When Mark Stoops took over the Kentucky football program back in 2012, those close to the team felt they were on the same tier talent-wise as some FCS schools. Stoops and his staff told 2014 and 2015 recruits to not even look at the win/loss total in their first year because they knew the end result would be ugly. Look at the small, subtle differences to start with, they would preach. Then the wins would come.
It took four years to become bowl-eligible, and the Cats followed it up with another seven-win season in 2017. If things go as planned, we’re looking at three consecutive bowl seasons. With state-of-the-art facilities, coaching stability, and NFL prospects lining the roster, things are going really well.
But you’d be lying if you said it was easy to get to this point. Just like it was for Rich Brooks. Just like it has been for some of the other great coaches in this program’s history.
This weekend, USA Today released a list of the most difficult places to win in all of college football, and Kentucky (unsurprisingly) made the cut.
Check out their analysis for the Cats, whom they listed at No. 8 in the nation.
Kentucky’s the second-toughest place to win in college football’s toughest conference. It’s hard, though Rich Brooks and now Mark Stoops have shown that putting together back-to-back bowl trips is possible if given enough time to cobble together a competent roster. But Kentucky is notable for how hard it has been for coaches to maintain success.
Fran Curci got things rolling in the mid-1970s but petered out through the rest of the decade. Jerry Claiborne’s consistency from 1982-89 gave way to the frustrating Bill Curry era. Brooks ceded to Joker Phillips and the bottom dropped out. Meanwhile, Stoops enters a crucial season for his tenure in 2018.
Here is the entire list:
- Oregon State
- Kansas State
- Iowa State
- Texas Tech
- Washington State
What do you guys think? Agree?