Jen Smith on UK Football

Music City Bowl coaches learn they have more in common than just Wildcats mascots

Kentucky Coach Mark Stoops, left, and Northwestern Coach Pat Fitzgerald posed with the Music City Bowl trophy a year ago before the two teams met in Nashville. A year later, the two Wildcats programs will meet up in the Citrus Bowl on New Year’s Day.
Kentucky Coach Mark Stoops, left, and Northwestern Coach Pat Fitzgerald posed with the Music City Bowl trophy a year ago before the two teams met in Nashville. A year later, the two Wildcats programs will meet up in the Citrus Bowl on New Year’s Day. AP

For a few hours on Friday, head coaches Mark Stoops and Pat Fitzgerald will be adversaries, but once the game Music City Bowl is over, they’ll go back to fast friends.

“When we sit in the corner office, it’s a pretty cool place to be, but it’s pretty lonely,” said Fitzgerald, Northwestern’s coach.

So each time his Wildcats go to a bowl game, Fitzgerald said he reaches out to his head coaching counterpart to share trade secrets, discuss coaching, strategy and more.

“This is a great opportunity for me to start a relationship and grow and get better,” he said Thursday at the joint news conference to preview the bowl at Nissan Stadium. “I’m going to be a huge Cat fan moving forward. That’s the great thing.”

Stoops even picked Fitzgerald’s brain about strategies for bowl preparation. The two coaches spent 20 minutes before the news conference drinking coffee and talking in the back of the room.

“He was very gracious. He really helped me,” Stoops said. “Here we are about to compete against each other tomorrow. But that’s the type of person he is. Then we’ve had a chance through this week to talk about many other things.”

At the first event this week in Nashville, Stoops and Fitzgerald spent more than an hour comparing notes on multiple topics.

“I think we solved world peace, every issue with the NCAA,” Fitzgerald joked. “But that’s what our profession should be. We’re all doing the same thing.”

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