Winning five of his first eight games this season has garnered UK football coach Mark Stoops a contract extension.
The pact has been amended to extend through the 2019 season, UK Director of Athletics Mitch Barnhart announced Friday.
The new agreement extends the term from June 30, 2019, to June 30, 2020. It gives the coach five seasons remaining on his contract following the current campaign.
“Mark is guiding our program in the direction we all want it to go and we are proud to reward that,” Barnhart said. “I was confident Mark was right for this job when I hired him, but he has exceeded my expectations. From leading a group of young men, to recruiting, to fundraising, to becoming an important part of the Lexington community, Mark has embraced and excelled in all facets of being Kentucky football head coach.”
Now in his second year with the Wildcats, the efforts of Stoops and his coaching staff are becoming apparent on the field of play. Currently sporting a 5-3 record, UK already has won more games this season than the previous two seasons combined (two each in 2012 and 2013).
“Under Coach Stoops’ leadership, the UK football program is experiencing an incredible upward trajectory in the classroom and on the field,” said UK President Eli Capilouto. “That continued progress, led by Coach Stoops, is critical in competing in the nation’s strongest conference while maintaining one of a small number of self-sustaining athletic programs in the nation – one that supports the University’s academic mission in dynamic ways, including $65 million to support the construction of a new Academic Science Building. As important, Coach Stoops and his staff put students first in everything they do. The facility improvements underway in our football program will support the athletic and academic success of our students and the long-term health of the program.”
In addition to the win-loss record, progress is obvious on both offense and defense. UK is averaging 31.6 points per game, well ahead of the 17.9 points per game average in 2012, the season before Stoops arrived. Defensively, the Cats are allowing 24.8 points per game, down from 31 points per game in 2012.
“I am excited about the progress our team has shown on the field, but this is as much about the next five years as it is the last one and a half,” Barnhart said. “As I’ve said before, I believe we can compete at the highest level in the toughest conference. Mark is the coach to take us there.”
The future is bright for continued progress, given the recruiting success of Stoops and staff. When Stoops took over the program in December 2012, UK’s recruiting class was ranked in the 60s by the national evaluation services. But, in the next two months, the coaches were able to secure 14 additional commitments, moving the needle for the 2013 signing class as high as No. 29 nationally.
With a full year to recruit the 2014 signing group, the Kentucky coaches landed a consensus national top-25 class, including a No. 17 ranking by Rivals.com, UK’s highest-rated class in the Internet era of recruiting evaluation.
UK’s recruiting effort for the signing class of 2015 continues the trend. The Wildcats are currently projected to finish as high as No. 20 in the national recruiting rankings.
Fans are responding to the team’s efforts. Attendance has jumped significantly since 2012, including the nation’s second-largest improvement during the 2013 season. The two Blue/White Spring Games under Stoops have drawn the two largest spring attendances in school history.
Additional momentum has been generated with UK’s football facilities. A $120 million renovation of Commonwealth Stadium has begun and is slated for completion for the 2015 season and a $45 million football complex has been approved and construction will begin in January.
In the classroom, UK’s scholarship football players posted a 2.43 grade-point average in the fall of 2012, the final semester under the previous staff. Since Stoops’ arrival, the Wildcats have surpassed that mark in all three semesters, peaking at 2.81 in the spring of 2014.
“I greatly appreciate the support shown for our program by President Capilouto, the University administration and Mitch Barnhart,” Stoops said. “I am more excited than ever about the future of Kentucky football and the challenge and opportunity of building this program for our players and the Big Blue Nation.”