Not even Bob Stoops’ brother knew he was planning to retire.
After 18 seasons at Oklahoma, Stoops surprised the college football world in June by stepping down and handing the reins to offensive coordinator Lincoln Riley. His brother Mark, the head coach at Kentucky, was shocked like the rest of us.
Mark said Wednesday at SEC Media Days he didn’t have an inkling it was coming.
“It’s one of those moments you won’t forget because he called me and it came out of the blue. I had really no idea it was coming, but he called me and told me what was going to happen in the future, in the very near future,” he said. “And it was a bit of a shock to me to be honest with you. I had to walk out of my office and walk around the practice field. And that’s where I had that conversation with him away from everybody. So I was shocked.”
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Mark, who is seven years younger than Bob, said he had “mixed emotions” about his brother’s decision to walk away at age 56. At the same time, he’s proud Bob was able to do it on his own terms — a move very befitting of his character.
“Very proud of him, what he’s done, and very happy for him and Carol and his family, to be able to step away when he wants, how he wants. That’s Bob,” Mark said.
“I don’t know how many people have done that, but that’s — that’s kind of him. He walks away when he wants to do it, on his terms. And I think it was very important for him to walk away with a good football team with a chance to win his league and get in the playoffs and hand off a program that he took so much pride in building. So I have mixed emotions about it still, but proud of him and hope the very best for him.”
Bob Stoops exited Oklahoma with the most wins in program history: 190. He won 10 Big 12 titles and the 2000 national championship.
The younger Stoops, formerly the defensive coordinator at Arizona and Florida State, is entering his fifth season at Kentucky with a 19-30 (8-24 SEC) record. He inherited a rebuilding effort and took the Wildcats to a bowl game, the first of his tenure, in 2016.
On Wednesday, Mark said the Wildcats are “getting in position” to compete for an SEC East crown.
For more Kentucky news, CatsIllustrated.com.
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