Kentucky has a new training facility, recruiting room, and an upgraded stadium. The return on investment has been an 18-8, 2-year record, a 10-win season, SEC Coach of the Year honors, multiple national award winning players, back-to-back Governor’s Cup victories, and two consecutive bowl wins. Retaining Vince Marrow is the next step in the Wildcat’s competitive climb to Atlanta.
Shiny new brick and mortar facilities are college football’s new craze. Kentucky Football’s new home is the $45-million-dollar Joe Craft Football Training Facility. From Clemson’s giant slide to Alabama waterfalls, programs are investing millions of dollars to allure top prospects. Mitch Barnhart and Mark Stoops topped catchy architectural designs by keeping Vince Marrow in Lexington.
To paint Vince Marrow as simply the recruiter that covers Ohio is a lazy narrative. He’s also responsible for securing quality in-state talent including the Louisville area as well as venturing into Indiana, Kansas, and Maryland. The Big Dog represents the BBN. Heck, the Big Dog is the BBN. Highly relatable and likable to both fans and administrators, Marrow publicly verbalizes what many fans think, but don’t have a platform to say. He’s the personality behind the brand that pushes the needle of Kentucky Football more so than any other assistant coach in the program’s history. Yes, he’s worth every penny.
We have entered a new era in Lexington. Winning comes with a price tag and the University of Kentucky has ponied up its share of Benjamins. UK has wisely invested in head coach Mark Stoops who surpassed Jerry Claiborne in all-time wins at Kentucky and is poised to become second only to Bear Bryant in that category. It now appears that Vince Marrow will receive a significant pay raise. This escalating level of investment and commitment marks the beginning for higher staff salaries that could lead to continued success on the field and on the recruiting trail.
Rival and friendly programs have taken notice of Mark Stoops’ success. They will continue to do so. College football is a conglomeration of copy cats.
Dean Hood and Walt Wells were lured away to become head coaches at the FCS level. Defensive line coach Derrick LeBlanc now holds the same title at Arkansas. Defensive back coach Steven Clinkscale drew attention from Michigan after experiencing immense recruiting accomplishments in Detroit and by leading the Wildcat secondary to finish the season ranked second in pass defense. The nation’s fourth-best rush offense was led by a receiver turned quarterback, designed and coordinated by Eddie Gran who was mentioned for a similar position at Georgia as well as head coach openings. Brad White is a rising star in college football, leading the nation’s 20th-ranked team defense in his first year calling the shots. He will soon garner competitive compensation and consideration from colleges and the NFL.
Yes, the Marrow situation is significant. However, it is the next logical step and a gateway for the program’s advancement.
What does all this mean?
Mitch Barnhart has steadily proven that he’s committed to Kentucky Football more so than any other UK athletic director, ever. UK asks for fan commitment through season ticket sales and donations. Barnhart has answered his own call and given accordingly. Mark Stoops has built his program for sustainment. First there were stadium and facility upgrades. Now, the next step in the climb to Atlanta is increasing salaries for coaches. I’ve followed the Kentucky Football program for five decades. I don’t have five more in me, but I’m sure glad I’m alive to witness this era. Buckle up; it’s going to be one heck of a ride.