Did Mark Stoops think the Kentucky defense would be this improved?
Fast starts, high rankings and big wins mean fun things for Kentucky football.
They also mean that other schools might try to lure away Cats Coach Mark Stoops, but Mitch Barnhart doesn’t seem too worried about that right now.
“Mark has realized that this is his place,” Kentucky’s top athletics administrator said Friday afternoon following the university Board of Trustees meeting at Kroger Field. “This is his program. He’s building it and done a unique job of just growing it steadily. In the world of what we’ve got going on in college athletics.”
Barnhart said he hopes his strong relationship with Stoops will make this next few months go well even if other places come calling.
“We’ve got a great relationship with this staff,” Barnhart continued. “It’s a friendship more than it is anything else. I appreciate that. I think that you’ve gotta be honest with one another. I think we’ve built in a contract that I think gives him a chance to succeed and grow. It’s built for that. We built that a couple of years back. It wasn’t a mystery how we did that.
“We were hoping that we’d have to have these conversations, we could build into those conversations. That makes those conversations a lot easier when you do that on the front end rather than trying to fix it on the back end.”
Stoops signed a new deal with the university in March 2017 that kept him at Kentucky through at least 2022, but the seven wins a season ago extended the contract through at least 2023.
If the team wins 10 or more games, two additional contract years are automatically added to the end of the term. Each contract year increases the media and endorsement compensation package by $250,000 as well.
Stoops’ total guaranteed compensation in 2022 is $4.75 million per his new deal. With incentives, it could rise to $7 million.
Other provisions built into the deal include if UK participates in the Southeastern Conference championship game, Stoops will get $100,000 and an additional $100,000 if the Cats win.
There are bonuses for participating in the College Football Playoff, including playing in any of the New Year’s Six bowl games (Rose, Sugar, Orange, Cotton, Fiesta or Peach). He will receive $200,000 as a new incentive bump.
If UK were to participate in the national title game, Stoops would get $400,000 compared to the $200,000 in his previous contract. If UK wins a national championship, it goes to $500,000.
Those automatic extensions and incentive parts of the deal eliminate a need for UK to offer up a midseason extension like it did in 2014, Barnhart said.
“I think it helps everybody,” Barnhart said. “It gives (Stoops) peace. I can’t speak for Mark, but I think if I’m in those situations, it certainly gives you peace. Knowing they believe in me and if I do what I’m supposed to do, I’m going to be fine.”
Watching Stoops grow into the coach and leader he has become has been impressive, Barnhart said of the head coach, whose No. 14 Kentucky team will face Vanderbilt at Kroger Field on Saturday night.
Stoops is 31-37 in his 5 1/2 seasons at Kentucky and, after Vandy, the Cats have big SEC games coming up at Missouri, versus Georgia and at Tennessee.
“I’ve watched Mark every year take a step in his growth as a leader and a coach, and that doesn’t demean where he was when he came here,” Barnhart said. “I just think it takes time.”