Kentucky football coach Mark Stoops named to Dodd Trophy watch list

Kentucky football coach Mark StoopsSyndication The Courier Journal
Kentucky football coach Mark StoopsSyndication The Courier Journal /

As if Kentucky football fans needed any more validation that coach Mark Stoops has the Wildcat program playing with the big boys, Stoops has been named to the preseason watch list for the Bobby Dodd Coach of the Year honor.

The 20 FBS coaches on the list for the Dodd Trophy that was first awarded in 1976 honors the head coach of a team who excels not only on the field but in the classroom and in their communities. The legendary Georgia Tech coach Dodd built his success upon the three pillars of Scholarship, Leadership, and Integrity.

Big Blue Nation already knows that is the core value that Stoops has always emphasized from the day he stepped foot on the UK campus in 2013. He runs a clean program and has built it to the level today where Kentucky football not only plays with the elite NCAA teams but can beat them as well.

Kentucky football fans have high expectations for the 2022-23 season winning the Southeastern Conference Eastern Division and playing for the SEC title. To do so they would have to dethrone favorite Georgia and the two teams clash in the SEC regular-season finale on November 19 at Kroger Field in Lexington.

Stoops is one of six SEC coaches on the list that includes Georgia’s Kirby Smart, Ole Miss’ Lane Kiffen, Alabama’s Nick Saban, Arkanasas’ Sam Pittman, and Texas A&M coach Jimbo Fisher.

The UK coach will only square off with one other name on the list and that is Kiffen when the Wildcats travel to Oxford to play on October 1.

It’s an impressive list to be on for Stoops as the group as a whole has successfully won 12 National Championships, 39 FBS conference titles, and racked up 1,882 career wins in their careers.

Other names on the list include Dave Aranda (Baylor), Paul Chryst (Wisconsin), Dave Clawson (Wake Forest), Ryan Day (Ohio State), Dave Doeren (NC State), Kirk Ferentz (Iowa), Luke Fickell (Cincinnati), Mike Gundy (Oklahoma State), Jim Harbaugh (Michigan), Pat Narduzzi (Pittsburgh), Kalani Sitake (BYU), Dabo Swinney (Clemson), Mel Tucker (Michigan State) and Kyle Whittingham (Utah).

Five of these coaches are previous winners of the Dodd Trophy, including Swinney (2011), Saban (2014), Ferentz (2015), Whittingham (2019), and Fickell (2021).

Stoops beat his old buddy Ferenz in last season’s Citrus Bowl and has led the Wildcats to four straight bowl wins in six straight appearances.

He is 59-53 at Kentucky sitting just one game from equalling legendary and all-time win leader Paul “Bear” Bryant for wins at Kentucky. He could tie that in the season opener against Miami of Ohio and then a win at Florida the following week would push him to the top.

Stoops was named the 2018 SEC Coach of the Year after leading his team to a 10-3 record culminating with a 27-24 Citrus Bowl victory over Penn State.

The winner will be named during halftime of the Peach Bowl. Jim Terry, chairman of the Bobby Dodd Coach of the Year Foundation, unveiled the preseason list and its meaning.

"“College football has seen many changes in recent years, but all of these coaches have held true to our award’s three pillars of scholarship, leadership, and integrity, What separates The Dodd Trophy and truly makes it the most coveted coach of the year award, is our commitment to recognizing all that these coaches do, not only on the football field but in the classroom and throughout their communities as well. This is why we require coaches to have at least two years of experience leading their current programs so that they have had time to establish a precedent, both on and off the field.”"

The UK Athletic department and AD Mitch Barnhart will gladly proclaim the accomplishments not only Stoops has done but all its coaches.

In the classroom, the football Cats boast strong graduation rates and in the NCAA Academic Progress Rate.  Since 2015, the Big Blue has earned eight Academic All-America honors from the College Sports Information Directors of America.

Players are always active in the community, especially in the Kentucky Children’s Hospital. Stoops has helped raise over $2 million for the hospital leading an annual event called “Coaches for the Kids”. Many UK players visit children weekly not only being heroes on the field but becoming best friends off the field.

In Stoops’ nine seasons, six of his players, including three straight, have been named to the AFCA National Good Works Team (Max Godby, Landon Foster, Courtney Love, Landon Young, Luke Fortner and Kenneth Horsey), while Love won the prestigious Wuerffel Trophy, known as “College Football’s Premier Award for Community Service,”