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UK AD Mitch Barnhart says organized Mark Stoops was spectacular during search process

From left, UK AD Mitch Barnhart, coach Mark Stoops, and UK president Eli Capilouto address the press conference attendees Sunday. (Clay Jackson photo)

From left, UK AD Mitch Barnhart, coach Mark Stoops, and UK president Eli Capilouto address the press conference attendees Sunday. (Clay Jackson photo)

By KEITH TAYLOR, Winchester Sun

Mitch Barnhart knows it takes defense to compete in the Southeastern Conference. That’s why he hired a proven defensive coordinator to lead the football program at the University of Kentucky.

During a month-long search for a coach,  Barnhart wanted a defensive-minded leader and turned to former Florida State defensive coordinator Mark Stoops. Kentucky, which made five straight bowl appearance before going 7-17 during the past two seasons, not only started missing the postseason, but Barnhart noticed the Wildcats started “slipping” on the defensive side of the ball and wanted his next coach to shift the team’s focus back to defense and “how we could stop people.”

“We started to give up 25, 30 and 35 points a game and in this league and you’re not going to have success at the level you want if you can’t stop somebody,” he said following a press conference Sunday introducing Stoops as the team’s coach. “That was a focus for us.”

Clearly, Barnhart wanted a coach who understood and valued defense and determined it was Stoops who stood head and shoulders above the other candidates during the hiring process.

“I wanted us to be better defensively, so that we didn’t have to be so perfect on offense,” he said. “That was really, really important to us. That is where I started.”

From the beginning, Barnhart was prepared for the task at hand and had a “plan in place” after informing former  coach Joker Phillips of his dismissal with three weeks remaining in the regular season. He made several contacts and settled on Stoops last week.

“We started to funnel through a bunch of names and you’ve got to be prepared,” he said. “I didn’t want to get to that day where we had to change, but when we did, we had to be ready. As the funnel got tighter, we got down (to it) and one name came out, and it was the one we offered the job to and it was Mark.”

Barnhart said Stoops was “spectacular” during the hiring process and “very organized.”

“He has a plan and his recruiting ties were very, very important,” he said. “You’ve got to have players and everybody knows that … and that recruiting piece is very important. I feel very strongly about the pedigree that Mark has through his family, the places that he’s been, the knowledge that he has gained, his toughness, the discipline that his team’s play with and the defensive piece was very, very important to us. All those components “wrapped” around the thought process that he has offensively gives us a chance to get better.”

In addition to Stoops, Barnhart said the other applicants had “good plans,” but was impressed with Stoops after he contacted Barnhart about the job and liked what Stoops had to offer.

“He and I texted back and forth a lot and there wasn’t a time where his energy didn’t come through, even in a text message,” he said. “That doesn’t win you a job, but it certainly doesn’t hurt you. We’ve had great communication and I’ve been very impressed with what he’s had to say. He’s been around (football) his entire life and he’s thinking about (football) all of his life. This is something he was been waiting for and working toward his entire career. He’s got and he’s ready to go turn it loose.”

Off the field, Barnhart was swayed by Stoops’ work ethic and his family’s desire to be in Lexington.

“I had an opportunity to meet with some members of his family and my brother works with Bob (Stoops) at Oklahoma and I know how much he thinks of coach Stoops at Oklahoma,” Barnhart said. “I love his family, they want to be here and that was important to us. He wants to develop young men from the inside out and he thinks he can build them to be really good people and really good football players. He has shown that and he’s a really good teacher of the game. I think that’s important.

“His work ethic is relentless and that’s what it is going to take for us to have an opportunity. That’s not to say that the people did not work hard. They worked hard and sometimes it just doesn’t work. We had to move on and do something differently. He gives us new hope, new energy, a new beginning and a chance to believe again.”

During his first search for a coach in 2002, Barnhart admitted that “it was hard” to find a replacement for Guy Morriss, but discovered a different tone outside the program this time around, a sign that the Kentucky job wasn’t a hard sell for Barnhart.

“We had some folks that came to us and said this was a good job,” Barnhart said.

Barnhart gave Stoops a five-year contract for $11 million plus incentives and gave Stoops and early stamp of a approval on a coaching staff, one that will be financial competitive with other salaries in the conference and the nation. He also added that the school is “financially in sound shape.” Barnhart added that Stoops “wanted to come” to Kentucky regardless of the school’s facilities and background.

“We’re working on those things,” Barnhart said of upgrading the school’s current facilities. “What’s so funny to me is people act like we’ve never done anything for football facilities. I find that ironic. One thing everybody wants to change is obviously Commonwealth Stadium and want to do some things to help with that as well, but when he walked through our Nutter Center, he said it was nice. He had no idea.

“He walked to our team rooms, our meeting rooms and our locker rooms, he said they were really nice. I think the perception out there is that we don’t have anything that is nice. That’s just not true. We’re working hard on that. The timing was not right in some of the other times, but we’re gaining ground on that and what the timing looks like on that, I don’t know. And like I said, sooner rather than later. That’s not an issue to Mark right now. What we’ve got, we can go to work with.”

Permanent link to this article: http://vaughtsviews.com/barnhart-says-organized-mark-stoops-was-spectacular-during-search-process/


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  1. Larry Pup

    Great article. Gives alot of insight that went into the search. There is a feeling of excitement and hope now for UK football. I think we got us a good one in coach Stoops. I like his style. Now we need to see some slobber knocking defense

    1. larryvaught

      Kieth did terrific job providing just those insights I thought were very interesting as well

  2. Mike Lewis

    I find it mildly alarming that Coach Stoops and his wife never visited the campus or the city of Lexington prior to yesterday for a few reasons. Most importantly, a prepared leader of an organization obtains knowledge and information before making major decisions. Stoops had never seen the facilities, campus or even met with the president. Also, if mama ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy. I can’t believe Barnhart when he said that it is important to him that Stoops family is happy hear when they didn’t even take the time to bring them here. So I am mildly raining on the party in stating that Stoops did not make a well thought out decision in coming hear. Is this a precursor to his upcoming decision making with our football program. I know the immediate response is he is making $11 million and his family is now set for life, but this guy had many options. Why did he choose us without researching our state and school further? This is a little too similar to the fast Billy G hire if you ask me. I hope it works out and he is not just using us as a stepping stone.

    1. Lori Metcalf

      These days, there are lots of ways to find out about a community without actually being there. You can get a good feel for it by looking at a variety of websites — especially those where reader/user comments are permitted or encouraged — and I think I remember him saying he talked to quite a few people over the phone. I think that would be more revealing than getting a guided tour of only the nicest areas and attractions during a sales pitch. You can see housing, schools, attractions/entertainment, crime rates, salary databases, restaurants, etc., etc., etc. The Lexington area googles very well and I think it’s quite reasonable to assume they (she) did this before the agreed to anything.

      I don’t think we should have any illusions that Stoops is going to be here forever; this is most definitely a stepping-stone job for someone his age and potential. If he lives up to that potential and is successful here, people are going to come calling and he is most likely going to choose to advance his career. UK Head Football Coach isn’t exactly a dream job that one would aspire to and consider the pinnacle of their career.

      1. Larry Pup

        Lori….The UK job with success could be. It is major college football in the sec. Besides, he may love it here. We will have to match offers for sure. I don’t understand why some of you minimize our football program so much. I understand why ESPN does, and many talking heads who love to pile on UK. We just need a coach to lift the program to new heights. Our money spends just like eveybody elses don’t it. It is pre mature to talk about all that any way. I will say it would be a good problem to have.

        1. Lori Metcalf

          Agreed, LarryPup. I think this can be a first step to bringing up the reputation of the program. I was referring to the state of the program today, not it’s potential if given proper resources and leadership.

          1. Larry Pup

            Got it. I’m with you Lori.

    2. UKFAN197TONE

      For $2M a year, I would live in Lexington. Any part of it. :)

    3. Larry T Clemons

      Lexington is one of the Greatest Cities (not on a major waterway), in the United States…Beautiful Country, Kind People and a wonderful University. You don’t have to research much to know that. Opportunity, is the key word in Coach Stoop’s mind….

  3. Mike Lewis


    Please tell us if our facilities are really inferior to other SEC schools. Every photo and video I have seen of the Nutter Center looks very nice and modern. I have been to many other SEC stadiums. The only thing I think we lack at Commonwealth are sideline luxury boxes. Luxury boxes don’t effect the majority of fans. Yes, they would bring in more revenue, but how long would it take to get a return on the investment in building them? Where am I going wrong here? What makes other schools facilities so much better? The concession stand food is horrible, but that doesn’t effect a coach. The grass field is beautiful for a fall climate this far north.

    1. larryvaught

      Mike, recruiting room is a big negative. also weight room not as nice as some. same with boxes, etc, as you noted. also the way uk football recruits — private plane availability, etc, — can be an issue

  4. RJ

    I like the fact that Stoops was looking for the job, and not necessarily the other way around if you read MB’s quote, and sold himself. That speaks well for his ability to sell the program to his coaching staff and recruits. We;ll se who else is buying besides MB.

  5. Larry T Clemons

    All those people who Bashed Mitch , should apologies…I was pulling for Petrino, but I’m happy with this Hire. Mitch was working, getting it done, with help, like you wanted…come on, Give Mitch some thank you, I’m Sorry, great Job, with all those vacancies out there, Mitch, you got us a Great Fit, Thank You….I never Bashed MB, I don’t need to say I’m Sorry, but some of you should, come on, laugh it off, MB did UK, good, ” again “…

  6. wildcatdon

    Mike your first post makes no sense…It’s a testimony to Stoops that he would take the job without coming to see the campus and the city first..He talked to people and it’s not like Lexington is a ghetto..He made a well thought out decision but the negative nancies that plague these boards always try to drown out the positives..

    1. LarryPup

      wildcatdon..you said it. Come on Mike, that is pretty weak. Why not just give the negative a rest for awhile. I am happy for him and happy for us. Let it lie.

  7. shinny

    Here’s the deal. For the most part college towns are great to live in with few exceptions,Louisville,Knoxville,Starkville. Wait until Mrs. Stoops goes house hunting and shopping. It will beat Tallahasee for sure! We got us a damn football coach that wanted to be in the SEC and loved the BBN! Besides if they wanted to preview before coming I suspect they know how to operate a computer!!!! I’ve signed on to “Stoops Troops” have you?

    1. Lori Metcalf

      Knoxville is actually an excellent place to live. You just have to go West, not East.

      1. Larry Pup

        The only thing good about Knoxville is 75 North.

    2. UKFAN197TONE

      Easy now. There is nothing wrong with Louisville that isn’t wrong with Lexington. Every city and town has issues. I can’t speak for Knoxville or Starkville, but there is no shame in living in Louisville. Yes, the BBall is whole different story, I don’t root for the team, but I do root for my hometown.

      1. Larry Pup

        Louisville is s good place to be from!

        1. Larry T Clemons

          I’m from Louisville and root for Pitino and UofL when they are not playing Kentucky…But, if I would have stayed in Kentucky, I would have lived in Lexington….

          1. Larry Pup

            I root for anybody who plays Louisville are you kidding me Larry T? I still can’t believe that sorry bunch is playing in the Sugar Bowl! That bowl has sure gone down hill. I hope Florida kills em. They are finally going to have to lineup against a football team. Rutgers blew that game. Big East my A$$! The ACC just got weaker.

        2. Larry T Clemons

          Sorry, Larry P., Got a long history with U of L ( Crum, Unseld, Griffith etc. Personal, also Nephew was Ballboy at 10 and Manager for Pitino for four Years and I enjoyed a casual friendship with Pitino/Donavan while they were at Ky. Don’t hate I’m still True Blue, I just love all of Our Colleges and their Basketball Programs…How bout Bellarmine, I use to watch The Kentucky Colonels (ABA), practice there. My Uncle Rock, got me into Kentucky Basketball, And That’s where I went to College…many stories, Love the Cats and also will always like Louisville (my hometown)…

        3. Larry T Clemons

          Your right about the Sugar Bowl, I was hoping ORANGE BOWL,vs Florida St., Louisville’s Freshman Quarterback and # 1 receiver, went to High school in Miami….

          1. Larry Pup

            No problem Larry T. Just a personal thing. I love you pal. I wrote Pitino off when he went to Louisville. That was a kick in the pants for many in BBN, including me. Never forgave him for that, sorry. But besides that, I have never liked Louisville. Never will. But it is a free country. I have many friends who are die hard UL. They can be wrong if they want to. By the way, I was born and raised in Louisville, Male High grad. I got out of dodge years ago. Lived in Florida for twenty years, Maryland too. Back in Ky now retired. Living life and loving it. GO BLUE!!!!!

          2. Larry Pup

            Larry T…do you think coach Stoops will be able to get a few out of south Florida? He highlighted Ohio on his radio show but mentioned Florida in his comments. He’s from Youngstown. Good footballers in Ohio. No problem there.

          3. larryvaught

            He has great connections in Florida. Will be his base for a few years if I was guessing

        4. Larry Pup

          Notice I said from.

          1. Larry Pup

            If all is wondering about my last post, I was referring to a prior post on living in Louisville, “It is a real good place to be from.” That means you no longer live there, thank God.

          2. Larry Pup

            I sure hope Florida is a key area for coach Stoops Larry V.. It will definitely pay off. I agree with Oscar Combs. If I’m recruiting football players, I want as many skilled players, i.e. wide receivers, running backs, qb’s, etc. as I can get out of gator country. Get the big tough lineman and, LB’s out of Ohio if you can too. I am really excited about this hire. I have almost forgotten about Petrino.

    3. UKFAN197TONE

      However, I do agree with the rest of your post 100%.

  8. Mike Flannery

    Positives; 1) He has a very good pedigree 2) He has a wealth of experience as an assistant. 3) His defenses have had excellent results 4) He seems to have a lot of enthusiasm for the position. 5) He was actively seeking the job and wanted to be a head coach. 6) He seems to have excellent ties to good areas for recruiting. 7) Sounds like he will bring some coaches from the Seminoles with him. 8) The Big Blue nation will support him.
    Negatives: 1) He has no experience as a Head Coach, therefore we are not aware of his overall ability to lead, delegate and hold delegates accountable. 2) He will not have the same talent level he had at Florida State. The postives do outweigh the negatives, however, the ability to effectively lead is the most critical. I am hopeful the BBN really comes out and attends the Blue and White game in April.

    1. Larry Pup

      Amen Mike!

      1. Larry T Clemons

        Stoops has already laid ground work for Florida Recruits. His success at Florida State will follow him to Kentucky and so will those ” Defensive Recruits “, his success at Kentucky will nurture this region ( Florida ) for building blocks of recruiting opportunities in Florida.

      2. Larry T Clemons

        I’m in Florida Now, form Ky, Louisville – Lexington, now Ft. Lauderdale, Florida ( Brandon Knight Country ), I watched him in high School…

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