Over at Fox Sports, ace college football reporter Bruce Feldman has crafted a list of 11 coaches on the hot seat for 2016. Included in the group are five from the SEC - Auburn’s Gus Malzahn (No. 2), Vanderbilt’s Derek Mason (6), Texas A&M’s Kevin Sumlin (9), LSU’s Les Miles (tied for 10th) and, yes, Kentucky’s Mark Stoops (7).
“He’s recruited well and made some progress,” Feldman writes, “although a 12-24 mark in three seasons with just four SEC wins while in much easier division doesn’t look great.”
He then goes on to say that it isn’t unrealistic to think that the Cats could go bowling this season, especially with South Carolina and Missouri struggling.
Here’s the thing Feldman leaves out: Stoops’ contract. Even if UK wanted to dump Stoops after his fourth season, the school would owe the head coach a $12 million buyout. That would be a tough pill to swallow.
Plus, even if the buyout was much lower, I don’t think Barnhart would want to shelve Stoops. For starters, Stoops was a Barnhart hire. Maybe more important, Barnhart has a history of being patient with his head coaches. He gave Rich Brooks time to overcome the scholarship limitations brought on by probation and turn the program around, which Brooks did.
Mark Stoops’ education includes how to make the most of his emotion
Barnhart pulled the plug on Joker Phillips, Brooks’ successor, after just three seasons, but the AD had his hand forced by the cliff-dive in UK’s attendance numbers. When under 20,000 actual fans showed up at Commonwealth Stadium to see the Cats be blanked 40-0 by Vanderbilt, Banhart had no choice.
At 12-24, Stoops’ record is almost identical Phillips’ 13-24 slate over three seasons. There are differences, however. Stoops has recruited well. He has also been instrumental in facility improvements such as the stadium renovation and, more specifically, the construction of the new UK Football Training Center and practice fields.
Without a total collapse this season, Stoops will be back for a fifth year and should be. I’m just old school enough to believe that, under most circumstances, coaches who inherit tough situations should be afforded at least five years to turn things around.
And, it should be noted, I don’t see a total collapse this season. I haven’t locked in on my final season prediction, but I do agree with Feldman that bowl eligibility isn’t an unrealistic outcome.
Stoops’ situation was a hot topic on Twitter.
Kentucky football coaches