With his name tied to Florida and LSU football, Mark Stoops insists he's 'committed' to UK

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LEXINGTON - Kentucky football coach Mark Stoops knows his name is being connected to other high-profile jobs. He insists he remains committed to Kentucky though.

"I have no control over that," Stoops said Monday. "I don’t want that out there. I don’t want that distraction. I don’t ask for that. As I mentioned jokingly weeks ago when somebody mentioned that, I’d rather it be that than you guys all talk about when they’re going to fire me.

"I can only control trying to win and build a program here. I think we can all understand I’ve been nothing but committed to doing that here and plan on doing that.”

Multiple reports, including from The Athletic, The Gainesville Sun and FootballScoop.com, have listed Stoops as one of a handful of candidates for the Florida job that was opened with former UK administrator Scott Stricklin fired Dan Mullen Sunday.

KentuckySportsRadio.com also reported Friday Stoops had been contacted via third parties by LSU, though it is more difficult to see how Stoops is a fit for that job than Florida. Long-time LSU beat reporter Glenn Guilbeau reported Monday the Tigers' search was down to Baylor coach Dave Aranda, Louisiana Lafayette coach Billy Napier and Iowa State coach Matt Campbell.

While Stoops has built much of his success at Kentucky by recruiting the Midwest, specifically his home state of Ohio, but he has extensive coaching history in the Sunshine State.

Stoops’ first full-time college coaching job came as the defensive backs coach at South Florida in 1996. He coached the defensive secondary at Miami from 2001 to 2003 and worked as Florida State’s defensive coordinator from 2010 to 2012.

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After beating New Mexico State Saturday, Stoops is just three wins from tying Bear Bryant for most by a head coach in Kentucky history. His 57-53 record at Kentucky will not turn heads alone, but he is 45-27 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 coaches (110). He is tied with Fran Curci for most seasons as Kentucky’s head coach (nine).

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. If Kentucky beats Louisville in the regular season finale and wins its bowl game, the Wildcats would record just the program’s third double-digit win season in program history.

Regardless of whether he is offered another job, Stoops could be in line for a raise and contract extension, but he already has one of the most coach-friendly contracts in college football.

The contract extension signed by Stoops prior to the 2019 season pays him $5.25 million this season. His salary increases 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.

Stoops earns an additional $250,000 per win starting with win No. 9 each season. Every time he wins seven games, the contract is automatically extended by one year. If he wins 10 games, the contract is extended an additional year.

Stoops would owe the university a $1.75 million buyout if he left UK for another job with five or more years left on the contract, as would be the case this year.

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While Kentucky has made massive facility investments in Stoops’ tenure with a $120 million stadium renovation and construction of a $45 million practice facility, the college football facility arms race never ends and Stoops has publicly called for renovation of the team’s indoor practice field multiple times this season. The team currently shares that facility with the UK track program, and the presence of the indoor track means there are not regulation-size end zones on either end of the turf field.

UK athletic director Mitch Barnhart could also entice Stoops to stay by increasing the salary pool for his assistant coaches. Offensive coordinator Liam Coen and defensive coordinator Brad White could both be pursued for head coaching jobs this offseason. Inside linebackers coach Jon Sumrall has already been linked to the head coach opening at Troy.

"We need to address it," Stoops said of the indoor facility earlier this season. "...We need, we need an indoor (with a full 120-yard field). I mean, let’s face it, we need an indoor."

Email Jon Hale at jahale@courier-journal.com; Follow him on Twitter at @JonHale_CJ.

This article originally appeared on Louisville Courier Journal: Florida football coach search: Mark Stoops says he's committed to UK

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