Kentucky has agreed to a contract extension with coach Mark Stoops that will keep him in charge of the Wildcats until June 2031, the university announced Monday. Although no figures were attached to the deal, Stoops would earn $9 million a year, according to multiple reports.
Although the Wildcats are 6-5 in what has been a disappointing season relative to preseason expectations, Stoops, 55, is nonetheless the winningest coach in the program (surpassing Bear Bryant earlier this year) to 65-58 in 10 years.
“The continuity we’ve had has been crucial to our growth and is even more important as we move forward,” Stoops said in a statement. “I wanted to reaffirm my commitment. I loved this place and I’m excited about our future.”
Stoops was hired before the 2013 season, replacing Joker Phillips, and finished 2-10 on his debut. However, the Wildcats have been on an upward trajectory since with seven (and soon to be eight) consecutive bowl appearances. Highlights have included 10-win seasons in 2018 and 2021, both of which resulted in Citrus Bowl victories.
Stoops deserves it
Stoops inherited a program that essentially acted as a placeholder for fans until the start of the men’s basketball season. A decade later, he’s lifted the Wildcats out of the SEC basement and into regular winners, finishing no worse than fourth in the division since 2014. In fact, he’s made football so relevant that he’s received social media support after getting into a summer war of words with men’s hoops coach John Calipari, who branded the UK a
“Look, we all know this program wasn’t born on third base,” Stoops said. “Some may, but I can promise you this football team didn’t wake up at third base. [They] done a lot of work, we’ve done a lot of work.”
This season hasn’t been great, that’s for sure. The Wildcats have lost five of their last seven games after a 4-0 start. But don’t let that distract you from the long-term consistency that Stoops has established.
Stoops would earn an average of $9 million per year under the new contract. That would make him the sixth highest-paid coach in the country, according to the USA Today Coach Salary Database.
Is that a bit excessive? Yeah, at least for now. Stoops doesn’t have a national championship, or even a division title, like from Alabama Nick Saban or by Clemson Dabo Swinney – two of the six coaches who earn more than him. However, Stoops has state of michigan Mel Tucker to thank for his new fortune. The Spartans rewarded Tucker with a $95 million extension after last season’s 11-2 record – despite Tucker posting a 2-5 record in 2020 on his East Lansing debut.
This is the new coach market. The SEC knows it will run out of money when the new television contract kicks in a few years from now, which means the short-term financial hit is tolerable compared to what’s to come in the future.
It’s the time of year when coaches take advantage of vacancies to get more money from their current employers, and it’s not impossible to think that the vacancy at Auburn played a role in the augmentation and extension of Stoops. The Tigers fired Bryan Harsin last month, opening up one of the most sought-after jobs in the country in terms of potential.
Has Auburn contacted Stoops or his representatives? It’s unheard of – and, quite frankly, irrelevant. Kentucky knows it’s out there, and if he was planning on extending Stoops this offseason, there was no reason to wait to see what might tempt him after Black Sunday.