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- American football player and coach
- American athletic director
LEXINGTON - Amid speculation tying coach Mark Stoops to multiple high-profile job openings, Kentucky football has made its investment to keep Stoops in Lexington
Stoops has "agreed in principle" to a new contract that will run through the 2027 season, expiring in June 2028. Like his previous deal, the contract includes guaranteed extensions for any season with seven wins (one-year extension) or 10 wins (two-year extension).
Stoops' previous deal was set to expire in June 2027 but could have been extended an additional year with a win in UK's bowl game. The school has not released salary information for the new contract, which is awaiting final signatures.
"We have been in discussion with Coach Stoops in recent weeks and are excited about his ongoing commitment to Kentucky," UK athletic director Mitch Barnhart said in a news release. “Coach Stoops has done an outstanding job in building the UK football program and we look forward to continued success under his leadership.”
Stoops had been mentioned as a candidate at Florida and LSU, but those openings were filled by Billy Napier and Brian Kelly respectively. He has also been listed as a candidate for the current open positions at Oklahoma, where his brother Bob was a legendary coach, and Notre Dame.
"I’m excited to continue to build this program to national prominence," Stoops said in the release. "We’re on our way and I’m more confident in Kentucky football than I’ve ever been.
"I thank President (Eli) Capilouto and Mitch Barnhart for their support. The continuity among us for the last nine years is extremely valuable and I’m looking forward to more success together. Mitch and I came to an agreement a week or two ago and shook hands on it Saturday afternoon. This process is a compliment to our relationship."
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After beating Louisville in the regular season finale, Stoops ranks second on UK's career coaching wins list, two shy of Paul "Bear" Bryant for most in program history. His 58-53 record at Kentucky will not turn heads alone, but he is 46-27 since the third game of the 2016 season after winning just 12 of his first 38 games. Stoops already holds the UK records for most home wins (41) and total games coached (111).
He is tied with Fran Curci for most seasons as Kentucky’s head coach (nine). No coach has left UK with a winning record since Blanton Collier, who was 41-36 from 1954 to 1961.
Stoops led Kentucky to its first 10-win season since 1977 in 2018 and will coach the Wildcats in their sixth consecutive bowl game later this season. A win in the bowl game would give Kentucky just the third double-digit win season in program history. Kentucky has won three consecutive bowl games.
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The Wildcats are 25-25 in SEC play the last six seasons with two winning records in league play in that span. Before Kentucky's historic 2018 season, the program had not posted a winning record in SEC play since 1977.
Stoops' rebuilding project at Kentucky was forged on unprecedented recruiting success.
Each of Stoops' first nine signing classes were ranked in the top 40 nationally by the 247Sports Composite, including three in the top 30. The 2022 class is poised to be his best yet, currently ranked 13th nationally. The class is headlined by five-star Charlestown, Indiana offensive tackle Kiyaunta Goodwin and four-star Nashville wide receiver Barion Brown.
Prior to Stoops's arrival at Kentucky many pundits predicted the only way the program could win in the SEC was to close the talent gap with the rest of the league by using a gimmicky offense like the "Air Raid" Hal Mumme built in Lexington in the late 1990s, but Stoops was able to recruit and develop enough players to win with a physical, run-first mentality.
Running back Benny Snell became the program's career rushing leader playing for Stoops and running behind an offensive line that was known as one of the best in the SEC.
When the offense became too one-dimensional, Stoops fired coordinator Eddie Gran after the 2020 season and hired Liam Coen to run the offense built by Sean McVay and the Los Angeles Rams. The offense, which still relies heavily only a strong run game to set up play-action passes, averaged 100 more passing yards per game than last season with Coen as coordinator, Penn State transfer Will Levis at quarterback and Nebraska transfer Wan'Dale Robinson at wide receiver.
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Stoops' has been aided by financial investment from UK before.
In the early years of Stoops' tenure, Kentucky unveiled a $120 million stadium renovation and constructed a new $45 million practice facility. After the 10-win 2018 season, Stoops signed a contract extension that pays him $5.25 million this season. His salary was scheduled to increase by $250,000 each year through the end of the contract. He ranks 15th nationally in salary among head coaches at public universities, according to a USA TODAY database.
That contract awarded Stoops an additional $250,000 per win starting with win No. 9 each season. Every time he wins seven games, the contract was automatically extended by one year. If he wins 10 games, the contract was extended an additional year.
This article originally appeared on Louisville Courier Journal: Kentucky football: Mark Stoops signs contract extension through 2028