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Kentucky Wildcats Morning Quickies: Football Struggles Continue Edition

Firing Mark Stoops would be a really costly decision for UK. Probably too costly right now.

Mark Zerof-USA TODAY Sports

Good morning ladies and gentlemen of the Big Blue Nation, and welcome to the Tuesday Morning Quickies.

Today’s lead story is a continuation of the ugly start for the 2016 UK football team. At 0-2 and faced with rebellion from around the Big Blue Nation, Mark Stoops has entered what the Na’vi (that’s an Avatar reference, in case it looks obscure) call “the place where the eye does not see.” In normal Kentucky fan parlance, he’s on the hot seat, embattled, and in the dog house. Big time.

Mark Story details the huge problem with attempting to fire Mark Stoops just now, and it’s what you’d expect — a massive financial hit. Consider:

UK’s steep financial commitment to Stoops was cemented on Oct. 29, 2014, when Kentucky Athletics Director Mitch Barnhart signed the then-second-year football coach to a six-year, $21.5 million contract extension.

At the time, Stoops had won seven of the 20 games he’d coached at Kentucky.

It is easy now that Stoops (12-26) is off to a worse start than even Bill Curry (14-24) through his first 38 games as Cats coach to wonder what Barnhart and UK were thinking in making such a lucrative promise to a head coach who was still mostly unproven on the field.

It’s easy to talk about biting the bullet and lining up big-name boosters to plunk down the better part of $20 million dollars, but my feeling is that’s not happening this season, if ever.

So unless you want to reach deep and lead the way with, say, a $5 million dollar blind into the kitty, I suggest you accept the financial reality that Stoops is going to be here for a while.

So what’s the problem? Recruiting has been demonstrably better under Stoops, Kentucky has better athletes than it has in years, the facilities are improved and the fan support is still there. Why the lack of success?

From a football standpoint, it looks to be two major things — lack of leadership and a bunch of bad luck on both the offensive and defensive lines — think Lloyd Tubman, Jason Hatcher, Regie Meant, Josh Krok, Justin Day, and more. To make that worse, we have lost several very promising linemen to decommitments. There are always losses, but you can’t build depth with losses this profound, and the lines are the biggest reason Kentucky is this poor.  Player development is also a big issue.

Where do we go from here? Unless Kentucky can find a way to get its defense off the field and start getting some blocking from the O-line, this season looks to be totally unfortunate. The fallout will definitely begin next season, when attendance starts to really suffer.

The solution? Win, baby. That solves almost every problem.

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Your Quickies:

Kentucky football
  • Stoops has suggested on his show that he’ll be “more active” with the defense. My recommendation would be to take it over, and ask D.J. Eliot to coach somewhere else.

    Second, I’d ask Eddie Gran to run the offense mostly by himself. I sense that Stoops is too involved on that side of the ball for the team’s good. Coach what you know, and fake the rest, if you have to.

  • Justin Rowland points out that Stoops’ recruiting has definitely been better, and no doubt about it. Unfortunately, recruits don’t do you any good if you can’t keep them on the field:

    Going into this year alone it appeared Kentucky would have Jason Hatcher and Regie Meant on the front seven. If we go back a little bit, the coaches probably thought they would have Lloyd Tubman. The impact these players would or wouldn’t have made is a legitimate point of debate – and it’s a debate we’ll never satisfactorily settle – but their absence is noteworthy. They were a part of the recruiting hype and the rankings, and they aren’t a part of the program now.

    But compare the average 16- or 17-year old high school football recruit with the average 21 or 22-year old redshirt junior or senior. The difference is often, almost always, night and day. Getting a player into a program is one thing. Developing him to reach the maximum potential he’s really capable of attaining (or the one recruiting analysts have projected for him) is an entirely different matter.

    Read the whole thing. A lot of good stuff in there.

  • Maybe Mark Stoops needs to take a page out of Mike Leach’s book and get up in the football team’s face. MANDATORY TRIGGER WARNING: EXTREME, COLORFUL PROFANITY.

  • I think this headline might best be translated as: Mark Stoops, shut up and coach!

    I think he makes some very good points here, other than the obvious.

Kentucky basketball
Other Kentucky sports
College football
College basketball
  • The NCAA will relocate tournament games from North Carolina because of their “controversial” bathroom law. As far as I am concerned, requiring people to adhere to their genetic gender (unless they’ve changed it by surgical or legal means) for the purposes of using the bathroom isn’t controversial at all.


    This is the NCAA’s definition of the courage of their convictions.

  • “Would college basketball free agency really be so terrible?” asks SB Nation’s Tom Ziller:

    The graduate transfer rule has, in fact, become so popular that an anonymous mid-major coach revealed to Goodman last week that he’s working on ways to slow his athletes’ progress toward graduation to prevent players from graduating early and leaving.

    Read the whole thing.

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