fired for the 2-10 debacle, but his first two seasons weren’t a total disaster – 5-7 in 2011, 6-7 in 2010, with a bowl loss to Pittsburgh.
But the previous four seasons, the Kentuckys were winners under Rich Brooks:
2009: 7-6, Music City Bowl loss to Clemson;
2008: 7-6, Liberty Bowl win over East Carolina;
2007: 8-5, Music City Bowl win over Florida State;
2006: 8-5, Music City Bowl win over Clemson.
So while Kentucky is not a plum job, it’s not a wasteland. The Wildcats haven’t played in a major bowl since the 1951 season, when they beat TCU in the Cotton Bowl. That was a year after they beat national champion OU in the Sugar Bowl.
But before this season,UK had won at least two SEC games for seven straight seasons. That’s a start, at least.
Kentucky rarely plays a killer schedule. There is an annual game against Louisville, but in 2013 UK also plays Western Kentucky, Miami-Ohio and Alabama State.
In a division with Vanderbilt, Missouri and struggling Tennessee, plus with Mississippi State as an annual crossover game, Kentucky has a fighting chance.
Here’s what Bob Stoops had to say about his little brother’s new job:
On how the Florida State experience has prepared Mark: “I think his experience all through, even building Arizona back up, being a part of that along with Florida State, and the level of competition at both schools, the way they’ve played, the competition; he has great experience.”
On any advice he’ll share: “Trust your instincts. When you get one of those positions, everybody wants to tell you what to do. That’s how it was for me. I didn’t let anyone hurry me. I took it at my own pace, trusted my guy and my instincts on what I wanted to do, and fortunately it worked out.”
On recruiting in SEC territory: “He’s been recruiting in that area for a long time and he’s had success doing it. I’m sure that will help to a degree.”