I have to be honest, and I know it is not the greatest emotion to feel, but I envy Mark Stoops. I truly am jealous of him. Not just for the obvious things. The fact he’s a millionaire or soon to be a millionaire. And the fact he coaches college football for a living. We should all be jealous of that. But no, what I am really jealous of is that for his first year on a new job, Stoops will very likely get a free pass for failures and extreme praise for his successes. And that is one of the great benefits to being a first year coach, especially at a rebuilding project like Kentucky is right now. Let’s take the Western Kentucky game for a second. A game that is certainly competitive on paper, especially considering last year’s result. So, let’s go through what the fan reaction will be with either a win or loss on Saturday:
UK WIN OVER WKU
-Great start to the Stoops era. Stoops shows an already improved squad from last year. Lost to WKU last year, beat them this year, already an improvement. And then whichever unit performs well will also add additional credit for Stoops and staff. And to be honest, all of this would be close to legitimate. A win in the first game, especially against a team that beat UK last year, shows an already improved team. To beat a team on a “road” field against a bowl team that can beat you would be a nice early feather in the cap. But, on the other side of the coin…….
UK LOSS AGAINST WKU
-Just a rebuilding project. This is a 2-4 year process. WKU won’t ever beat us after this year. Joker Phillips left Stoops with no talent. The players are still learning a new system. Gotta weed out the old players and get in all of Stoops’ guys. I find it hard to believe that if Kentucky lost to WKU on Saturday that a complaint would be the coaching of Mark Stoops. And that’s understandable. All of these excuses above are fine. It is true that Joker Phillips did not exactly leave a great situation for Stoops. And it is true that the future looks bright for Kentucky football. But my one question is this: if we are going to give the head coach complete credit for a win, with the same players against the same opponent, why does he completely get a pass on a loss?
I have full faith that Mark Stoops is going to get Kentucky back to a bowl very shortly. In fact, just a couple weeks ago I argued that is going to happen next season when the schedule lightens up. But I am struck this year by how many fans have so little expectations, both for the team and the coach. Are we just completely giving this season a pass, no matter the results? I know for me, that is tough to do. But for many, it seems that because of the great recruiting and potential, the 2013 season will become an afterthought. And I also see now why it can be so great to be a 1st-year coach at a rebuilding program. Succeed and it’s all you. Fail and it’s all the previous guy.
It could be said for Guy Morris, who took over a probation riddled program from Hal Mumme. And the same for Rich Brooks, who was feeling the full force of sanctions when he took over. Joker Phillips, on the other hand, took over a successful program and it declined, meaning he didn’t get the benefit of the doubt the other choaches got and that Stoops will get this year.
And for that, I envy you, Mark Stoops.