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By LARRY VAUGHT
This is part of a series with Kentucky head football coach Mark Stoops based on a recent interview with him that I hope will offer insights into his personality and philosophies that you have not read about before.
Question: What, if anything, has surprised you about the UK fan base and do you consider Kentucky a football state?
Stoops: “Yeah, it has, to be honest with you. I knew we had great support here. I didn’t know it would be to this extent so I’ve been very pleased — could not be more happy with the fanbase. I thank them, again to you and your segment that you’re writing, because they’ve been overwhelming at times. It does nothing but help. It helps with motivation of myself, the staff and the players. It helps motivate us each and every day to do better for them, because they deserve a great product. It helps in recruiting and it helps with the overall atmosphere of the whole campus, so I think it’s been a very neat experience and we greatly appreciate it.”
Question: Do you worry fan expectations could be too high this season, or is that what you prefer?
Stoops: “I really try not to — I stay away from that question. I dance around that question with a 10-foot pole because it’s not my style to downplay expectations.”
Question: Are high expectations a good thing?
Stoops: “I’m all for it. I’m going out to win each and every game. People say, ‘Well you’re crazy.’ Well I’m not into just turning over and forfeiting a game so we’re going to go out and we’re going to prepare to win each and every game. With that being said, you can’t ever get ahead of yourself. As a fan, you can. As a coach or as a player, you really can’t. Once we get into season, it’s every seven days. We look at that as one-week seasons. Win or lose, you put that last one behind you and you get onto the next one. Everything’s a process with us. I just stay away from it. I don’t know if there’s a right answer for that. I’m going out to expect to win and compete to win every game, and I think the fans feel the same way.”
Question: Does it amuse you that some UK fans are already worrying you will be so successful that you won’t be here long?
Stoops: “On what it says about what he and his staff have done that fans are worrying he will be so successful he’ll leave soon…
I’m certainly just settling in and starting to feel more and more comfortable each and every day here. I’m certainly not planning on going anywhere. I hope we have that issue that comes up because that’s a good thing. That means there’s a lot of people in this university helping us be successful, starting with our administration, to our players, to our coaches and so on. There’s a lot of people that are helping us do the right thing right now and putting us in a position to be successful. Our coaches are working extremely hard. I’m very happy with where we’re at right now, and there’s just so much more to go, just each and every day, each and every segment of that program that we talked about earlier, that we’ve really got to tap that each and every day to get better and move forward. There’s a lot of work to be done.”