From Wednesday morning through Friday evening, the Kentucky fanbase
patiently impatiently awaited UK associate head coach and recruiting coordinator Vince Marrow’s decision on his future.
On one hand, Marrow was being heavily recruited by newly-hired Michigan State head coach and longtime friend Mel Tucker to become one of his top assistants in East Lansing, potentially earning a massive pay-raise in the process.
On the other, Mark Stoops – also a longtime friend of Marrow – and the Kentucky coaching staff was begging Marrow to return and see the fruits of their labor blossom in the form of a potential trip to Atlanta for the SEC Championship, with a hefty raise also on the docket should he opt to stick around in Lexington.
For Marrow, it wasn’t an easy decision knowing he would be turning down one of his friends in favor of another, a decision that would ultimately lead him to going heads-up with the other program on the recruiting trail starting immediately.
But at the end of the day, loyalty to the program that took a chance on him eight years ago when Stoops was hired at Kentucky won out in the end.
As much as he would have loved to help Tucker get his time at Michigan State off on the right foot, Marrow knew “deep down in [his] heart” that he couldn’t leave Lexington.
“These last three days were very rough, but deep down in my heart, I knew I wasn’t leaving this place,” Marrow said in an appearance at KSBar and Grille on Saturday afternoon.
Just a few hours later at an official media opportunity during halftime of Kentucky’s matchup against Ole Miss, Marrow followed up on the difficulty of his decision, but stressed that he’s confident he made the right one.
“The last three days have been very hard, but at the end of the day, I’m very glad that I am staying here,” the Kentucky assistant said. “I just want to say thank you for always supporting us. It was hard. I never thought an assistant coach would get this much attention, but I’m glad it’s over now.”
One of the key reasons for his final decision that kept him in Lexington? The promises he made to the recruits Kentucky signed in the 2020 class, along with the players they already have on campus. They promised stability and a winning culture, and Marrow felt he had to see that through.
“Yeah, it was hard. When you sit in a lot of living rooms with parents… it really weighed heavy on me,” Marrow said. “A lot of the guys I recruited, a lot of guys were texting me saying, ‘You know, you said it was a family atmosphere.’ And, that did play a big part.”
A big-name college football coach also reached out to him to tell him that he is watching the Kentucky program from afar and sees what Stoops, Marrow, and the entire coaching staff is building in Lexington.
That support helped him realize that Kentucky was, and continues to be, the place for him.
“I talked to one of the top coaches in college football last night and he said he watched all of this and said, ‘You guys have really got that thing going,'” Marrow said. “And, for Kentucky to make the investment to keep me here, he said, ‘You guys are really going in the right direction, it says a lot about your administration.’ So, like I said, I want to thank them all for being supportive and stepping up to keep me here.”
All of the messages and support from the Big Blue Nation on social media and in person? That was a key factor, as well.
Even though he wasn’t a huge fan of fans reaching out to his daughter on Twitter asking for updates, he appreciated the premise of it all: Kentucky fans desperately wanted him to return to UK and appreciate what he brings to the football program.
“This community played a big part,” Marrow said. “Normally, people don’t pay much attention to this kind of stuff, but it really was the people of this community, too. It was the support. I’ve got to say, you know, texting and direct messaging my daughter while she is in school, you know, I thought that was a little crazy, but I just told her, this is what the fan base is. I really think this football fan base is really strong, I really believe that.”
As for the other side of the equation, the Kentucky associate head coach said it was extremely difficult to turn down a friend as close as Tucker, especially when you consider just how hard he, along with the rest of the Michigan State program, made him a priority.
And while he came away with a raise, one he’s extremely grateful for, he wouldn’t wish the back-and-forth he experienced on “anyone.”
“It was very, very hard. We are very close. It was very hard,” Marrow said of turning down Tucker. “But, I’m also close to the red-head guy, too (Mark Stoops). We grew up together and it was just hard. I can’t put it no other way, it was very hard. He really wanted me, and they really made an effort, so it was hard. Like I said, the last three days, yes I got a raise, but I wouldn’t wish that situation on anyone, especially when it is two friends.”
He compared the situation to a top recruit making a decision between two final schools and the back-and-forth that can happen day by day. One day you’re favoring one school, and then a specific factor will sway you another direction.
“Now I know how recruits feel when they’re down to two schools and one day it’s this school and the next day it’s this school. Anything can trigger,” Marrow said. “But, I just have to say, the eight years I’ve spent here, they’ve really invested in me and it really meant something. That really played a big part. And, our administration. I’m not just throwing that out. This is a really great administration to work for.”
As difficult as it was to turn down Tucker, it’s all about business now. When he sees him on the recruiting trail, he’s going to make sure he knows he’s going to win the state of Ohio.
“Once I decided to stay here, my message, I don’t care who I’m recruiting against, it could be my brother, the message is that we are going to keep our foot in Ohio. We are going to win there,” Marrow said. “I think it’s probably a little bit more intense now because of the way this things played out, but to me, it’s going to be a thing where we have to really, really recruit Ohio hard. A lot of people have seen the success we have had, and a lot of other schools … I was at a high school clinic last week, and a lot of people, more SEC schools were there because they’re saying, ‘Man, Kentucky has really gotten some players there, we want to get them, too.’ So, we have got to keep our footprint there.”
Now that he is officially here to stay, Marrow is ready to take the next step forward with this program and lead the Wildcats to the SEC Championship Game, potentially as early as next year.
“The days of other teams plucking our players and our coaches is over,” Marrow said at KSBar. “We’re going to focus on the next thing we’re going to do, and that’s getting to Atlanta. We’ll try to do it this year.”
Vince Marrow on returning to Kentucky: “Deep down in my heart I knew I was never going to leave this place.” pic.twitter.com/2TGaD2Q0HM
— Jack Pilgrim (@JackPilgrimKSR) February 15, 2020