Mark Stoops is the greatest Kentucky Wildcats football coach we’ve had in a long time. But could he one day become the best coach in school history?
Every season he piles up more big wins for the Wildcats and leads them further through uncharted territory. Here’s where he ranks in most of the major categories against the other UK coaches throughout the school’s history:
Wins: 58 (2nd)
This is one of the big ones, because in 2022 he is all but guaranteed to surpass Bear Bryant for most wins in program history. Bear Bryant won 60, and Stoops should have this one by October.
Winning Percentage (Min. 30 games): 52.3% (4th)
A winning record at Kentucky is very difficult, and Stoops is one of only five UK coaches to have one after coaching at least 30 games. I don’t think he’ll be able to catch Bear Bryant on this one, though—he went 60-23-5 for a 71.0% percentage.
SEC Wins: 29 (1st)
Vanderbilt, South Carolina, Missouri, Tennessee, Florida, Arkansas, LSU, and Mississippi State have all fallen to Stoops at least once over the years, and it’s given him more conference victories than any of his predecessors. This is one of his biggest achievements with the Wildcats, and he’s only going to win more over the next several seasons.
SEC Winning Percentage (Min. 20 games): (4th)
He’s also lost 45 league games, including the first eight in a row. Since then, they’ve gone 29-37 in SEC play. Perhaps UK can slowly bridge that gap over the next couple of seasons, but Bear Bryant is the only coach who played at least 20 league games and won more than he lost with the Wildcats.
Bowl Bids: 6 (1st)
Bowls are easier to get to now than back in the old days, and Stoops has been piling them up since 2016. Postseason football is a special thing for any team that wants to have a winning culture, and Stoops has made sure they’ve always played a game in December or January for the past several seasons.
Bowl Wins: 3 (Tied for 1st)
Bear Bryant and Stoops have both won three bowls, and if UK wins the Citrus Bowl, Stoops will have this one all to himself. Stoops has made sure that his teams take their bowls seriously, and it has led to the program going from 8-9 in bowls after the 2017 Music City Bowl to going into this year’s Citrus 11-9 in bowls.
SEC Championships: 0
This is what really separates Bear Bryant and Fran Curci from Stoops. The SEC has only gotten bigger and tougher over the years, and Stoops has yet to reach the SEC Championship game with the Wildcats with a truly dominant team. Still, they’ve taken a small step closer every year, which has been unimaginable for the prior 40+ years.
AP SEC Coach of the Year: 1 (Tied for first)
Stoops and several other UK coaches have won the award once. Perhaps he’ll win it a second time sometime down the road. The historic 2018 season earned him this one.
Mark Stoops has brought super consistent winning to UK football since 2016, and it has taken the Wildcats back to the glory days of Fran Curci and Bear Bryant. Only he and those two coaches have been able to beat the likes of Florida, Tennessee, and high-profile ranked competition and earn prestigious postseason trips. That is amazing for the UK program, but it’s making and winning the SEC Championship game that would put him in on the national level like the other two coaches.
Developing powerful teams like this year’s and signing top-15 recruiting classes are big steps he’s making in the quest to get there, and over the next few seasons, we might see something big like that happen.