Kentucky football’s Mark Stoops reiterates support for fans after radio show controversy

10/11/2023
During an appearance on the SEC football coaches teleconference Wednesday, Mark Stoops clarified his intention when he asked disgruntled fans to “pony up” with name, image and likeness donations on his radio show.
“To me, I was responding to one person at a radio show,” Stoops said. “And that was one part that was taken completely out of context. I love our fans, whether they give one cent, one dollar or a lot of money. It doesn’t matter. I love our fan base. I think we have a great relationship with myself and the fan base. We need them here this week. We’ve got to get back on track. We’ve got to have a great week. We need that environment rocking.”
On his radio show Monday, Stoops first stuck with the same talking points he used in the immediate aftermath of the 51-13 loss at Georgia and at his news conference that afternoon about the performance from both coaches and players being unacceptable. Toward the end of the show he seemed to react to an earlier caller’s complaint about UK’s inability to compete with programs like Georgia and Alabama by bringing up the importance of NIL opportunities in assembling a roster now.
“Fans have that right (to complain),” Stoops said. “I give it to them. I just encourage them to donate more, because that’s what those dudes are doing. I can promise you, Georgia, they bought some pretty good players. You’re allowed to these days. We could use some help.”
Stoops’ ire was drawn earlier in the show when a caller identified as “Jason in Louisville” complained about the Wildcats’ inability to beat the elite teams in the SEC during Stoops’ tenure, citing a stat that was circulated on social media after the Georgia loss that noted Stoops’ Kentucky teams had beaten just two teams that finished the season with a winning record in SEC play.
Stoops took issue with that stat, instead pointing out that Kentucky was tied for fourth in the SEC in wins since 2018.
“Georgia is one for a reason,” Stoops said. “I give them a lot of credit. Would I like to be there, yes? But there’s a big difference between one and everybody else.
“You’re climbing the ladder in the SEC. You think it’s easy? I sat here and watched a bunch of people try to do it. It’s not easy at a lot of different schools. So, believe me, I respect Jason and want his support. I’m not being sensitive about it, but bring it on Jason. See if you can do it.”
After Georgia’s Tuesday practice, Bulldogs coach Kirby Smart declined to fire back at Stoops.
“No reaction,” Smart said, according to the Athens Banner-Herald. “It’s much to do about nothing, really. Mark is trying to garner interest in money from his fan base for his collective. We’re all trying to do the same in terms of trying get money for our collective. Mark and I talked about NIL pregame and we talked about it in our meetings. I’m not biting on that.”
During his teleconference appearance Stoops again gave Georgia credit for its performance Saturday and took responsibility for Kentucky’s poor play.
But he did not back down from the reality that NIL donations are needed in the current college football landscape.
“As far as fans being disgruntled or unhappy about the way we lost, I’m not happy about it either,” Stoops said. “You know me, I always take that in stride. I always agree. I don’t take any offense. I’ve been around this league for a long time. I don’t flinch when that stuff happens. I take it in stride. I accept it. I own it, and try to move on. But really just simply trying to rally people.
“I think people just want to take one little piece of it and blow it completely out of proportion. Just listen to the whole thing. Just listen to Kirby. He knows. He knows exactly what I was saying. We’re all in the same boat. Kirby is probably happy. He’s probably trying to rally up more money too. We all need it. It’s just the way it is. I wasn’t taking any shots. I took full responsibility. We got our butts beat, we need to respond better. That’s it.”

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