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Then and Now: How Much Has KY Football Changed In One Year?



The 2012-13 academic school year was one of the most disappointing years for Kentucky athletics. The baseball and basketball teams both started the season ranked in the Top 10 before failing to reach the post-season while the football team suffered one of the worst seasons in school history, leading to the departure of Joker Phillips. With the academic year over, we now turn to optimistic summer dreams of a future filled with wins. The biggest surprise? Kentucky football’s dramatic change in less than 6 months. While it  is difficult to describe the success of a new coach without having played a game yet, Mark Stoops has given the #BBN more than enough reasons to once again ‘Believe in Blue’. After looking back to May 2012 compared to May of 2013, Extreme Makeover couldn’t prescribe a more drastic facelift. Don’t believe me? See for yourself…


1. Coaching staff. The most obvious change over the last year is the replacement of Joker Phillips with Mark Stoops. Joker spent most of his Spring and Summer Camp attempting to convince the waning fan base that he could still get the job done. While most called his bluff and did not renew their season tickets, some people (like Matt Jones) still clung to that last bit of hope. After losing to WKU and getting embarrassed by Vandy at home, there was simply nothing left for Joker. Mark Stoops wasn’t the first choice for most fans to replace Joker, but his plan for the program was more than enough to convince Mitch Barnhart that Stoops was the right guy for the job. Stoops’ next move is what separated him from Joker: he recruited a highly-motivated, young coaching staff with big-program ties to come to Kentucky. Joker’s staff consisted of men mostly in their 50’s, compared to the 30 and 40 year old pups that Stoops has brought in. While some may think that doesn’t matter, the energy that Stoops’ staff brings to a room is unprecedented when compared to the crotchety old men of before. These coaches could convince Alan Cutler to put on pads and play, unlike the former staff that couldn’t even recognize the 6th best QB in the nation at their own camp.


2. Recruiting, Recruiting, Recruiting. I could probably make a week’s worth of posts talking about the radical differences in recruiting since May of 2012. The most obvious difference is the addition of Ohio as a recruiting pipeline. A Top-5 state in national high school football talent, Joker only managed to recruit 5 prospects from Ohio to UK in his 3 years as head coach; Mark Stoops has received 8 commitments from Ohio in less than 6 months. Stoops is successfully reaching across the Ohio River for prospects, while simultaneously convincing the best from inside the state to same stay home. Joker may have picked up a few guys from around the state each year, he never consistently got the best of the best. Ryan Timmons and Jason Hatcher can potentially make a positive impact for the team in the fall. In the 2014 class, Stoops has the #1 player in KY with Drew Barker while staying hot on the #2 player’s trail (Matt Elam).

Another easy barometer for recruiting success is seen in the recruiting rankings. Mark Stoops’ three 4-star players in the Class of 2013 equal the number of how many Joker had during his 3-year tenure as head coach. Oh and 3/7 in Stoops’ 2014 Class are 4-star players. Long gone are the days when decisions for recruits are between Middle Tenn State, WKU, and UK: now it’s between Ohio State, Notre Dame, and Alabama. The improvement has translated into even further hype for Stoops’ program. The average fan never knew the big recruits, unless they were great in-state players like Patrick Towles. When my lawyer-boss asked me about Braxton Berrios today (from North Carolina), I realized that football recruiting has reached a level higher than ever before.


3. An increased chatter across #BBN. While writing for KSRCollege last Spring, it was tough finding anything to write positively about the football program. When I posted the Spring depth chart in March of last year, there were COMPLAINTS for having football news during March Madness. The proof lies in the numbers: In May of 2012 there were 22 football-related posts on KSR; this post is the 22nd football-related post since last Friday. Not only is there more chatter, but it’s almost entirely positive chatter. Instead of talking about how hot Joker’s seat is, we have actually been comparing Drew Barker and Andrew Wiggins. ANDREW WIGGINS, THE BEST HS PLAYER SINCE LEBRON! If this isn’t enough, go back and listen to old podcasts and see if you can find a football entry in the headline.


4. Season ticket sales. It’s sad to say that the biggest story of last year’s Spring football season was the dramatic decrease in season ticket holders. 2012 season ticket figures were down 20.8% since 2011 and 32.5% from 2009. On April 22 of this year, season ticket sales were 2x larger than on the same date in 2012, with 35,342 compared to 17, 647. The excitement generated by Mark Stoops arrival cannot be given all of the credit: UK’s marketing department has gone above and beyond promoting ticket sales. Not only has the quantity and quality of advertisements increased, but they have opened Commonwealth Stadium to the public during the work day, allowing you to sit in your potential seat before you buy it. Correct me if I’m wrong, but I don’t think KSR had a radio show at CWS last Spring.


5. Bon Jovi to Chief Keef. Watching Matt Jones’ face light-up in sarcasm when “It’s My Life” blared through CWS before 3rd downs last year was something to see. Playing an outdated Bon Jovi song was a great reflection of the state of the program last year. The only thing uglier than CWS was the play on the field, which translated into an even emptier CWS. Fast forward one year and the CWS renovation bill passed in Frankfort with only one detractor. UK greats like Tim Couch spoke during timeouts of the Spring Game to pump up the crowd. The UKAthletics staff also began putting together video pieces inside Spring Practice. Watching Stoops get taken out during ‘board drill’ is a 180-degree turnaround compared to the sight of Joker’s somber face. For the first time since Hal Mumme’s original Air Raid, Kentucky football is cool.


6. Two pictures say it all…

2012 spring game


[email protected]


Article written by Nick Roush

"Look upon the doughnut, and not upon the hole." @RoushKSR

16 Comments for Then and Now: How Much Has KY Football Changed In One Year?

  1. Mino Slick
    8:17 pm May 24, 2013 Permalink

    Stanton Truit outta GA is the next Randall Cobb at UK! I watched this young man grow up!
    tell me this guy dont look like Randall Cobb in HS! Got the offer from Stoops!

  2. Forreal not more reaction?
    8:22 pm May 24, 2013 Permalink

    It’s unbelievable what mark stoops accomplished here in assembling the coaching staff we’ve got, which in overall success and coaching skill is so well balanced and talented that Kentucky is no longer just what we’ve accomplished in the past but rather we’re Mark Stoops brainchild, and with the supporting cast we don’t have to expect we will blow it like this schools football program always has, but expect to succeed an compete at the level of the big guys, and not win ever game but swing heavy punches, knock off a few giants, and earn the commonwealth it’s much desired respect.

  3. JBCat
    8:35 pm May 24, 2013 Permalink

    Solid writing! Nice work, Nick.

  4. Quagmire
    8:41 pm May 24, 2013 Permalink

    3. I have to agree, great post that truly shows you how much things have changed. Getting extremely excited for September!

  5. Aja
    9:34 pm May 24, 2013 Permalink

    The spin and hype are out of control. Things seem better because they could not have gotten any worse – in any category. Ky football had hit absolute rock bottom. Wait and see who is eligible to play this fall. See where we stand after a few quarters under our belt. I wish them the best but this past year in Rupp should be illustrative about how player ratings can become a beguiling preseason seduction.

  6. Catlogic15
    9:43 pm May 24, 2013 Permalink

    Elam would be huge for us/Stoops.
    The program needs this kid badly, with Barker would set the bar.

  7. L1C4
    10:37 pm May 24, 2013 Permalink

    Yep, a lot has changed. The Cards whipped Florida’s [email protected] in the sugar bowl and won the basketball title. UK, on the other hand, was the armpit of college football and uk lost to a hs team in the nit with 5 all-americans.

  8. Otis
    10:45 pm May 24, 2013 Permalink

    Who is the cracker with the flat bill? I thought uofl only wore those.

  9. Sito
    11:10 pm May 24, 2013 Permalink

    The more things change, the more they stay the same

    Western 35 UK 9

  10. Sugar Bowl
    11:27 pm May 24, 2013 Permalink

    Wow, look how fat Stoops’ fingers are. The load has no self respect. Strong is going to cut some bacon off his back.

  11. Say what?
    11:34 pm May 24, 2013 Permalink

    #2 Kentucky is no longer just what we’ve accomplished in the past? Don’t we actually have to accomplish something (anything) to say that? Or are you saying we are indeed no longer ZERO, since that’s what the past would indicate? And again, UK has to do better than 3-9 to say that, so it may be a couple years.

  12. stoopified
    2:40 am May 25, 2013 Permalink

    Stoops is going to shock the world this year and lead UK to an undefeated season. He’s going to own the State of Kentucky and beat WKU by 30 and UL by 14.

  13. BAdams
    4:38 am May 25, 2013 Permalink

    7, you realize you beat Florida cuz they thought you’d be a cake walk right? You also realize we won the title last year when the NCAA had a lot of great teams, unlike you winning it this year when there were no dominant teams. Just remember, we won our 3rd in 1951, and Calipari got one at UK in his 3rd year, took Pitino 10 right? You’ll realize next year who the king of the Bluegrass is. So sit down and shut up.

  14. dshwildcats
    8:15 am May 25, 2013 Permalink


    Congratulations on the Sugar Bowl victory, brother! Louisville was better prepared than the Gators; and, executed their game plan to perfection that night. BUT, let’s not get too carried away over one bowl game, because that game was the exception and not the norm during Louisville’s season last year. The Cards lost to a bad UConn team at home. They got absolutely manhandled by an average Syracuse team. They also struggled mightily with the rest of their schedule. They beat 3 very bad teams, with a combined record of 6-30 (FIU, USM and USF), by a combined 13 points, and could’ve easily lost all 3 of those games. Louisville may have played like a “juggernaut” against Florida; but, they were far from being that type of team during the remainder of their season.

    As far as basketball is concerned, before cutting down the nets in April, the Cards had not won a NC in 27 years! For comparison sake, Kentucky won 3 NCs in that same time period. And, if I’m not mistaken, Kentucky is 4-1 against the Cards under Cal, including defeating the Cards on the way to a NC. Also, the Cards are no strangers to the NIT under Pitino, having been it that tournament twice in his tenure.

    In the future, may I suggest a little perspective for Cardinal fans like yourself!

  15. Unboltedharp
    9:15 am May 25, 2013 Permalink

    14, you forgot the most important thing about that bowl game; Florida did not care. They felt snubbed on the bowl picks and just showed up for the freebies. They did sell out their ticket allotment, so their fans did not care. Maybe, that was the Joker effect. And basketball, just like 86, who did they play other than the final? The vile, continuing to disgust real college basketball fans everywhere.

  16. dshwildcats
    10:06 am May 25, 2013 Permalink


    I won’t go as far as saying that Florida didn’t care about that game. But, it was obvious they had no respect for Louisville, and it was evident in the way they played that night. Late hits, cheap shots, trash talking, etc. Not to mention the fact that Coach Strong and his staff did a much better job in preparing their team than Muschamp and his staff.

    I still contend that UGA should have been playing UofL in the Sugar Bowl instead of the Gators. The Dawgs took Alabama to the wire, and were just a couple of plays away from going to the NC Game. Not to mention the fact that they had defeated Florida when the two teams met in October. Georgia’s offense was much more balanced than Florida’s, and probably would’ve presented a lot more problems for the Cardinal defense.

    I’ll give Louisville credit for the victory; but, I’m not willing to annoint them as some kind of National Championship contender based on that one victory. Leading up to that game, most Card fans thought they had very little chance against the Gators; or, they weren’t talking about the game period.

    Like I said before, you have to look at Louisville’s entire body of work from last year. If you do, there’s no way they are a preseason Top 10 team for 2013. They just weren’t very impressive the majority of the year, against a very weak SOS.