UK Football

They once coached together. Now they’re SEC foes. But are they still friends?

New Texas A&M head coach Jimbo Fisher spoke during SEC Media Days in Atlanta on Monday with the Aggies’ 2018 football schedule displayed behind him. A&M’s game against Kentucky on Oct. 6 represents a coaching reunion for Mark Stoops and Fisher.
New Texas A&M head coach Jimbo Fisher spoke during SEC Media Days in Atlanta on Monday with the Aggies’ 2018 football schedule displayed behind him. A&M’s game against Kentucky on Oct. 6 represents a coaching reunion for Mark Stoops and Fisher. AP

The practice battles between Jimbo Fisher’s aggressive offense and Mark Stoops’ physical defense were quite something back in their Florida State days.

You want to talk about the fun we’ve had competing against each other?” Kentucky’s Stoops said when asked about Fisher, whom he worked for from 2010-12. “It’s kind of what it’s all about. He’s a very hard-nosed, tough football coach. And I am as well. Those were fond memories.”

Together the duo helped the Seminoles go 31-10 and play in three straight bowl games.

Now Fisher is the head coach at Texas A&M, and both coaches were featured on Monday at Southeastern Conference Media Days.

“You look back on it, and you look back at the time and the way we competed against each other, it was a lot of fun, and you learn a lot of good things,” Stoops said Monday.

Some variation of those chess matches with pads is likely to play out in a couple of months when Stoops’ Kentucky team travels to Texas A&M to meet his mentor — and friend — at Kyle Field.

It will be the Cats’ first trip to College Station since 1952 when they eked out a 10-7 win only a defensive-minded coach like Stoops could love.

staff.jpg
Mark Stoops, front row right, was defensive coordinator under head coach Jimbo Fisher, front row center, when this coaching staff photo was taken at Florida State before the 2012 season. Stoops left FSU after that season to become head coach at Kentucky. Fisher left the Seminoles after last season to become head coach at Texas A&M. Their two teams will meet Oct. 6 this season in College Station, Texas. Also pictured are current UK offensive coordinator Eddie Gran, front row left, who was then the Seminoles’ running backs coach, and former UK defensive coordinator D.J. Eliot, back row second from right, who was then FSU defensive ends coach. Phil Sears AP

Since leaving Florida State and taking over his own Kentucky program, Stoops frequently uses “Jimbo-isms” in his interviews.

Recently when discussing the recruitment of former two-star linebacker Josh Allen, Stoops reminded that Fisher was the one who taught him that sometimes the best recruiting classes aren’t made up of the top few players, but of the ones that you scoop up at the end.

I have great respect for him and the way he goes about his work,” Stoops said of Fisher. “There’s many things I do at Kentucky that I took from him.

“Certainly you have to be your own man and do things that fit your own program, but there’s things I’ve taken from him I still implement to this day.”

Stoops still calls Fisher from time to time for advice and considers him a friend.

The feeling is quite mutual, Fisher assured.

“I have great respect for Mark,” the new Aggies coach said. “He’s not only a fellow coach, but a friend. I consider him a friend. He’s a great guy and a better person than he is a coach, and he’s one heck of a football coach. I have a lot of respect for him.”

Will Stoops still be going to Fisher for advice now that he’s a competitor in the league?

“Yeah, definitely,” Kentucky’s coach said, smiling. “All coaches, we all share ideas and a lot of times it might just be about staff and people you’ve been in contact with before and recommendations. We’ll always be there to support each other.”

Kentucky football finished spring practice without picking a starting quarterback. At SEC Football Media Days, head coach Mark Stoops was asked if he had a timetable for picking a starter between Gunnar Hoak and Terry Wilson.

Well, except on Oct. 6 when the Cats settle in at Kyle Field, which holds 102,733 rowdy fans.

Then it will be back to the wars like the ones they used to have on the Seminoles’ sidelines in practice.

“I know all of his secrets, but it doesn’t make it any easier,” Stoops joked to the media. “He’s a pretty good football coach. That’s a tough environment going down there and playing at A&M.”

FisherMD2.JPG
New Texas A&M head coach Jimbo Fisher said during SEC Media Days in Atlanta on Monday that Mark Stoops is “not only a fellow coach, but a friend. I consider him a friend. He’s a great guy and a better person than he is a coach, and he’s one heck of a football coach. I have a lot of respect for him.” Curtis Compton TNS

  Comments