Kentucky coach Mark Stoops and the school have agreed in principle to a contract extension that will stretch the deal out through the end of the 2027-28 season, the school announced on Tuesday.
"I'm excited to continue to build this program to national prominence," Stoops said in a release. "We're on our way and I'm more confident in Kentucky football than I've ever been. I thank President Capilouto and [athletic director] Mitch Barnhart for their support. The continuity among us for the last nine years is extremely valuable and I'm looking forward to more success together.
"Mitch and I came to an agreement a week or two ago and shook hands on it Saturday afternoon. This process is a compliment to our relationship."
Though the contract has not been finalized, the announcement comes in the wake of Oklahoma beginning its national search for a new coach following Lincoln Riley's departure to USC. Not only does Stoops have unique insight into the program through his brother Bob Stoops -- who happens to be the Sooners' interim coach for their upcoming bowl game -- but he's a worthy candidate based on his success with Kentucky. The Wildcats are currently experiencing one of their most successful eras in school history, garnering attention from other Power Five programs looking for a new head coach in recent cycles.
So like James Franklin at Penn State and Mel Tucker at Michigan State, this extension signals Stoops' commitment to stay at Kentucky and be the Wildcats coach for the foreseeable future. Stoops has compiled a 58-53 record at Kentucky and is set to lead the Wildcats to their sixth consecutive bowl appearance.
Stoops' success pays off with his Kentucky contract
It's been suggested that Stoops has one of the best contracts in all of college sports, and that argument hinges on the inclusion of guaranteed extensions. Having guaranteed extensions is not unique. But, at Kentucky, the school rewards Stoops with a one-year extension automatically for any season with seven wins, including the bowl game, and a 10-win season triggers two extra years on the deal.
Since Kentucky went 9-3 in 2021, the terms of his old deal already added one year to take it through 2026-27. So really just one extra year was added on with this announcement, though a bowl win could take Stoops' contract all the way to 2028-29 as the school has noted the same seven-win and 10-win markers will be included in the new contract.
Impact on the coaching carousel
With Stoops staying put, that's not only a name to take off the list for schools like Oklahoma and Notre Dame but also a good sign for Kentucky in the event of a "domino opening." Having Kentucky consistently competing for top-three spots in the SEC East is enough of an accomplishment to warrant consideration for any Power five job, and chances are good that there's an athletic director who will need to act quickly in the event of losing a coach to another college job or the NFL.
Stoops has not only shown the ability to guide Kentucky out of the basement of the division but staying power through turnover on the field and the coaching staff. Those qualities and his track record would have him high on the list for that athletic director who needs to make a hire quick, but this announcement suggests he'd rather keep building in Lexington.