Stoops comes from a football family. His father, Ron, was a high school football coach in Youngstown, Ohio. His brother Bob is the head coach at Oklahoma, where he won the 2000 National Championship. His brother Mike was the head coach at Arizona and is currently the defensive coordinator for the Sooners. Mark was the defensive coordinator at Arizona under Mike, and most recently was the defensive coordinator at Florida State.
KENT TAYLOR: What was going through your mind when you were walking through that tunnel of people at the pep rally when you were introduced?
MARK STOOPS: It was overwhelming, it was exciting. My heart was pumping and a lot of excitement. It was a stressful week or two, really playing in the ACC Championship the night before, flying in the next day, and then walking through the tunnel. I said, man these guys had a lot of confidence in me, first-time head coach and they’ve got this huge press conference.
TAYLOR: Did that open your eyes to the base of support that is in place for Kentucky football?
STOOPS: I felt that that very first day. People have been so passionate, so supportive. It’s been a pleasant surprise. I knew we had great support, but they’ve even surprised me, it’s been tremendous.
TAYLOR: What do you honestly think when you see a picture of your house and the purchase price in the paper?
STOOPS: I understand it’s news, and that’s fine. I just wish my address wasn’t there. We may lose a few games or something, and maybe some people showing up there, but I understand, it’s news, people prepared me for that a little bit.
TAYLOR: Does your wife call you and wonder what the deal is?
STOOPS: Yeah, she did, she pointed it out, but we understand.
TAYLOR: Do you just clear out all the kids’ Florida State gear and replace it with UK stuff?
STOOPS: Basically you do. Before I left I had so much Florida State gear and I just kind of gave it away to the neighborhood and friends and people that support Florida State. Gave it all away and started fresh.
TAYLOR: Now that you have gotten to this point in your career, your first season as a head coach, what kinds of things are at the forefront of your mind?
STOOPS: Just trying to stay on track. Trying to stay disciplined and staying within the plan. I wanted to have some things to keep me on track.
I’ve been through this a long time as an assistant. I had the luxury of watching my brothers and growing up in a coaching family, and really watched Bob very closely for the past 14 years. I had an opportunity to work with Mike, his first 6 years at Arizona, so had a chance to watch those guys and study those guys and see the ups and the downs. Maybe some things that were done right and maybe some things they would do differently. I think that’s helped me.
Having that 30-, 60-, 90-, 120-day plan of attack and just staying in the moment. That’s what we tell the players all the time is just to take care of the process and not worry about the results.
TAYLOR: How often do you talk to your brothers, is it an everyday thing?
STOOPS: It’s not quite every day, now that I’m a head coach, I’m a little busier. We talk quite often, a couple of times a week to each of them. Sometimes it’s just about family and little things, but sometimes it’s about football, or going about our business or coaching hires.
TAYLOR: What do you want to get out of spring practice?
STOOPS: The first thing is the mentality, the toughness. Just the discipline that we need to do things. We need to compete at a higher level and that starts with the attitude and the toughness and the discipline. Those are some big things that we’re looking for.
TAYLOR: How big is the UofL rivalry to you?
STOOPS: I think it’s very important to our community, to our team, to our fan base, coaches, players, it’s important to everybody.
I think in football, we get 12 opportunities in the regular season and each and every game is very important. That game is important, we understand that, but every week, win or lose, come Sunday, it’s back to the drawing board with a clean slate trying to prepare for the next game.
TAYLOR: You have been a part of different rivalries – Arizona-Arizona State, Florida-Florida State – do you have a preference as to whether the UK-UofL game is played in the third week or the first week?
STOOPS: I really don’t, I’m ready to line them up and let’s play. I’ll let our athletic director do the scheduling and we’ll line up and play.