A sharp defensive mind with a pigskin pedigree will be Kentucky's next head football coach.
Mark Stoops, defensive coordinator at Florida State, agreed to terms with Kentucky on Tuesday. The school made it official in a news release and said a formal news conference to introduce Stoops is tentatively planned for Sunday.
Stoops, 45, the younger brother of Oklahoma head coach Bob Stoops and Sooners defensive coordinator Mike Stoops, has helped guide the Seminoles back to national prominence, including a No. 13 ranking and a spot in the Atlantic Coast Conference championship game this weekend.
The 23-year coaching veteran is in his third year as Florida State's defensive coordinator and secondary coach under Jimbo Fisher.
"New beginnings always provide a sense of excitement," Kentucky Athletics Director Mitch Barnhart said in UK's news release. "That's why today I'm excited for Mark Stoops and his family as they provide a new beginning for our football program, fans and players.
"Mark's passion has been evident in the way he coaches and in his love for the game of football. That passion carried over into our process and his desire to wear the Blue and White. Our desire to get better defensively and continue to expand our recruiting base helped guide us to Mark. He comes from a coaching family and has been in big games and big atmospheres throughout his career. That has prepared him for this opportunity to become head coach at Kentucky."
Bob Stoops agreed with Barnhart's assessment of his brother, saying Tuesday from Oklahoma, "Kentucky has a lot of potential. ... He's prepared for the job."
Kentucky did not announce contract terms Tuesday but plans to make details public at the introductory news conference.
Stoops still has some work left in Florida before leaving for Kentucky.
At his post-practice news conference Tuesday, Florida State's Fisher said Stoops will coach for the Seminoles against Georgia Tech in Saturday's Atlantic Coast Conference championship game, but he wasn't sure whether Stoops would stay with the Seminoles for their bowl game.
A UK spokesman said those details haven't been finalized.
"Decisions about the transition process are in progress," Tony Neely said.
UK President Eli Capilouto said in UK's statement that he was able to spend some time with Stoops this week.
"I am impressed with his commitment to student-athletes, both in the classroom and on the field," Capilouto said. "I am also deeply impressed with the way Mitch Barnhart has conducted this important process. I am confident that Coach Stoops has the character and skill to build the winning program the Big Blue Nation wants and deserves."
Before taking over the Seminoles' defense, which he turned into one of the nation's best the past two seasons, Stoops spent six seasons at Arizona as the defensive coordinator for his brother Mike.
This season, Florida State is second in the nation in total defense behind only Alabama, allowing 249.42 yards a game. The Seminoles have given up just 21 touchdowns in their 10-2 season.
Behind Stoops, the Seminoles are seventh in the nation in scoring defense, giving up just 15.1 points a game. They are sixth in the country in pass defense (164.3 yards a game) and fourth in rushing defense (85.1 yards a game).
"I am thrilled to be named the head football coach at the University of Kentucky," Stoops said in a statement released through UK about what will be his first head coaching job. "My family and I are excited and looking forward to becoming a part of the Big Blue Nation.
"I want to thank President Capilouto and Mitch Barnhart for this opportunity. I promise the faithful of the Big Blue Nation I will be focused and driven to create a positive, winning atmosphere for the program and an environment that all of Kentucky can be proud of."
Stoops is credited with overhauling the Seminoles' defense in his first season there. Florida State gave up just 19.6 points a game after ranking last in the Atlantic Coast Conference the year before in total defense. The Seminoles' total defense improved by more than 80 yards a game in his first season.
As a player and coach, he has been a part of 12 bowl games, including one after each of the last four seasons. Several current bowl projections have Florida State headed to the Orange Bowl on Jan. 1, and many projections have the Seminoles facing Louisville.
In his 23 years of coaching, Stoops has had stops at Arizona, Miami (Fla.), Houston, Wyoming and South Florida.
His recruiting ties run across the country, with obvious connections in Florida and on the West Coast, but also in Ohio, where he was born and where he spent four years as an assistant high school football coach and athletics director at Nordonia Hills. Stoops played for and coached under legendary coach Hayden Fry at Iowa.
When the Seminoles hired Stoops in 2010, his three-year deal guaranteed him $400,000-plus a year, according to reports. He got a $135,000 bump in salary and a one-year extension in January.
Stoops has his work cut out for him at UK, a program that sits in the basement of the Southeastern Conference.
The past nine coaches have finished their time at UK with records below .500.
That group includes most recent Cats coach Joker Phillips, whose three-year tenure ended with a 13-24 overall record, including this most recent 2-10 season. Phillips was fired Nov. 4, a day after UK was throttled by Vanderbilt.
"I am extremely happy for Mark and his family," Florida State's head coach Fisher said. "He has done a tremendous job for us here as a defensive coordinator and he is a vital part of our staff. I always say you want the people who work for you to advance and reach their goals and aspirations, and I couldn't be happier. He has done a super job for us, and this opportunity is well deserved. He is very well prepared, and I think he will do one heck of a job for the University of Kentucky. I was very fortunate to have him on our staff and consider him a good friend."
Jennifer Smith: (859) 231-3241. Twitter: @jenheraldleader. Blog: UKfootball.bloginky.com.