There are reports emerging this afternoon that Texas A&M has filled its head coaching vacancy.
The reported leading contenders were interesting, to say the least. Both Mark Stoops and Mike Elko have extensive ties to former A&M head coach Jimbo Fisher. Elko previously served as the defensive coordinator under Fisher. Stoops was a defensive coordinator at Florida State under Fisher before getting the promotion to Kentucky. Whittingham’s credentials are sterling and unquestionable. Fisch is slowly resuscitating a long-dormant Arizona program. Traylor is a hot name in coaching circles in the state of Texas for his remarkable work at UTSA.
Bruce Feldman threw in a curveball on Saturday morning with a report that Ohio State’s Ryan Day could be a surprise contender for the job. Day would be a home run hire given his gold-plated credentials as a recruiter, offensive guru, and person.
Another interestingly wild rumor is that Clemson’s head coach Dabo Swinney has thrown his hat into the ring for the job. Swinney has an interesting take on the Name, Likeness, and Image rights process. He is fundamentally far apart from a program like Texas A&M taking advantage of such deals. Coach Swinney has not utilized the transfer portal as much as his contemporaries have.
Per multiple sources, including Gigem247 and AggieYell, it has been confirmed that Stoops is indeed the next coach at Texas A&M
Who is Mark Stoops and what will he bring to the program?
Stoops is the younger brother of coaching legend Bob Stoops and played for Iowa under coaching legend Hayden Fry. Although Stoops never coached under Bob, he has coached under brother Mike at Arizona. It was a slow and steady climb up the coaching ranks as it took 14 years for him to secure a head coaching job. He was the defensive coordinator for Florida State for three seasons, leaving for Kentucky before the 2013 season.
He led the Wildcats to a 73-64 overall record and a 35-55 record in the SEC. Kentucky has been to seven straight bowl games on his watch and will be in an eighth later this season. The 73 wins at Kentucky is first on the leaderboard, ahead of the venerated Bear Bryant. Stoops has led the Wildcats to a 10-win season twice in a span of four seasons. A remarkable feat given the nature of the program and its stature in the SEC East hierarchy. Interestingly, Bear Bryant also left for Texas A&M after a spell in Lexington.
Notably, he’s known for his defensive acumen. The Wildcats have produced numerous NFL athletes such as Bud Dupree, Zadarius Smith, Lonnie Johnson, and Josh Allen. Offensively, they have developed players such as Wan’Dale Robinson, Lynn Bowden, Benny Snell, and Will Levis under his tenure.
Stoops finishes his Wildcat tenure with six straight wins in the Governor’s Cup rivalry against Louisville. He also ended the long-running losing streak to Florida and has won three of the past four in the series. Coach Stoops has an annual salary of $8.6 million at this point.
With a program with seemingly limitless resources like A&M, it shouldn’t be a problem for Stoops. He averaged a class ranking that ranked around 31st nationally during his tenure in Lexington. Infamously, he got into a spat with longtime UK basketball head coach John Calipari a couple of years ago about recruiting in general. This offseason, he was asking for NIL donations for the program.
What’s next for the Wildcats?
Obviously, with Stoops’ departure, a coaching search must be initiated quickly as the portal opens immediately with a coaching change. Kentucky currently has the 12th-best class in the SEC and 21st overall nationally.
It remains to be seen how Stoops will shape his next staff in College Station but OC Liam Coen could get a call to remain in the same role. Inside linebackers coach Mike Stoops should be another assistant heading to A&M. Any possible head coaching candidates should begin with a call to Troy head coach Jon Sumrall, a previous Stoops assistant.