Kentucky's new football coach already has a posse.
"Stoops' Troops" is the fastest-growing student group on campus, President Eli Capilouto said as Mark Stoops was formally introduced to the Big Blue Nation during a Sunday news conference in Nutter Field House.
Stoops, defensive coordinator at Florida State for the past three seasons, agreed last Monday night to take over the UK program and was named to the post Tuesday.
Director of Athletics Mitch Barnhart said Stoops' base deal is worth $11 million, plus incentives, over five years.
The new coach has big plans to compete in the Southeastern Conference.
"Play in the SEC championship game," he said. After a pause, he added, "not just play, but play and win."
Stoops arrived in the Bluegrass about 12:45 p.m. in Nicholasville aboard an R.J. Corman Railroad Group company jet.
About 85 fans turned out to welcome him in windy but dry weather.
"I felt like it was game day in a way," he said. "It was exciting."
Accompanied by wife Chantel and sons Will, 6, and Zack, 2, Stoops then headed to Lexington to meet with boosters and former players. Then came a quick howdy in the rain with more fans at Commonwealth Stadium and, finally, his news conference.
He entered through a large inflatable UK helmet, welcomed by players past and present, boosters, cheerleaders, the dance team and pep band.
Stoops said he will not be with Florida State for its bowl game.
"I just think there's too much work to be done," he said. "It's hard to be in two places at one time. This week alone was very challenging. ... 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 and I'm part of the Big Blue Nation, and that's where I want to be."
Then, he showed the savvy needed for a coach wearing a blue tie.
"If I can go back and help (FSU) ... when the recruiting ends and there's some dead time, then I'll 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," he said. "Especially if they play Louisville."
The crowd roared with laughter.
Stoops spoke briefly with players at the news conference and will meet with the full team Monday.
He did not name any staff members Sunday, but is well into the process.
"I'm planning on going out and interviewing a few offensive coordinators real soon," he said. "Been in conversations, and I feel real good about the prospects for offensive coordinator, so I'll put together the offensive staff first.
"I feel very good about the defensive staff. I feel like I have my defensive coordinator targeted and on board and ready to come. So, from there, I'll really concentrate on the offense."
As for style, "we're going to have an offense that you guys are going to enjoy, I promise you that," he said. "We're going to get out there and rip it around a little bit. We're going to throw it. You have to be creative.
"I'm a defensive guy. This is the SEC. It's a very physical conference, and 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."
Stoops said he favors a 4-3 alignment "and we'll be multiple from there."
What does that mean for recruits who committed to play under his predecessor, Joker Phillips?
"We need to make sure they fit our system," Stoops said. "It wouldn't be fair to them if we took their commitment and didn't fit what we're going to do. So we have to evaluate and work our way through that process."
Stoops, 45, comes to UK after highly successful stints as defensive coordinator at Arizona and Florida State. Before those stops, his 23-year career includes time as a graduate assistant at his alma mater, Iowa, and assignments at Nordonia (Ohio) High School, South Florida, Wyoming, Houston and Miami (Fla.).
Saturday night, Florida State players celebrated their Atlantic Coast Conference-championship victory over Georgia Tech by dumping a bucket of Gatorade on Stoops.
Barnhart referred to Saturday's SEC title game as he envisioned what Stoops brings to Lexington.
"It's a chance for new beginnings. It's an opportunity for us to begin to hope and to believe that our program moves forward and gets a chance to participate in a game that occurred in Atlanta (Saturday night)," Barnhart said. "Those are the hopes and dreams of our players and our coaches and our fans. And that's what we want to achieve."
This season, Florida State is second in the nation in total defense behind only Alabama, allowing 253.77 yards a game. The Seminoles have given up just 22 touchdowns in their 11-2 season, ranking seventh in scoring defense (15.08 points a game), third in pass defense (160.77 yards a game) and fifth in rush defense (93.0 ypg).
Stoops said he contacted Barnhart once Phillips had been fired. The two met the following Saturday, Nov. 10, as Florida State had played Thursday night that week.
The youngest of four boys, Stoops' late father, Ron, was a coach for more than 30 years and defensive coordinator at Cardinal Mooney High School in Youngstown, Ohio.
Mark Stoops said he learned the game by being around his father, including film sessions when Ron would use the family refrigerator as a screen.
Eldest brother Ron Jr. is an assistant coach at Youngstown State. Another brother, Bob, is head coach of Oklahoma, and Mike, the former head coach of Arizona, is on Bob's staff at Oklahoma.
Mark Stoops takes over a UK program in which the last nine coaches have finished with records below .500. Phillips, who was fired Nov. 4, went 13-24 over three seasons, including a 2-10 mark this year.
"It's a tough conference," Stoops said. "You have to be physical. So I think it's of great importance that we develop our strength. And to be able to compete at this level, we have to go out and recruit. And you've got to recruit each and every day, each and every day to keep on building your program."
Stoops said he plans to recruit Kentucky hard, along with Florida, Ohio, the Carolinas and Georgia.
"I cannot tell you how excited I am to be your football coach," he said. "I'm highly motivated to build this program to national prominence. There will be no magic wand to get this done. We're going to do it with very much of a blue-collar mentality. We're going to go to work each and every day. We're going to be accountable and dependable with what we do. Our players are going to have tremendous character ... and we're going to win with a lot of class."
Mark Maloney: (859) 231-3229. Twitter: @MarkMaloneyHL. Blog: Markmaloney.bloginky.com.