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Kentucky hires former Arizona defensive coordinator Mark Stoops as head coach

Mark Stoops

Mark Stoops’ defense at Florida State currently ranks second in the nation, allowing 249.4 yards per game. Photo by Melina Vastola-US PRESSWIRE

One of the nation’s hottest defensive coordinators is taking over the Wildcats at a basketball school.

Sound familiar?

After the 2003 season, it was Oklahoma’s Mike Stoops becoming a head coach for the first time, hired by Arizona. He brought in his brother Mark Stoops, who was the secondary coach at Miami, as his defensive coordinator.

Now, it’s Mark’s turn to sit in the head coach’s chair and bring home the big paycheck.

The Kentucky Wildcats hired Stoops, the defensive coordinator at Florida State for the past two seasons, on Tuesday to replace the fired Joker Phillips.

It was only a matter of time for Mark, 45, whose name has been in the wind as a head coaching candidate for the past several years.

He was up for the Rice job after the 2007 season (the Owls had a vacancy after Todd Graham left after one season) and was reportedly the top candidate for the Youngstown State job in December 2009.

Mark did leave Arizona after that season, but for the Florida State job, joining new coach Jimbo Fisher. The job in Youngstown, Ohio — the Stoops’ hometown — went to former UA assistant Eric Wolford.

Mark Stoops faces an arduous task at Kentucky, which was 2-10 overall this season and 0-8 in the SEC. The Wildcats have had only seven winning seasons since 1985 and have taken a step back from the progress Rich Brooks made from 2003 to 2009, when the Cats were sometimes near the middle of the league.

Here is what Kentucky athletics director Mitch Barnhart said in a press release about Stoops:

“Mark’s passion has been evident in the way he coaches and in his love for the game of football. That passion carried over into our process and his desire to wear the Blue and White. Our desire to get better defensively and continue to expand our recruiting base helped guide us to Mark. He comes from a coaching family and has been in big games and big atmospheres throughout his career.”

Stoops and older brother Mike provided quite a vocal duo on the sideline for Arizona, and the presumption is that Mike missed his brother’s candid feedback when Mark left. Mark is somewhere in between Mike and brother Bob, the head coach at Oklahoma, in terms of sideline outbursts.

There are no guarantees when hiring an assistant to be a first-time head coach, but this is a good, logical hire for Kentucky. Stoops will bring a burst of energy and name-brand credibility to the program; he’s better with the media than Mike; and his recruiting ties to Florida and neighboring Ohio should bring in solid talent.

Stoops is the sixth former Arizona assistant to be a current head coach at the college level. The others are:

–East Illinois’ Dino Babers (at Arizona from 1995-2000)

–New Mexico’s Bob Davie (1979)

–Louisiana Tech’s Sonny Dykes (2007-09)

–Army’s Rich Ellerson (1992-1995; 1997-2000)

–Wolford (2004-2006)

Dykes, after three seasons at Louisiana Tech, is a hot commodity on the coaching carousel. Expect him to land a bigger job sooner rather than later; footballscoop.com reported Tuesday than North Carolina State is interested in Dykes.

As the coaching carousel spins, seven former Arizona assistants — including four who were coaching at Colorado — will be looking for new jobs after the head coach was fired. They are:

Jay Boulware (2001-2003), Auburn specials teams coordinator/tight ends

Greg Brown (2010), Colorado defensive coordinator/secondary

Garret Chachere (2009-2011), Southern Miss tight ends/special teams coordinator

Bobby Kennedy (2001), Colorado wide receivers

Rip Scherer (1989-1990), Colorado assistant head coach/quarterbacks

Mike Tuiasosopo (2004-2010), Colorado defensive line

Kevin Wolthausen (1985-1986), Purdue defensive line

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