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Kudos To Kentucky For Backing Stoops, Football With Cold Hard Cash

outsideThe University of Kentucky has hired coach after coach after coach in the hopes that a new guy with a new whistle could turn around the school’s football fortunes.  Now the school is going to invest a fortune into it’s program.  Automatically that improves the odds that UK’s latest hire will be able to change the trajectory of Wildcat football.

It’s not a guarantee of success, mind you, but Mark Stoops’ chances of succeeding will most certainly go up once UK spends $45 million to build a new football training center and practice fields.

Kentucky has announced that its board of trustees will vote Friday on the new, privately financed facilities.  The school announced last fall that it would be pouring $110 million into improvements at Commonwealth Stadium (improvements that sound fantastic, by the way).  Paying Stoops a good sum and allowing him to have the cash to hire good assistants has been a positive move.  Dumping an additional $155 million total into Stoops’ program is better and smarter.

James Franklin has been hailed as the man who turned around Vanderbilt’s program single-handedly.  Judging by the $5.8 million Penn State is paying Franklin in Year One (including this $1.5 million buyout from Vandy), PSU honchos certainly view him as a Lone Ranger type.  But while the coach did wonderful work on the field and in recruits’ living rooms, much of the credit actually needs to go to athletic director David Williams and the Vanderbilt administration.

Franklin wanted money thrown into the VU program.  He wanted a new practice/football facility.  He wanted guarantees of stadium improvements.  He got most of everything he wanted (and if scuttlebutt is to be believed, Commodore brass promised him all sorts of stadium upgrades while fighting to hang onto him).  Franklin didn’t stick around, but his good work and the upgrades made to the Vandy program allowed the school to land Derek Mason (and a very impressive staff) as Franklin’s replacement.  Would the defensive coordinator from a Pac-12 champion team have taken the VU job without the improvements the school and Franklin made?  Unlikely.

Vanderbilt had the right guy as coach, but the school’s turnaround began when that right guy was given something better to work with, something better to sell to recruits.  Judging by the recruiting Stoops has done in his first season — the man is basically selling a dream to prospects — Kentucky appears to have hired the right guy for its program.  With an influx of cash, UK AD Mitch Barnhart, the administration and the school’s boosters are giving Stoops something tangible that he can use in his efforts to make Kentucky an honest-to-God competitive football program.

Again, there’s no amount of money that can guarantee success in Lexington (or anywhere else).  But big money darn sure improves Kentucky’s and Stoops’ chances for success.


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