Darren and myself were lucky enough to be able to attend Kentucky’s introductory press conference for new head coach Mark Stoops. Here are my thoughts from the event itself.
- I am not sure what has gotten into the University of Kentucky, but they seem to have forgotten that this was a football event. The environment was electric today, and honesty it was unlike anything I’ve seen for UK football in a quarter century. There was an enormous banner stretching to the top of Nutter field house, a ten to fifteen foot video board behind the coach, a video montage, the band, the cheerleaders, the dance team, a huge blow-up Kentucky football helmet, and a curious collection of music over the loudspeakers. This was a basketball-like production for a sport that has gotten the leftovers for as long as I can remember. There’s no way to be certain, but if this press conference was any indication of the university’s future commitment to football, it was promising.
- Mark Stoops knows how to work a crowd. He managed to convey his message today with a sense of enthusiasm that we haven’t seen from a Kentucky football coach in memory. At the same time, he didn’t come off as corny or fake. He outlined his plans for the future and spoke with great confidence. Comparing him to Calipari would be unfair, but he seems to have a very Cal-like attitude. When he said “I wanna tell you how excited I am to be your football coach…” The place erupted with applause.
- On to his message. Stoops was very clear in that he believes that Kentucky can compete for a SEC championship. He admitted that it won’t happen overnight and that the process of turning the program into a contender won’t be easy. He spoke of the turnaround that the Florida State defense had to make to get to where they are this year (the ACC Championship). He said he wants to model Kentucky in the same way Jimbo Fisher runs Florida State.
- Speaking of Florida State, Stoops said he was happy how he went out there (Leading a turnaround from one of the worst defenses in a BCS conference three years ago to one of the best in the country this season will make a lot of DC’s happy). The players there were obviously very fond of Stoops.
- Stoops admitted to being a “players coach.” He said that there are different approaches that coaches take, and connecting to his players works best for him. He did mention that discipline is still important, but that you seldom have issues with discipline from a defensive coach. He said that he wants to win with class and character. Stoops reiterated the importance of winning the right way a couple of times. He also said that he will continue to help Florida State through the rest of the season in any way he can…”Especially if they play Louisville.” This was greeted with a thunderous applause.
- Stoops was asked a couple of questions about Kentucky’s struggles over the past season(s). He responded that Kentucky has had success, but that his challenge will be building on that success and taking it to another level. When asked how to change the culture of losing, He said his teams will just attack it every single day. He said he is not interested in the past. They will embrace and learn from it, but he wants to focus on the future.