UK Football

Does Stoops need to isolate tackler on him on the sideline?

cbertram@herald-leader.com

It was a funny quip during an interview with the SEC Network, but Will Muschamp was probably saying what most league coaches are thinking about the new rule that penalizes them if they come out on the field to protest a call.

“We’ve assigned two guys to hold me back and one is allowed to tackle,” the South Carolina coach joked on the SEC Network’s set at Southeastern Conference Media Days earlier this week in Hoover, Ala.

South Carolina’s head coach isn’t the only one known to protest calls with, um, gusto. Kentucky Coach Mark Stoops has a similar passion when a call doesn’t go his way.

Cats players at this past week’s event were a little bit floored by this new ruling that says it’s an automatic 15-yard penalty for coaches who come on the grass to argue with officials. The second flag equals ejection.

That could make things interesting.

“It’s going to be tough for him because he’s a fiery guy,” senior linebacker Courtney Love said of Stoops’ sideline demeanor. “That’s what I love about him. That’s crazy that they made that rule because there’s a lot of coaches like that.”

Stoops didn’t go into as much detail as Muschamp about his plan, but acknowledged that it will be necessary to designate someone on the sideline who can reel him in.

“I think it’s important to have somebody, yes, to monitor me,” Stoops said. “It’s been a habit for us, you know, to be on the field. Certainly as I’m involved with defense or trying to get a hold of personnels or talking with the defensive guys, that’s when you seem to me out there more than just trying to dispute a call.

“But that’s going to be a rule change that I know I’ll have to pay attention to, yes.”

For their part, the officials started communicating with coaches about what will and won’t be tolerated several months ago, said Steve Shaw, the league’s coordinator of football officials.

Officials sat down with the coaches in Destin, Fla., at spring meetings and watched video of outbursts, discussing what was a problem and what was not.

“We talked about this fully,” Shaw continued. “And the goal is not to flag coaches, not in any way. The goal is really to change coaching behavior.”

Keeping coaches on the white sidelines is going to be a big change, Shaw said, but he hopes it will be one they will adjust to quickly.

“Our hope is our coaches adjust, and it becomes a non-issue,” he said, noting there are still some other possible sideline warnings in place, too. “This other (thing) you can go to immediately if they come out to protest an officiating decision, but we still have the other warning process.”

Don’t be surprised to see a little more Corey Edmond controlling the UK sideline in the future.

Kentucky’s quiet, calm director of performance, who had the “get-back guy” responsibilities at Arizona for Stoops, helps keep the team in line during games now.

“He has that look in his eye like, ‘Mmmm. Get back,’” Love said of Edmond. “He pretty much lets guys know, ‘Back up.’”

But is Edmond willing to tackle Stoops? I guess we’ll wait and see.

bob stoops
TONY GUTIERREZ AP

‘A bit of a shock to me’

If you’re ever cruising along Alumni Drive near the Kentucky football practice fields and spot Stoops on the phone circling the field, you should worry that big news is on its way.

When brother Bob Stoops, who retired abruptly after 18 seasons as Oklahoma’s head coach, called his baby brother to tell him his plans in advance, Mark said he had to take a walk.

“It’s one of those moments kind of you won’t forget because he called me and it came out of the blue,” the youngest Stoops said of Bob’s big news. “It was a bit of a shock to me, to be honest with you. I had to walk out of my office and walk around the practice field. And that’s where I had that conversation with him away from everybody.

“So I was shocked. Mixed emotions, I guess you would say from myself. Very proud of him, what he’s done, and very happy for him.”

It was clear both times he talked about it at Media Days this week that Mark Stoops is still a little surprised that Bob walked away from it all at age 56.

But part of Mark seemed to get it.

“You may look at his age and say, ‘Man, he’s awfully young to retire, but you try doing that for 18 years,” Stoops said. “That’s why coaches leave, though. Definitely. How many times have you seen that at that elite of a program, somebody stay there for 18 years? I don’t know. I would imagine not very much.”

Mark Stoops said he was glad that his brother was able to step away the way he wanted on his own terms, handing a program in good shape to the next coach.

“It was very important for him to walk away with a good football team with a chance to win his league and get in the playoffs and hand off a program that he took so much pride in building,” Stoops said. “So I have mixed emotions about it still, but proud of him and hope the very best for him.”

Love, Love

It’s hard to keep any secrets on social media these days.

Kentucky linebacker Courtney Love had to answer several questions about his new online friendship with Courtney Love, the 53-year-old singer and front woman for alternative rock band Hole.

“She tweeted at me and hopefully we can get her to a game,” Love said of the back-and-forth with the former wife of Nirvana star Kurt Cobain.

On her recent birthday, which she happens to share with UK’s Mark Stoops, the linebacker tweeted a happy birthday wish to her.

So have they exchanged numbers? Become friends?

“Not numbers; not numbers,” he smiled. “I think that would be a little bit too much. I think it’s been cool to just go back and forth with somebody like herself. … I’m just trying to get my name out there like hers is.”

Love, the linebacker, said he’s known about the singer since a teacher asked him about her when he was 5 years old.

“It’s always been funny,” he said. “It’s just fun because people always look it up and they’re like, ‘Courtney Love? You’re really Courtney Love?’”

He admitted that he’s never listened to any of her songs, but he’s watched several documentaries on Love and Cobain.

“They’re a wild group of people,” he said. “I guess everybody has their own story.”

At SEC Media Days, Kentucky coach Mark Stoops was asked about comments from SEC Network analyst Greg McElroy that Matt Elam is lazy and an underachiever.

At SEC Football Media Days, Kentucky coach Mark Stoops talks about the continuity he believes will help his team in 2018.

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