Update 12:10 a.m.: Shortly after reports surfaced that Texas A&M was zeroing on hiring Kentucky head coach Mark Stoops, rumors emerged that Stoops was planning to remain in Lexington. The 10-year head coach later confirmed his decision on Twitter.
Texas A&M must go back to the drawing board. Names that were popular before coaches such as Stoops and Dabo Swinney were reported included Arizona's Jedd Fisch, Duke's Mike Elko, and UTSA's Jeff Traylor.
Texas A&M is expected to announce Kentucky’s Mark Stoops as its next head football coach as early as Sunday morning, sources confirm to Dave Campbell’s Texas Football. Stoops, 56, is a native of Youngstown, Ohio who became a head coach for the first time in 2013 when hired by the Wildcats. He’s 73-64 in 11 seasons at Kentucky. His teams have posted winning records in seven of the last eight seasons with the lone exception coming in the pandemic-altered 2020 campaign.
Stoops is the younger brother of former Oklahoma head coach Bob Stoops. He began his coaching career as a GA at Iowa under the legendary Hayden Fry. After a few seasons as a high school coach in Ohio, Stoops took a job as defensive backs coach at South Florida in 1996. He was the co-defensive coordinator in 2000 for now UTEP head coach Dana Dimel. Stoops served as defensive coordinator at Florida State for Jimbo Fisher from 2010 through 2012. Stoops was also the defensive back coach at Miami in 2003 when current Texas A&M athletic director Ross Bjork was there as the associate athletic director.
The Texas A&M job opened when the Aggies bought out Fisher and his $76 million dollar contract after three consecutive mediocre seasons after a strong 2020 finish. Fisher was 46-25 in six seasons at Texas A&M. He was 11-11 overall and 6-9 in the SEC over the last two seasons. He left a talented roster and a culture in need of repair.
Stoops is a program builder who was at Kentucky for over a decade and understands the SEC. He led the Wildcats to two 10-win seasons – 2018 and 2021 – in his 11 years at the helm. The program hadn’t won 10 games in a season before Stoops since Fred Curci did it in 1977. The time before that was achieved by Bear Bryant in 1950.
Texas A&M hired Bryant away from Kentucky ahead of the 1954 season. He stayed in College Station for four seasons before bolting for Alabama. The Aggies hired Stoops in hopes that he sticks around for a similar timeframe as his tenure at Kentucky. Texas A&M needs continuity. Stoops is the program’s fifth head coach since 2007 joining Dennis Franchione, Mike Sherman, Kevin Sumlin, and Fisher. The team’s last 10-win season was in 2012 – its first in the SEC.
Behind the scenes, the Aggie brass is confident that the new coach is walking into a turnkey job. The roster is loaded – though Stoops’ first job is keeping as much of it out of the transfer portal as possible. Stoops couldn’t keep up financially with Georgia or Florida in the SEC East. He won’t lack for resources in recruiting, facilities, or NIL at Texas A&M.
Texas A&M hasn’t fulfilled potential as a program. The influx of money thanks to foresight of joining the SEC and from the Johnny Manziel momentum put the Aggies at the adult’s table. They’ve simply lacked the leadership to capitalize. Sherman was .500 as a head coach. Sumlin was 51-26. The last coach at Texas A&M to win more than 70 percent of his games was R.C. Slocum.
Winning in modern college football requires three things – money, recruiting landscape, and support. Texas A&M’s athletic revenue approaches $200 million dollars. Any program that can pay a coach $7.2 million a year not to go away has more than enough money. College Station is 90 minutes from Houston and two hours from Dallas. The current recruiting class ranks in the top 10 nationally despite the on-field struggles and lack of a head coach. And the support is unquestioned. The 12th Man put over 94,000 in the seats for the season finale against FCS program Abilene Christian.
Texas A&M isn’t betting on potential. It is counting on promise. The Aggies should be in the same conversations as Alabama and Georgia and LSU. They don’t want to be passed up in the SEC pecking order by newcomers Texas and Oklahoma. The looming showdown with the Longhorns in 2024 was one of the key incentives that pushed Texas A&M to break up with Fisher.
They’re betting on Stoops. He led Kentucky to its first win against Tennessee since 1984 and Florida since 1986. He led the team to its first bowl win since 2008 and first New Year’s Day Bowl win since 1951. Before Stoops, the last time Kentucky finished the season ranked in the AP Top 25 was 1984. He reset expectations at his last stop. He’ll need to do the same at Texas A&M for this hire to be considered a success.
Rivals.com reported the story first. The contract is not finalized as of late Saturday night.
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