Let’s get this out of the way first: Mark Stoops shouldn’t even be allowed to clean out his desk. He should be fired before he gets to the locker room, escorted out of Commonwealth Stadium, and never allowed to return. Mitch Barnhart could hand him a check for the balance of his contract and be in Baton Rouge in time to give Les Miles one for his new job:
Les Miles head coach at the University of Kentucky. Of course, that won’t happen, but here’s why it should . . .
Mark Stoops is not a good coach. It’s that simple. In fact, it has become clear that he may not even be a mediocre coach. I won’t go so far as to call him totally incompetent, but there is an argument to be made for that. We won’t delve too deeply into the numbers here—that’s more Dave’s thing, anyway—except these: 5-7 and 7-3 (at the time of writing). Kentucky has won five games this season and, though they may limp into a bowl game (or not), probably won’t win that one, either. Of those five wins, only one was against a team of even marginal quality: a Mizzou team that has since fallen apart.
Now we can sit here and holler about all of the things Stoops has going against him—lack of talent, tough schedule, blah, blah, blah—but there is one overarching problem that most everyone has noticed in some form or another, but has yet to be addressed. A problem that was apparent in the very first game of the season. A problem that was on full display during the beat down Bobby Petrino just gave him in the second half. The problem: lack of hustle.
Now, I can hear y’all through the internet, “you idiot, what does that even mean?” Allow me to elaborate.
In the season opener versus LA-Lafayette, the Cats put on an impressive performance in the first half and then . . . proceeded to do as close to literally nothing as a team could do in the second half. A game that should’ve been a curb stomp turned into a squeaker. Against a Sun Belt team. It’s a fairly common problem, particularly among younger, less experienced teams: they either get a few ahead or behind and then just lay down. There’s no hustle for the rest of the game. No problem, a good coach could cure that fairly quickly as the season goes along. Surely by the time conference play rolls around everything should be good, right? Wrong. For three consecutive games (Miss. St., TN, GA), the Cats got hit on the jaw early and just quit. We won’t even get into the fiasco that was EKU, where they came out flat and never got over it.
That win was pure luck.
Then there’s today’s game against Louisville, catastrophe that it was. Both sides of the problem were on full display. Kentucky ran the score up early and went into halftime 24-7. It’s a shame they never scored again. They came out riding high and never even saw the Cards coming. They were ahead and quit trying. By the time Louisville had tied the game up, it was too late. The score was even, but the teams were not. One was motivated; hustling. The other was confused, flat, and in disarray. You’d think that tying up the game would put some fire under the Cats. It didn’t and we all knew it wouldn’t. Why? Because they had already quit. For a second, it looked like they might put up a fight, but Louisville put two more on the board and that was the end. Both for the game and the season.
Now, it might seem like I’m blaming the team. Rest assured, I’m not. Lack of hustle is entirely a coaching problem. One of the most important duties of a head coach is to keep his team motivated and disciplined on the field. Mark Stoops has proven woefully incapable of doing so. He has failed to perform a primary duty of his office for the second year in a row.
But do you know who doesn’t have this issue? Les Miles. He has never had a problem keeping the Tigers going the whole game. It’s true that he’s had a tough time the last few games, but nothing nearly as embarrassing at what’s been happening the UK. There haven’t been any no-holds-barred beatdowns of LSU this year. You know what else Miles has? A National Championship. But there’s more! He also appears to have a booster club that’s pulling a “we should see other people.” And as we all know, the boosters’ opinions are the only ones that matter. If the Tigers don’t pull it out against A&M tonight, you can bet Les will be updating his resume tomorrow morning. And it’s a resume that would be perfect for Lexington. The perennial recruiting problem would be largely alleviated and there’s no doubt about his ability to coach just about anyone.
No matter what, it’s time for a change. UK has had two untested nobodies who ended up being unmitigated disasters. It time to hire someone proven, someone experienced, someone with some hustle. Les Miles loves hats. Mitch Barnhart should buy him a blue one.