Kentucky football coach Mark Stoops took will never be mistaken for fire and brimstone speeches on stage, and not in the public eye, ok maybe behind the closed locker room doors. Instead, we saw the confident coach at SEC Media Days that has like an architect over the past nine years constructed a winning program behind something called passion.
He leaves the fireworks and banter to other coaches like Lane Kiffen to ignite bulletin board material and social media content. He’s humble despite sitting two wins from becoming the all-time winningest football coach at Kentucky.
Stoops is one of the more senior tenured coaches in the SEC and his team has won four straight bowl games in six straight trips. Big Blue Nation has embraced and loves Stoops and the success that has come about with him at the helm.
Those across the media and the college landscape have taken note and so have the poll voters.
Instead, Stoops simply puts his hard hat on each day so to speak, grabs his whistle, and keeps on building a winning culture. He speaks highly of his player’s and assistant coaches’ successes but is more subdued when it comes to himself.
While questions and debate rage around Name, Image and Likeness, Stoops embraces it, understands it, and questions it, but in the end knows he can only do so much. He addressed that in his opening remarks to the media on Wedesday in his opening remarks that were carried on the SEC Network.
"“I don’t know if there has ever been a more volatile uncertain and changing period in college athletics. Much of this we have very little or no control over as a head coach and you can imagine that leads to some interesting times for us. As everything is swirling around outside of our building I think it’s important to have that stability within our program. Going into year 10 I am fortunate to be here for the 10th season but the roots we planted and have grown have to help us during these turbulent times.”"
He got that out of the way and instead focused on what he can control and that is the culture of the Kentucky football program.
Stoops expanded on the foundation of his program and philosophy of success using three simple words build, select, and develop. He added he and his assistants may change the narrative and tactics on how things are done each year, but he said the bottom line continues to be of building the attitude, and continue to build the culture they are looking for at Kentucky.
Kentucky has always used an imaginary six-hour radius around Lexington as its home recruiting grounds and Stoops and Vince Marrow particularly utilize that radius in the state of Ohio.
Stoops was asked about his selection and he made it simple that selecting the right person is very important, but the last and very prominent component as long as he is at Kentucky is the development piece as players and young men in every aspect of their lives.
Missouri head coach Eli Drinkwitz who is 1-1 against Kentucky in what has become some exciting games acknowledged the job Stoops has done. Missouri won 20-10 in Columbia in 2020, and UK won 35-28 last season in Lexington.
"“Coach Stoops has done a tremendous job. He knows exactly what the blueprint of his program is and how he wants to develop it.”"
The blueprint for success Stoops unveiled in 2013 started by inheriting a program that in just two seasons Joker Phillips made a shambles of.