Where to land on expectations for this UK football team is tough. The talent is obviously there, maybe moreso than ever before in UK football and definitely moreso than at any point in the Mark Stoops era. The Cats have been to back-to-back bowls, and have had moderate SEC success. But they’ve also had several setbacks and last season certainly had its tough moments in a blown loss to Florida and blowout loss to Louisville. Plus, the schedule toughens up significantly from 2017.
You have certain fans who look at these factors and are calling for a 6 win campaign for the Cats and calling that a success. You have the other side saying that in Year 6 of any coaching tenure, calling for a .500 season is not good enough, especially with the talent on roster. I think it is hard to reasonably call for much of a step up in record this year when the Cats will likely only be favored in 5 or 6 games but at the same time, their competitiveness in each and every game will be a must. Any blowouts this season will be unacceptable in my eyes.
Just for comparisons sake though, I went back to each SEC school and found all of the coaches who lasted at least 6 seasons since 1990. Below are the 21 coaches who that applies to, their overall record going into the 6th season, and their results in that 6th season:
Alabama: Gene Stallings (52-10-1), 6th year: 8-3
Alabama: Nick Saban (55-12), 6th year: 13-1
Arkansas: Houston Nutt (39-23), 6th year: 9-4
Auburn: Terry Bowden (46-12-1), 6th year: 1-5 (resigned mid-season)
Auburn: Tommy Tuberville (38-24), 6th year: 13-0
Auburn: Guz Malzahn (45-22), 6th year: TBD
Florida: Steve Spurrier (49-16-1), 6th year: 12-1
Florida: Urban Meyer (57-10), 6th year: 8-5
Georgia: Mark Richt (52-13), 6th year: 9-4
Kentucky: Bill Curry (18-38), 6th year: 4-7
Kentucky: Rich Brooks (25-35), 6th year: 7-6
Kentucky: Mark Stoops (26-36), 6th year: TBD
LSU: Les Miles (51-15), 6th year: 11-2
Ole Miss: David Cutcliffe (30-19), 6th year: 10-3
Mississippi State: Jackie Sherril (29-27-2), 6th year: 5-6
Mississippi State: Dan Mullen (36-28), 6th year: 10-3
South Carolina: Lou Holtz (27-29), 6th year: 6-5 (retied after season)
South Carolina: Steve Spurrier (35-28), 6th year: 9-5
Tennessee: Phillip Fulmer (43-9), 6th year: 11-2
Texas A&M: Kevin Sumlin (44-21), 6th year: 7-5 (fired after season)
Vanderbilt: Bobby Johnson (15-43), 6th year: 5-7
There are 21 instances listed above with 2 of the coaches (Stoops and Malzahn) entering their 6th seasons this year. So taking them out of the picture, you have the following:
- Of the 19 coaches, 12 won at least 8 games in their 6th season and 14 of the 19 won at least 7 games.
- Of the 7 coaches who won 7 or fewer games in their 6th season, only four returned for a 7th season. Two were fired and one retired.
- With that said, Stoops will become only the 5th coach since 1990 in the SEC to make it to the 6th season with an overall losing record. Two of the other four were Bill Curry and Rich Brooks.
I think what is clear above is Kentucky, more than any other SEC school, is patient with its coaches. Even six years in, UK sticks with its guy and they are doing the same with Stoops. And I think fans have been plenty patient with the ups and downs of this tenure. But I see this season really being a make or break season for fan support of the program. I am not saying eight wins is a requirement as it was with basically every other SEC school not named Vanderbilt. But six years in, with this talent, it is a MUST than UK is not embarrassed again like it was against Georgia and Louisville last season. No more curb stompings. If Stoops can not accomplish that, and 6 wins follows, I’m not sure the seat doesn’t deserve to get a little hotter for 2019.