Slowly but surely, Mark Stoops is establishing himself as one of the best coaches not only in his conference but across the country.
Back in May, a ranking of the top 65 head coaches in college football was unveiled by CBS Sports, with Stoops coming in at No. 22, the same ranking he had back in 2020. Considering where Kentucky Football was when he took over back in 2013 compared to where the program is now heading into the 2021 season, Stoops deserves every bit of praise that comes his way. But playing in the Southeastern Conference is no cake-walk, no matter how good of a coach you are.
On Tuesday, CBS Sports–in collaboration with experts from 247 Sports–released rankings for all 14 coaches from the SEC and Stoops came in among the top half of the bunch at No. 6, smacked right in between Auburn’s Bryan Harsin (No. 7) and LSU’s Ed Orgeron (No. 5).
Stoops’ No. 6 ranking is a slight boost from the 2020 season, when the same publication had him as the seventh-best head coach in the SEC.
SEC coach rankings 2021: Nick Saban remains king, Jimbo Fisher rises with big expectations aheadhttps://t.co/bm4JcHsXAY
— Barrett Sallee (@BarrettSallee) July 6, 2021
Stoops is just 24-42 during SEC games in his eight seasons at Kentucky so far, but he’s posted a 20-22 intraconference record since the 2016 season, including a 5-3 record in 2018. He recently ended lengthy streaks for UK against conference foes such as Florida and on the road against Tennessee.
Here’s what Barrett Sallee had to say about Stoops as he’s set to embark on his ninth season in Lexington.
Mark Stoops (22 overall): Kentucky has only contended for the SEC East title once during Stoops’ tenure in Lexington, but there’s no denying that his work since taking over in 2013 has been remarkable. The Wildcats have been to five straight bowl games, the last three of which have been wins, and posted a 10-win season and No. 11 finish in 2018. This isn’t at a traditional football power. It’s at Kentucky … a “basketball school.” Stoops has done a lot to shed that label and make football a huge deal at Kentucky. Last year: 7 in the SEC
Alabama’s Nick Saban unsurprisingly came in first with Texas A&M’s Jimbo Fisher and Georgia’s Kirby Smart rounding out the top three, respectively. Below are the full rankings.
1. Nick Saban (Alabama, No. 1 overall)
2. Jimbo Fisher (Texas A&M, No. 6 overall)
3. Kirby Smart (Georgia, No. 7 overall)
4. Dan Mullen (Florida, No. 10 overall)
5. Ed Orgeron (LSU, No. 11 overall)
6. Mark Stoops (Kentucky, No. 22 overall)
7. Bryan Harsin (Auburn, No. 27 overall)
8. Lane Kiffin (Ole Miss, No. 30 overall)
9. Mike Leach (Mississippi State, No. 33 overall)
10. Eli Drinkwitz (Missouri, No. 43 overall)
11. Sam Pittman (Arkansas, No. 50` overall)
12. Josh Heupel (Tennessee, No. 52 overall)
13. Clark Lea (Vanderbilt, No. 63 overall)
14. Shane Beamer (South Carolina, No. 65 overall)