By Keith Taylor
Sun Sports Editor
4:07 PM EST, November 27, 2012
Three days after the Joker Phillips era came to an end, a new one began.
Florida State defensive coordinator Mark Stoops was hired as football coach at the University of Kentucky Tuesday. Stoops replaces Phillips, who was fired with three weeks remaining in the regular season following a three-year stint with the Wildcats.
Stoops brings name recognition to the position. His brother Bob Stoops currently is coach at Oklahoma and won a national championship with the Sooners in 2000. Another brother — Mike Stoops — currently is co-defensive coordinator at Oklahoma and formerly was coach at the University of Arizona. Mark Stoops has coached at Miami (of Florida) and was an assistant in 2001 when the Hurricanes went 12-0 and won the Rose Bowl in 2001.
“New beginnings always provide a sense of excitement,” Kentucky athletics director Mitch Barnhart said in a statement released by the university. “That’s why today I’m excited for Mark Stoops and his family as they provide a new beginning for our football program, fans and players.”
Barnhart was impressed by Stoops’ “passion” and his “love for the game of football” during the interview process and added that his commitment to defense and recruiting connections played a role in his decision to hire Stoops.
“That passion carried over into our process and his desire to wear the blue and white,” Barnhart said. “Our desire to get better defensively and continue to expand our recruiting base helped guide us to Mark. He comes from a coaching family and has been in big games and big atmospheres throughout his career. That has prepared him for this opportunity to become head coach at Kentucky.”
Stoops will coach in the Atlantic Coast Conference championship game Saturday before being officially introduced as coach on Sunday. Stoops was happy with the chance to become a head coach.
“I am thrilled to be named the head football coach at the University of Kentucky,” Stoops said. “My family and I are excited and looking forward to becoming a part of the Big Blue Nation.”
Stoops praised his current boss — Jimbo Fisher — for the opportunity to lead the Seminoles' defense during the past three seasons, a unit that ranks among the Top 15 units in the nation.
“It has been three of the greatest years of my life,” he said. “I am grateful for the support of all Seminole fans as we focus on the ACC Championship. I want to thank (UK) president Capilouto and Mitch Barnhart for this opportunity. I promise the faithful of the Big Blue Nation I will be focused and driven to create a positive, winning atmosphere for the program and an environment that all of Kentucky can be proud of.”
Fisher praised the efforts of Stoops during his three seasons with the Seminoles.
“I am extremely happy for Mark and his family,” Fisher said. “He has done a tremendous job for us here as a defensive coordinator and he is a vital part of our staff. I always say you want the people who work for you to advance and reach their goals and aspirations and I couldn’t be happier. He has done a super job for us and this opportunity is well deserved.
“He is very well prepared and I think he will do one heck of a job for the University of Kentucky. I was very fortunate to have him on our staff and consider him a good friend.”