LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – Chalk one up for persistence. Mark Stoops has been through all of the dark nights of the soul when it comes to Kentucky football. The three straight losing seasons to open his tenure, the difficult coaches show questions from far-flung Kentucky places, the frustration of near-misses.

None of that goes away with the award Stoops got on Tuesday, but having weathered all of that makes being named the 2018 Associated Press SEC Coach of the Year pretty sweet.

It’s a nod to Stoops’ perseverance, his persistence on the recruiting trail, and the support shown to him by UK athletics director Mitch Barnhart and the school’s administration. In a time when many new coaches get three years to make a bowl game or else, their decision to stick with a coach they believed in paid off in a 9-3 season in 2018.

“Thanks to everyone for the congratulations regarding Coach of the Year!” Stoops said in a Twitter message. “I am humbled and reminded of what we talked about since we arrived at UK -- it takes all of us, and I'm so grateful to the players, coaches, administrators and great fans who made this possible.”

 

Stoops is the first Kentucky coach to win the AP’s coach of the year honor since Jerry Claiborne in 1993 and only the fifth coach ever to win the award. Bear Bryant (1950) and Fran Curci (1977) also won the award.

Next, Stoops will go after his first bowl win at Kentucky, after three losses. The No. 14-ranked Wildcats will face No. 12 Penn State in the Citrus Bowl on New Year's Day at 1 p.m.

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