Kentucky tabs Mark Stoops as head football coach

Florida State defensive coordinator Mark Stoops will become the new head football coach at Kentucky, the university announced on Tuesday.

Stoops will replace Joker Phillips, fired earlier this month in the wake of a 2-10 season that marked the program's worst performance since 1994. The Wildcats finished 0-8 in Southeastern Conference play as well.

The 45-year-old Stoops oversaw a dramatic defensive turnaround since joining Jimbo Fisher's staff at Florida State in 2010. Inheriting a unit that ranked 108th nationally in total defense, the Seminoles placed 42nd in that category while allowing 19.6 points per game in his first season, then ended near the top of FBS in nearly every major statistic the following year.

Florida State led the nation with an average of 2.3 rushing yards per carry in 2011 while placing second overall against the run (82.7 ypg) and fourth in both total defense (275.0 ypg) and scoring defense (15.1 ppg).

The Seminoles also excelled on that side of the ball this season, ranking second nationally in total defense (249.4 ypg), fourth in rushing yards allowed and pass efficiency defense and seventh in scoring defense (15.1 ppg) heading into Saturday's Atlantic Coast Conference Championship Game.

Stoops' contributions helped Florida State post a 10-2 overall record and an Atlantic Division championship in the ACC this season. The Seminoles are currently 13th in the Associated Press top 25.

"Our desire to get better defensively and continue to expand our recruiting base helped guide us to Mark," said UK athletics director Mitch Barnhart. "He comes from a coaching family and has been in big games and big atmospheres throughout his career. That has prepared him for this opportunity to become head coach at Kentucky."

Stoops, the younger brother of Oklahoma head coach Bob Stoops and former Arizona program architect Mike Stoops, spent six seasons as the defensive coordinator under Mike Stoops from 2004-09 before joining Florida State. The Wildcats were 109th in total defense prior to his arrival, but improved into the top 25 by the conclusion of his tenure.

A former defensive back for Hayden Fry at the University of Iowa, Stoops entered the coaching ranks as a graduate assistant at his alma mater in 1989 and has also served as an assistant at Wyoming, Houston and Miami-Florida during a 23-year career. This will be his first assignment as a head coach.

"I want to thank President (Eli) Capilouto and Mitch Barnhart for this opportunity," said Stoops. "I promise the faithful of the Big Blue Nation I will be focused and driven to create a positive, winning atmosphere for the program and an environment that all of Kentucky can be proud of."

Neither Stoops nor Florida State has said whether he will coach the Seminoles in Saturday's ACC title game against Florida State in Charlotte, NC.

Phillips, a former Kentucky player and assistant, took over as the Wildcats' head coach in January of 2010 following the retirement of Rich Brooks. Kentucky earned a berth in the BBVA Compass Bowl in his first season at the helm, but went just 13-24 overall during his three years in charge and compiled a 4-20 mark in SEC play.