Kentucky coach Mark Stoops decides to stay with Wildcats after emerging as Texas A&M’s top target

With the college football regular season coming to a close, the Texas A&M coaching search is coming into focus. And as we all expected, it’s a rollercoaster finding the next Aggies football coach. Though it appeared on Saturday that Texas A&M was ready to move forward with its top target, Kentucky coach Mark Stoops, with an announcement imminent, Stoops instead confirmed via social media overnight that he will be staying with the Wildcats. 

“I know there’s been much speculation about me and my job situation the last couple of days,” Stoops tweeted. “It’s true I was contacted about a potential opportunity this weekend, but after celebrating a big win against our rivals with players I love like family, I knew in my heart I couldn’t leave the University of Kentucky right now. I have a great job at a place I love, and I get to work with the best administration and greatest fan base in college football right where I’m at. I’m excited to say I’m a Wildcat!”

Stoops, 56, took over a moribund Kentucky team in 2013, eventually guiding the Wildcats to a bowl game appearance in his fourth season. Since 2018, Stoops has quietly transformed into one of the top coaches in the SEC. He has a 47-28 record over the past six years with four bowl wins over the past five seasons. Kentucky has won 10 games twice over that period, which matches the same number that Texas A&M has since 1998. Prior to Stoops’s arrival, the Wildcats had not won 10 games since 1977. 

For a time on Saturday, it seemed likely he was prepared to take on a much larger SEC challenge in attempting to lead Texas A&M to prominence. That’s not the case anymore, however, as a continued run with Kentucky is in the cards. 

Texas A&M is aiming to replace Jimbo Fisher, who was fired after six seasons with the Aggies. Fisher was hailed as a savior when he was hired away from Florida State; the school gifted Fisher a blank national championship plaque to set the expectation of his tenure. After a lackluster 6-4 start to the 2023 season, however, Texas A&M brass had decided it was time for the marriage to end. Fisher is owed more than $70 million in buyout funds, tripling the next-highest buyout in college football history. 

The Aggies quest to find a new coach comes amid a critical time for the program. The Aggies reeled in the No. 1 recruiting class of all time in 2022 and the lion’s share will be juniors in 2024. Texas A&M ranks No. 4 in the 247Sports Team Talent Composite, trailing only Alabama, Georgia and Ohio State. Keeping the roster together and maximizing the 2024 season will be top of mind for any coach that takes the reins in College Station, Texas

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