In case you hadn’t heard, Mark Stoops is celebrating a birthday today. The Kentucky head football coach and leader of the new wave turned 47 on Wednesday, a cool 47, some would say. The youngest of the four Stoops brothers, Mark is described as the ‘fun one.’ “He’s got a great nature, a great personality,” older brother Ron Jr. once said. “Mark’s a lot of fun.”
So does that mean he is out partying tonight? Maybe, but probably not. The Opening is on ESPNU right now and it’s kind of a big deal. But wherever he is and whatever he is doing, I assume there is birthday cake involved. And with birthday cake comes birthday candles. And with the candles, one birthday wish.
Tonight, we try to enter the brain of Mark Stoops to predict his one birthday wish before the candles are out. As always, if you think you can do better, share your own suggestions in the comments section.
And shame on you if you forgot to get him a gift.
Birthday Wish No. 1: An SEC Football Win
It has been 956 days since the University of Kentucky last won a football game against a Southeastern Conference opponent. Mark Stoops was an assistant at Florida State at the time and he and the Seminoles were busy beating Florida on the road in Gainesville as the Cats defeated Tennessee. Coincidentally, that day, November 26, 2011, is also the last time Stoops beat an SEC opponent. He would lose to Florida the following season and then go 0-8 in conference play in his first season in Lexington.
Needless to say, Stoops is hungry to get back in the win column against the SEC.
Birthday Wish No. 2: A lifetime commitment from Vince Marrow to remain by his side.
Though Marrow insists he will forever roll with Stoops, the offers will get bigger as his success on the recruiting trail continues at UK. We learned earlier in the summer that Marrow turned down offers from at least two Big Ten schools and one pro team this offseason, offers described as “very attractive positions at very attractive programs.” But Marrow stayed with Stoops, at least for now.
It wouldn’t be a bad idea to spend that 47th birthday wish on keeping Vince Marrow forever.
Birthday Wish No. 3: Damien Harris
The No. 1 in-state prospect and the No. 1 running back in the 2015 class, Damien Harrises don’t come around these parts very often. Hatcher, Barker and Elam were huge gets from the state of Kentucky, but Harris would be the biggest of them all.
The safe bet is on Stoops closing his eyes and making a big wish for Harris before he blows out the candles tonight.
Birthday Wish No. 4: A win on November 29, 2014
That is the date of the final regular season game of the year, at Louisville. It will be the first of many head-to-head meetings with the Louisville version of Bobby Petrino and Stoops would love nothing more than to start the series at 1-0 with a road win against the Cardinals to, dare I say, send UK to its first bowl game since 2011.
But why waste a wish on this? It’s already happening.
Birthday Wish No. 5: Better officials in the Mississippi State game
Namely ones that won’t call offsides on a kickoff, especially a kickoff that should’ve resulted in a successful onside for a much-needed extra possession late in the game.
Remember this? I’m not sure Stoops has slept since then.
Birthday Wish No. 6: A Quarterback
Here we are again, months away from the season opener, and Kentucky is without a clear-cut starting quarterback. The options are there, they’re working hard, but no one has emerged as a leader and taken over the offense. Stoops needs that guy and he needs him early in the fall to avoid the disaster of a competition we saw last season.
Birthday Wish No. 7: Continued fan support
Big Blue Nation has been great since Stoops’ arrival in Lexington, but fans are starting to get testy without seeing progress on the field. Stoops needs to maintain fan support throughout the 2014 season as he continues his plan to be competitive by 2015. Improvement is expected this coming season, but the program can’t afford to lose the momentum if the results aren’t much better than a year ago.
Birthday Wish No. 8: No off-the-field trouble
Without naming names, a couple of guys are walking on thin ice and need to avoid any more trouble at all costs. I believe you all know who I’m talking about. With depth already an issue across the board, it would be a backbreaker to lose players for off-the-field behavior, especially his contributing guys.
Birthday Wish No. 9: Damien Harris
I said that, didn’t I?
Well make two wishes, three if that’s sanctioned. Make all of the wishes. Wish, wish, wish.
“Chantel, get more candles! We’re wishing for Damien Harris in here!”
Birthday Wish No. 10: The 2014 SEC Championship
Unrealistic? Sure. But my birthday was a couple weeks ago and I wished for Kate Upton to kick down the door, rip off all of her clothes and feed me soft shell tacos until we passed out together in a bed of shredded cheese and sour cream. Of course that didn’t happen, but a man can dream.
Why not go all out with the birthday wish? Wish for that Southeastern Conference trophy. #WhyNot
Happy Birthday, Coach.