Kentucky Sports

Kentucky's Stoops: 'I feel an obligation' to live up to raise, contract extension

Kentucky head coach Mark Stoops called out to his defense in the fourth quarter of the Mississippi State at Kentucky at Commonwealth Stadium in Lexington, Ky., on Oct. 25, 2014. Miss. St. won 45-31. Photo by Pablo Alcala | Staff
Kentucky head coach Mark Stoops called out to his defense in the fourth quarter of the Mississippi State at Kentucky at Commonwealth Stadium in Lexington, Ky., on Oct. 25, 2014. Miss. St. won 45-31. Photo by Pablo Alcala | Staff Lexington Herald-Leader

Words like loyalty and commitment came up over and over Friday.

They served as the baseline for Kentucky's new contract extension with head coach Mark Stoops, the athletic director said.

"We want to make sure that there's little doubt (of) our commitment to him and to his family and to his staff as we continue to try and grow this football program," Kentucky's Mitch Barnhart said at a hastily put together news conference Friday afternoon, minutes before Stoops left with his UK team to go to Missouri.

The new deal signed on Wednesday, which is for six years and $21.5 million, will keep Stoops as the Kentucky head coach through at least the 2019 season.

Kentucky's assistant coaches and staff will receive new deals as well, Barnhart and Stoops confirmed.

Per his contract, which includes incentives for bowls, a team grade-point average higher than 2.75 and a few other things, Stoops will end up making $3.575 million per season.

By comparison, Bobby Petrino's new deal with Louisville was for seven years and $24.5 million ($3.5 million per season).

According to the most recent USA Today salaries data base, Butch Jones (Tennessee), Will Muschamp (Florida) and Hugh Freeze (Ole Miss) all reportedly make $3 million a year.

Stoops' name has come up around football circles as coaches at high-profile schools go on the proverbial hot seat.

Barnhart said he had no indication that other schools had reached out to Stoops in any way, but he wanted to make sure that didn't happen.

He noted that Stoops has been integral in fund-raising and planning for the $120 million Commonwealth Stadium renovation and the new $45 million football practice facility, which will break ground in January.

"We've got the right guy," Barnhart said. "We've still got to go win some games; everybody understands that, and we're in a tough conference. But I think this sends the message that we're firmly committed to this thing and seeing this thing through."

For his part, Stoops said he was more than committed to Kentucky.

"If you know anything about myself, about my family, past history — whether it be with my brothers and different people — loyalty's a pretty big thing with us," Stoops said. "I certainly feel the loyalty to this program, to our players and all the people that have been so involved and helped us get to where we're at and where we're going."

Stoops and his staff already have more than doubled this season the win total for the program in each of the past two seasons, and the Cats are in the hunt for a bowl game with four games left in the regular season.

The UK head coach, with his team waiting outside in the hallway, admitted there was extra pressure on him now heading to Missouri.

"I feel an obligation," he said. "I've never skirted around that question. I've said that from the very beginning. I feel an obligation to deliver on what people have done for me, sure. But there's a lot of things that go into that."

Other highlights of Stoops' contract provide a $50,000 bonus if the team achieves a GPA of 2.75 or higher. It calls for a $200,000 bump if UK participates in the college football playoff or wins the SEC championship.

An additional bonus gives Stoops $250,000 for each win beginning with the seventh victory in each season.

Like in his first contract, which was amended in May, there is no buyout clause should Stoops be hired away by another school.

"I want people at the university who want to be here," Barnhart said when asked about not having one in place. "If they don't, then we need to find somebody that does.

"Loyalty is a strong word in my book, and I think people throw it around pretty loosely at times. I want folks who are going to want to be loyal to what we're trying to do here, and I don't think you need buyouts to do that."

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