Full transcript of the Mark Stoops press conference today introducing him as UK’s football coach.
MITCH BARNHART: We would like to thank everybody for coming out today, a great day to be celebrating a great day in Kentucky football. We’re extremely excited today to have a chance to begin fresh and have new beginnings.
I’d like to thank a few folks before we get started. Just to say thank you to our university, the administration, our staff, the folks that have worked diligently in the last three or four weeks to help put this day together.
First I want to thank Dr. Capilouto, Mary Lynne, their unbelievable support of athletics. Two folks that have been instrumental in helping us move the needle on things we need to do athletically is the chairman of the Board of Trustees Britt Brockman and chairman of the Subcommittee for Athletics, C.B. Akins.
You go through times like this, you have a lot of people behind the scenes that put together events in short notice. This was put together in short notice. We thought about it, but clearly you have elements you deal with, so we’re all inside here today. Our staff has done a remarkable job. I thank them very much for what they’ve done.
I had several of my staff that helped me through this process and a great friend of the program in Tim Couch. I’d like to thank him for that.
It is a chance for new beginnings. It’s an opportunity for us to begin to hope and believe that our program moves forward and gets us to a chance to participate in a game that occurred in Atlanta last night. Those are the hopes, dreams of our players and fans.
With that we’re bringing a man into our program today to participate in one of those championship games. Last night they did okay. Congratulations to him.
With that, we want to welcome (Stoops’ wife) Chantel and (children) Zack and Will to Kentucky. This is their first time here. Big plane ride today. We fed them well. They’re about ready to crash on us. We’d like to welcome you all to Kentucky. It’s great to have you with us.
We have the greatest fans in all of college sports and the most passionate fan base around and you deserve a football program that competes at a championship level. That’s what we’ve hired this guy to do. We want him to help get us to Atlanta and pursue SEC championships and help us play on New Year’s Day. We dream of that for our players, we dream of that for our fans. We want to support those efforts to get that done.
It is with great pleasure that I introduce the head football coach at the University of Kentucky, Mark Stoops.
MARK STOOPS: Thank you very much. I appreciate that.
So this is what the Big Blue Nation is all about right here. I’ve been hearing a lot about it. I appreciate you being here.
It’s a great honor for me to be the head football coach at the University of Kentucky. I’d like to recognize my wife Chantel and the boys. Appreciate them being here. She’s the head coach at home, as you know.
I’d like to thank Dr. Capilouto, the Board of Trustees, for the faith and confidence they have in me being their coach. So I appreciate that.
I’d like to thank Mitch Barnhart. He’s been tremendous through this whole process. Very up front, honest. We’ve had great talks. Seems like each and every time we talked, I had a stronger and stronger feeling about UK. I just really appreciate the way Mitch went about this whole process. I appreciate that very much. Thank you.
Also I’d like to recognize the people that helped Mitch through this process: John Cropp, DeWayne Peevy, Tim Couch and Marc Hill. Thank you.
To all the past and current players that are here today, I appreciate you being here. I look forward to meeting all the past players, and I look forward to getting to work with all you current players very soon. I look forward to meeting you tomorrow morning.
I’d like to thank Coach (Jimbo) Fisher, the administration and the players at Florida State. It’s been a tremendous three years for me there. I really like the way we went out last night. Obviously they’re a special group. I felt very good and wanted to leave on the right note. Wanted you all to feel the confidence in your new head football coach and go out with a win. Really appreciate all the people at Florida State.
I’d like to wrap up the thank yous just talking about my family. My mother has been to many football games, as you all know. My brothers and sisters grew up in a coaching family. Really wanted to thank my father, who is no longer with us, but a big part of who I am comes from how I grew up with my father. He was a high school coach for over 30 years. Tremendous person.
I think that’s where I started preparing to get to this position where I’m at right now, is those days and those nights spending time with my father at Cardinal Mooney (High School), many nights when I’ve been sitting at the kitchen table eating my dinner and watching my father watch film and using the refrigerator as his canvas. I think that’s a big part of who I am.
I cannot tell you how excited I am to be your football coach. I’m highly motivated to build this program to national prominence. There will be no magic wands to getting this done. We’re going to do it with very much of a blue‑collar mentality. We’ll work every day, be accountable to what we do. Our players will have tremendous character and we’re going to win in the institution and we are going to win with a lot of class.
The one thing that I ask you to do, I ask the Big Blue Nation to fill Commonwealth Stadium each and every week next year. Thank you.
TONY NEELY: Our next speaker is our university president, Dr. Eli Capilouto.
DR. CAPILOUTO: Coach, excuse my voice. Many have attributed my hoarseness to a bad cold. The truth is I spent my week trying to become a member of the fastest growing student group, Stoops Troops.
I want to welcome you to the Big Blue Nation. It is a family. My wife and I have been here just 18 months, but this Nation is family. It makes us feel like we’ve been here forever. It’s why my wife squeezes my hand when they play ‘My Old Kentucky Home’.
We are here for you and we are here for your family. Your family is our family. Coach, you’ll never have a better boss than Mitch Barnhart. He’s a value‑driven professional who, like the rest of this campus, ensures what we do with class and integrity.
You will also never know a more committed and wise Board of Trustees. We are a Big Blue Nation united. We are here because we put students first. They are the focus of everything we do. It’s been that way for nearly 150 years.
Today we again celebrate, and we do it with you, coach. It’s a Big Blue Nation united with the goal of being the first choice for students as they compete in the classroom and on the field.
We’re also a first choice for discovery and service so that we can make a difference in those communities across our state.
We’re a first choice for cutting‑edge education because of a world‑class faculty. And increasingly we’re going to give our students and our faculty a living, learning and discovery facility that they need to maximize their potential.
Today underscores that commitment to student‑athletes and to our university. We are building upon a strong foundation and investing in long‑term success in our football program. That success, in turn, means so much to the rest of our athletic program and to our university.
UK athletics is one of a handful of programs in the country that gives back to the academic mission of this institution. A successful football program is key. I am convinced we have a gentleman in Mark Stoops that can build on our success.
In speaking with Coach Stoops, you feel in a minute that he’s a difference‑maker. He’s the real deal. He is of character and will build character in our student‑athletes. I hope you noticed last night at the conclusion of their game how his players gathered around him with deep respect and affection.
With Coach Stoops joining the Big Blue Nation, we are demonstrating our commitment to football and our student‑athletes. We are committed to the long‑term in football. We are committed to investing in its success which will ensure the financial success of the most comprehensive athletics program in the SEC, an athletics program that commits millions of dollars a year to academic scholarships and university programs.
We will be talking more in the very near future about that commitment and our specific plans for sustained investments in education, research and athletics, investments that will underscore our attention to chart our destiny, a first choice for students and faculty, first choice for research and service.
As we move forward with our plans to rebuild all facets of our campus, it’s important that our fans, friends and alumni understand that this is an effort in partnership across the university and with our friends in the general assembly.
With the guidance and leadership of our Board of Trustees, we will define plans on how we fund multiple projects with our own dollars. We need the authorization of the Legislature to proceed. We will need everybody’s help in getting that approval.
But today our focus is on Coach Stoops and his family. They are joining the Big Blue Family, a Big Blue Nation united behind them.
Thank you, coach.
TONY NEELY: At this time we’ll begin the news conference and we’ll take questions from the media.
Q. Coach, when you made the decision to come to Kentucky, you said you could bring the program to a national prominence. It’s really not been there in a long time. What makes you think at Kentucky you can bring it to a national prominence?
MARK STOOPS: Well, Kentucky’s had success. The key will be to build on that success and be consistent with it and take it to another level.
I believe I can bring a strong staff that will help building and recruiting. I believe in this administration to the commitment they’re willing to make to the football program. With recruiting, quality staff, development, develop the players that are here, that we can take it to another level.
Q. Coach, during this process, as you were weighing the options, how much did you talk to your brothers and what would your father say to you at this very moment?
MARK STOOPS: My father would tell me to follow my heart and do what I believed was right for myself and my family.
I visited with my brothers about it from time to time. Not a ton. We’ve had a few conversations. But to me it was a no‑brainer. I was excited and anxious for the job. I wanted to be here. I believe in this program. Like I said, we’re champing at the bit, ready to go, and feel like we have a good group of staff that’s willing to come. So it was an easy decision for me.
Q. Coach Stoops, everybody in this room, even the media in this room, wants you to succeed.
MARK STOOPS: Thank you.
Q. Can you explain what you need to do to change a losing culture, which is what this is, and turn it into a winning culture, which will make all True Blue fans happy?
MARK STOOPS: First of all we’re going to embrace the process. We’re going to attack each and every day. What I’m worried about right now is meeting with our players tomorrow morning, and we’re looking forward to going ahead.
Really not interested in what happened before. We will embrace the past, all the past great players, the past teams. But we’re worried about going forward. We’re going to do that.
Again, it’s a process. We’re not too worried about the results right now, we’re worried about the process. That’s getting my message to the players tomorrow morning, then getting out there and putting together a quality staff and moving forward.
Q. Coach, when you talk about you feel you can bring a good staff to Kentucky, could you update us on what your plans are, how that is going to come together.
MARK STOOPS: I’m planning on going out and interviewing a few offensive coordinators here real soon. I’ve been in conversations. I feel real good about the prospects for the offensive coordinator. So I’m going to head out on the road and talk to a few people, put together the offensive staff first.
I feel very good about the defensive staff. I feel like I have my defensive coordinator targeted, on board and ready to come. From there, it will really concentrate on the offense.
I realize with my background in defense that the offensive staff and the offensive coordinator will be critical to our success. That’s priority for me right now.
Q. Mark, speaking of the offense, you’re a defensive guy. The big question in this room is, what kind of offense do you want to run here?
MARK STOOPS: We’re going to have an offense that you guys are going to enjoy. I promise you that. We’re is Tim Couch at? Is he around here (laughter)? We’re going to have an offense you’re going to be proud of. We’ll get out there and rip it around it a little bit, we are going to throw it.
But you have to be creative. I’m a defensive guy. This is the SEC. It’s a physical conference. I realize that. I want to be tough and I want to be physical. We have to build this foundation with great defense. There’s no way around it. If you don’t play great defense, you’re not going to win consistently.
But with the offense, again, I want somebody that has a plan, that’s been successful, and we have to be creative. We will have a physical presence about us, but we will spread it out and use some bells and whistles, get the run game going and, again, be a little bit creative.
Q. Coach, there were a lot of openings across the country, several other ones here in the SEC. What specifically drew you to Kentucky?
MARK STOOPS: The Big Blue Nation.
I feel very good about Kentucky. Again, I just felt very comfortable visiting with Mr. Barnhart. I feel very confident in Dr. Capilouto, the Board of Trustees, their commitment to taking football to another level.
We have everything we need to be successful here. Sure, we want to improve on a few things here and there, but we have what it takes right now to be successful.
It’s our job to coach them, to put them in the right position, to recruit, to develop this program and turn them into a consistent winner.
Q. Mark, could you talk about what role Tim Couch had in this process and how you know him.
MARK STOOPS: Had a chance to visit with Tim on the phone a few times. He was involved in one of the interviews. I understand the impact that Tim has on this university. Again, I want to lean on Tim and visit with him about some ideas because he’s been around football. I just enjoyed talking to him on the phone.
Q. Coach, you talked about having what it takes, having what you need to win here. What kind of conversations have you had about moving forward, about facility development, things like that?
MARK STOOPS: That’s really not for me to discuss. That’s for Dr. Capilouto and Mitch
Barnhart to discuss. I know there’s a process going on right now that they’re working through. I think I’d like to refer that to them.
MITCH BARNHART: We’ve been working in concert with the university on facility plans on a lot of fronts. Dr. Capilouto and the trustees have been tremendous about working through all those details. Obviously as Dr. Capilouto referred to in his remarks, there are pieces of that that will have to appear at the legislative level. We want to do it in concert with what is best for the university. It’s clearly an important part of our program and moving forward.
I think everyone is aware of that. Hopefully we’ll be able to move on that and get some more information out on that soon.
Q. Mark, could you talk a little bit more about the interview process. You took the job sight unseen. What did you know about Kentucky?
MARK STOOPS: Mr. Barnhart and I met, oh, just over three weeks ago. It came at a perfect time. We had a Thursday game, so I was free on a Saturday. It was just after the position came open, shortly after that. We had a chance to meet and go into great detail about Kentucky, about what my plans were.
We talked at length that particular day, then we’ve had ongoing conversations since then. Again, had conversations with a group of people that I mentioned earlier on the phone, a conference call. So that’s kind of how the timeline went.
Q. Mark, could you elaborate on that a little bit. During the interview process, what was your sales pitch to Mitch and company that you don’t need to look any farther than Mark Stoops?
MARK STOOPS: I don’t know if there is a sales pitch. I am who I am. You’ll get to know me as we go forward. But, you know, it’s all about recruiting, developing the players that you have, developing them as total people. That’s what I’m all about, doing things right.
I’m very much of a meat and potatoes kind of guy. I have a plan. We have a vision. But there’s going to be a lot of hard work and a lot of consistency in what we do.
Q. What do you see as your biggest challenge going forward here?
MARK STOOPS: Well, it’s a tough conference. You have to be physical. I think it’s of great importance that we develop our strength to be able to compete at this level. We have to go out and recruit. You have to recruit each and every day, each and every year, to keep on building your program.
Q. Just to clarify, had you been on campus just before the last couple days or today? If not, what had friends of yours in coaching told you about Kentucky?
MARK STOOPS: I had not been on campus. I had friends that had been here just this past summer and discussed it with them. But, no, I had not been on campus.
Q. From a recruiting standpoint, what areas do you plan on targeting? I know you have Florida and Ohio.
MARK STOOPS: Kentucky, obviously we’re going to recruit Kentucky hard and take care of our home. We’re going to recruit Ohio very hard. I have strong ties in Ohio. There’s very good football players in Ohio. We’ll work through the Carolinas, Florida, and Georgia a little bit.
Q. Mitch, I want to clarify. Did you make some specific commitments to Coach Stoops about improvements in facilities in terms of recruiting him?
MITCH BARNHART: There have been plans we’ve been working on for a decade, to be honest with you. It’s not something new. It’s something we wanted to work on and do work on facilities in general.
When we came here, our facilities package in the athletic department was not where it needed to be to compete in the SEC in most of the sports we have. We’ve systemically taken them piece by piece and been able to, one way or another, find ways to improve our facilities. There’s a couple major ones left out there for us to figure out. Obviously, Commonwealth Stadium is on everybody’s heart and mind. We pay attention to that every day.
Dr. Capilouto has been very honest and very forthright with us explaining how he understands the things we need to do to get better.
Is there a specific timeline? No. I would say we’re working on it sooner rather than later, and that’s where we are. All we can do is go to work every day and try to find a way to make progress on it.
The other one for us is baseball. That’s a concern for us as well. We’re trying to work through the normal process as we’ve been doing for the last period of time.
But specifically obviously football is on everybody’s mind and that’s what we’ve got to pay attention to.
Q. The football coaching staff here had a Broyles Award finalist, Mike Summers. Are there any of those guys that are here or leaving that you would consider at all to retain?
MARK STOOPS: Yes, absolutely you consider them. I have not had a chance to visit with the coaches yet. I will. Absolutely, you would consider them.
Q. Coach, over the past few years there’s been an influx of philosophies. We went from the 4‑3 to a weird 3‑3‑5 stack. Is there a type of scheme you think you can succeed in moving forward?
MARK STOOPS: Yes, we’ll be very defined in what we do now defensively moving forward. We’ll play with four down, 4‑3 personnel. Of course, we’ll be very multiple from there.
But, again, I have a very clear vision of what we want to do defensively. Our players will know after the first spring exactly who we are and what we’re all about. So we’ll start there and lay that foundation and build from there.
Q. Coach, as I understand, there are a lot of current players here that you haven’t gotten to meet with them yet. Can you tell us what message you’re going to tell them tomorrow morning?
MARK STOOPS: I’m going to tell them to look forward to it. A lot of coaches take these positions and try to scare them, tell them how hard it’s going to be. It’s going to be hard. There’s no way around that. We’re going to work hard, train hard, do things right. They’re going to be accountable and dependable. There’s no other way around that to be successful.
But I’m going to enjoy coaching them. They’re going to enjoy playing for us. They’re going to enjoy being a part of this Kentucky family. They’re going to hold their heads high walking around this campus.
Q. Mark, the recruits that have already verbally committed to Kentucky, how do they factor into your future plans and what do you hope to accomplish in recruiting?
MARK STOOPS: We need to make sure they’re going to fit our system. It would be unfair to them if we took their commitment and it didn’t fit what we’re going to do. We have to evaluate and work our way through that process.
Q. Coach Stoops, what was your reaction when you arrived at the airport today and there were all these people here to greet you?
MARK STOOPS: I felt like it was game day in a way. It was really exciting. I appreciate your support. I look forward to working for you. It’s just an exciting time for myself and my family. We’re really anxious to get going.
We understand it’s going to be a great challenge, but that’s what we embrace, we embrace the process. But the fan support and the people, everybody’s been terrific. We really appreciate that.
Q. Mark, the one concern we’ve heard among the fan base is, He doesn’t have any head coaching experience. How do you compensate for that?
MARK STOOPS: I understand that. That goes with the territory. I’ve been successful. If you look at where I’ve been, I feel pretty good about each and every place I’ve been, we’ve been successful. I don’t plan on that stopping now.
Q. Mark, you said you have a defensive coordinator targeted and probably on board to come. Are there any staff names you want to unveil today? Also, if not, do you expect some of your Florida State brethren to come with you?
MARK STOOPS: Really, I’m not permitted to talk about it right now. They need to go through the hiring procedures and all that. I just got on campus, so I’d really rather not discuss any of that. I don’t want to discuss any Florida State coaches. It’s unfair to the players back there at this time.
Q. Coach, I know here we have a pretty good basketball team. Have you been able to talk to Coach Cal (John Calipari) any?
MARK STOOPS: I enjoyed talking to Coach Cal. We had a great conversation. Had a couple conversations with him. I’m going to enjoy the tradition in basketball, take our recruits to the games and enjoy it. I really look forward to working with Coach Cal.
It will be good. He’s from Pittsburgh. I’m from Youngstown. We’re not that far apart there.
Q. Did you approach UK and Mitch or did Mitch approach you about the job?
MARK STOOPS: Yes, I reached out to Mitch and inquired about the job, yes.
Q. Could you explain why?
MARK STOOPS: I was excited about the opportunity. I thought I answered that earlier.
I’m excited. I’m really excited. I think it’s a great opportunity. I believe in Mitch. I believe in Dr. Capilouto. I believe in the vision that we have to get this thing done. We want to be winners. It’s going to take everybody. It’s going to take all of you that are out here today. It’s going to take the administration. It’s going to take coaches. It’s going to take players. We’re all in this thing together.
To win at the level we want to win at, it’s going to take all of us together to get this thing done.
Q. Mark, you’ve been described as a players’ coach. Is that accurate? If so, what does that mean?
MARK STOOPS: I would like to believe so. I take that as a compliment. Discipline is never a problem. Generally with defensive coaches, discipline is not a problem. So I feel very good about the relationships that I have with my players.
And, yes, I think it is my style to find different ways to motivate players and to get them on board and get them to believe in themselves. I think players all need to be coached differently. They all have different personalities, different backgrounds. It’s your job to figure that out and push the right buttons.
Q. You mentioned winning and level of success. What is the level of success that you believe this program can reach?
MARK STOOPS: To play in the SEC Championship game. And to win it. Correction: not just to play, but play and win.
Q. Coach, what is your perception of the level of talent in the state of Kentucky vis‑à‑vis other states that you’ve worked? Is that a concern?
MARK STOOPS: Obviously there’s not probably as many SEC‑caliber players in Kentucky. But there are some. It’s our job to get out and work hard and to recruit and keep the great ones home, to take any player that could help us win, take them and develop them, mold them to be winning players for us.
I understand that, that there’s not as many in this state as others, but there are some good ones, and it’s our job to keep them home.
Q. Could you discuss the terms of contract which we haven’t seen yet and how you got to the numbers and how long it goes?
MITCH BARNHART: I’ll take that, because it’s one of the few things I do (laughter).
We have a five‑year deal we put together for Mark. Roughly the base value is $11 million over the five years. The contract will be handed out at the end of the press conference. There are incentives involved which escalate. But the market is changing rapidly. I think we’ve got to be fiscally smart about the way we do our business. We’re in a very, very competitive environment.
But we wanted to make sure that Mark knew we wanted him here. We wanted to make sure that he knew we were committed to football, that he has got the resources in terms of dollars to go out and get the staff necessary to get it done.
That’s never been an issue for us. I think there’s a misconception out there about that. But we’re glad to have him here for not just five years but a lot longer. If we get this thing going the right way, we’ll have a lot of fun together. We want to make it a place where the Stoops stay for an awfully long time.
Q. Coach, what is your first impression not only of the Big Blue Nation but also of Lexington, your new home?
MARK STOOPS: It’s been fantastic. We did a fly‑over when we came in this morning, so had a chance to see the whole city.
But, yeah, I’ve been very impressed. It’s a beautiful place. I’ve heard nothing but great things. Everybody that has come through here, knows the people here, speaks so highly of it. Just been very impressed with the people. So I’m really looking forward to moving and getting to be a part of the community.
Q. Coach, can you take us through the decision‑making process of not coaching Florida State in the bowl, how that came about.
MARK STOOPS: I just think there’s too much work to be done. It’s hard to be in two places at one time. This week alone was extremely challenging. We agreed on Monday evening, so it was a very long and stressful week for myself. To try to go through that again, I don’t think it’s right for either side.
I’m here. I’m working for you now. I’m a part of the Big Blue Nation. That’s where I want to be.
But there is always a balance there because you know how I feel about my players, my past players at Florida State, the journey that we’ve been through. So I plan on being here, working full‑time for Kentucky, going through the whole process. If I can go back and help around the dead time when the recruiting ends, there’s some dead time, I may try to go back and help a little bit with game planning. I’ll do whatever I can do to help Florida State win the game, especially if they play Louisville (laughter).
Q. Coach, what ties do you have to Kentucky, if any? Was that part of your decision in coming here?
MARK STOOPS: Not many ties. I do now. I have all of you.
Not many ties to this point. But that’s part of our business, to get in and to become a part of the community, get to know people. So we’re really looking forward to that.
Q. Mark, talk about some of the coaches that have had a influence on you that you worked under.
MARK STOOPS: That’s a good question. There’s been quite a few. I mentioned my father. Of course, that’s a big part of who I am, how I grew up. I had an opportunity to work for Hayden Fry at the University of Iowa. That was just a tremendous experience as a player and as a graduate assistant coach. I got my start with Hayden Fry. Just a tremendous person.
I then went to South Florida, coached for a year under Jim Leavitt. Went to Wyoming, coached for a few years there under Dana Dimel.
I’d say the influence would be starting with Hayden Fry and my father, of course my brothers. The last three years at Florida State, I think it really gave me a good vision for what I want to do as a head coach with some of the structure, the way you structure the organization. I’ve had the pleasure to work for Coach Fisher the last few years. That’s also helped me.
My brother Mike and my brother Bob, they’re just resources I’m always going to use. They’re people that I lean on each and every day with my brothers. So we obviously talk and rely on each other.
Q. Have you had any chance at all to evaluate the current roster, have any impressions of what’s already here?
MARK STOOPS: Not too much really. We agreed to the contract Monday night. I was a little bit busy trying to stop that triple option last night. So that kept me quite busy (laughter).
After we met a few people here tonight, I am ready to get to the office and work right now.
Q. I know you don’t want to talk about details, but did you feel like you had to get some assurance on investments and facilities? Were you okay with how it is now? How did that play any part?
MARK STOOPS: I think when Mr. Barnhart and I talked at length for a long time, you know, I believed in him. I believed in what we had here and what we were moving towards.
I think that’s a big part of it.
Q. Mark, you mentioned Louisville briefly. What are your thoughts? What do you know about that rivalry?
MARK STOOPS: Oh, I know it’s a good rivalry. We’re going to embrace that rivalry. Really looking forward to it.
I’ve had some great success in rivalry games. So looking forward to that challenge.