Stoops has ‘nothing but fond memories of Hawkeyes experience’


Keith Taylor

Kentucky football coach Mark Stoops played his college football at Iowa.

By Keith Taylor, Kentucky Today

LEXINGTON (KT) — Mark Stoops hasn’t forgotten his time at Iowa.

The Kentucky football coach played for the Hawkeyes from 1986-88 and later served as a graduate assistant under legendary and late Iowa coach Hayden Fry. His brothers, Bob and Mike Stoops, also played for the Hawkeyes.

For nearly a decade, a Stoops brother was on the team at Iowa, and they all wore the No. 41, helping Fry build the program from the bottom to the top.

“It’s hard to put into words what the Iowa program has meant to us,” Stoops said Sunday. “In the early part of our careers, playing and just getting started coaching. I remember (while growing up), playing football games on Friday night, my dad coaching on Friday night, getting in the car, driving 10 hours, arriving in the morning, watching my brothers play, staying Saturday night, getting back in the car and driving for 10 hours back home. …

“Everybody was just so good to us during our time there and helped shape a lot of what we became. The success we’ve had has a lot to do with the roots of Iowa. Nothing but fond memories from the Hawkeye experience.”

As Stoops was trying to figure out his future plans in Iowa City, he also experienced some of the most difficult times of his life. After finally getting his chance to be a starter at defensive back, he blew out his knee prior to a game against Michigan. The injury occurred during the same time frame he lost his father, Ron Stoops, a legendary high school coach at Cardinal Mooney High School in Youngstown, Ohio.

Stoops recalled the comfort the entire program provided during the week of his father’s passing. Ron Stoops was buried with Mark Stoops’ Iowa game jersey “very neatly folded” inside his casket.

Iowa’s current coach, Kirk Ferentz, served as an offensive line coach under Fry during Stoops’ time with the Hawkeyes. The Kentucky coach said Ferentz hasn’t changed during the past three-plus decades and “knew that he would go on to big things.”

“What I remember about him is what you see now,” Stoops said. “He’s just an impressive man and an impressive coach that was always nothing but professional … you just saw a man that was going to be successful.”

Along with Fry and Ferentz, Stoops was influenced by then-Hawkeyes defensive coordinator Bill Brazier.

“He made an enormous impact on myself and my brothers,” Stoops said. “…Just an incredible man, just like very coach that has been through there during our time. He was really the ultimate, really old-school, tough guy, but also very caring (and) very influential person in my life. I have nothing but respect for coach (Brazier).”

Stoops described himself as an “average” player and added that he may break out a few clips to give the Wildcats a few laughs before the first day of 2022.

“I was not very impressive as a player there, that’s for sure,” he said. “I loved my time there, did the best I could. I’m not going to make excuses but back then, when you when you tore up a knee, it was a little different than it is right now. Still no fun, but I had my fair share of injuries that led to an early knee replacement.”

On the flip side, Stoops hasn’t given much thought to what it will be like coaching against his alma mater, but is looking forward to the opportunity to lead the Wildcats into a sixth consecutive bowl game.

“I don’t know (how I will react) yet, because it’s still very fresh in my mind,” he said. “It will be different for me.”