Kentucky Wildcats

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Kentucky hands Mark Stoops a two-year contract extension

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After guiding Kentucky through its best season in nearly a decade, Mark Stoops has been rewarded.

Kentucky announced Wednesday afternoon that Stoops’ contract has been extended by two years.  The head coach’s previous deal had been set to run through June 30, 2020; the extension pushes that date out to June 30, 2020.

Stoops will earn $3.5 million in 2017, with the new contract calling for annual $250,000 raises.  In the last year of the contract extension, and barring any additional tweaking, Stoops could earn $4.75 million.

Additionally, if the Wildcats win at least seven games but no more than nine in a season, the contract automatically extends by one year.  If the team wins 10-plus games, it extends by two years. “Stoops will continue to receive $250,000 for each win beginning with the seventh win of each season and $50,000 per semester in which the team grade-point average is 2.75 or higher,” the release stated.

Participation in an SEC-affiliated bowl will net Stoops a $100,000 bonus, provided the Wildcats win at least six games that season.  There’s also a $50,000 bonus for earning a spot in a non-SEC bowl game, with the same six-win threshold.  Last season, UK qualified for a bowl game for the first time under Stoops and the first time under anyone since 2010.

“The last four years have been a grind for Mark and his staff, but he has never wavered in his commitment to building Kentucky football into a consistent winner,” a statement from athletic director Mitch Barnhart began. “While the work isn’t close to finished, we believe Mark is the coach to take us there. We are thankful to Mark and Chantel for all they have done to this point and we look forward to our program’s bright future under his leadership.”

The Wildcats’ 7-6 record last season was the program’s best since hitting the same mark in the last season under Rich Brooks in 2009.  The first three seasons with Stoops in control, UK posted a 12-24 mark.

In SEC play, they are just 8-24 since 2013, although they were 4-4 in conference play this past season.  The Wildcats have finished seventh (2013), sixth (2014), tied-fourth (2015) and tied-second (2016) in league play with Stoops as head coach.

“I want to thank Dr. (Eli) Capilouto, Mitch Barnhart and the Board of Trustees for their continued support,” Stoops said. “When we came here, doing a rebuild in a challenging situation, I said that full support from everyone involved was imperative and we have always received that. We needed great commitment, we’ve had great commitment and we’re continuing to get great commitment.”

If Stoops is fired by UK, he’s entitled to receive 75 percent of the remaining guaranteed compensation on the contract.  If Stoops leaves of his own accord, he’d owe the university $1 million regardless of how many years are left on the deal.

Bret Bielema tweets shade at SEC refs

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Arkansas and Kentucky played in the SEC Tournament’s championship game on Sunday, an 82-65 Wildcats rout.

As Kentucky pulled away for the championship, things got a little chippy. And by a little chippy, I mean an Arkansas player taking a shot to Kentucky’s best player’s face.

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Moses Kingsley was ejected from the game for that shot, but the Arkansas basketball team didn’t thing it was that big of a deal.

And in the eyes of Bret Bielema, the fault was with SEC officials being too chummy with Kentucky players.

Nothing like an SEC head football coach accusing his conference’s officials of being in a conspiracy with a fellow league member.

Kentucky LB Nico Firios announces transfer

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As spring football gets underway across the country, several players are getting out of town. The latest is Kentucky linebacker Nico Firios revealed Monday he will pursue a transfer.

“At this time I would like to announce that I will be transferring from UK,” Firios announced on his Twitter account. “I would like to thank Coach Stoops for the opportunity he gave me to come and play here. I would also like thank Kentucky fans for showing endless support through the good and bad! Lastly, I would like to thank my teammates for being my brothers and being at my side through it all. I’m forever grateful for this opportunity, and I am always going to be a Wildcat! The Big Blue Nation will always have a very special place in my heart! Thank you.”

A native of Longwood, Fla., Firios was a consensus 3-star recruit that redshirted in 2014, played in three games before suffering a season-ending injury in 2015 and collected five tackles in 13 appearances last fall.

A new destination for Firios was not immediately known.

On heels of WVU visit, Kentucky transfer WR set for trip to Oklahoma

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It appears the battle for the services of an SEC wide receiver may very well come down to a pair of Big 12 schools.

According to WVMetroNews.com, Jeff Badet visited West Virginia late last month.  This weekend, the same website is reporting, the receiver is scheduled to visit conference rival Oklahoma.

OU, of course, is coached by Bob Stoops.  Stoops’ younger brother, Mark Stoops, coached Badet for the past four seasons at Kentucky.

In mid-January, the Wildcats announced that Badet had decided to transfer out of the UK football program.  Badet is on schedule to graduate in May, meaning he’d be eligible to play immediately in 2017 regardless of where he lands at the FBS level.

A three-star member of the Wildcats’ 2013 recruiting class, Badet was third on the team in receptions and receiving yards as a true freshman.  A leg injury in spring practice the following year — a tennis ball to the eye didn’t help either — led Badet to miss the 2014 season.  Returning in 2015, he was third in receiving (29-430); in 2016, he led the team in receiving yards (670) and yards per catch (21.6).

That latter number was tops in the SEC and sixth nationally.

SEC Media Days 2017 Schedule Released

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Few things signal the transition from offseason into preseason quite like the annual gathering in Hoover, Alabama every summer that is SEC Media Week Days.

Now we not only have the dates for the annual press tour, but who’s going on what day. The conference has released the full schedule for the 2017 edition of SEC Media Days and it goes as follows:

Monday, July 10

Arkansas’ Bret Bielema, LSU’s Ed Orgeron, Tennessee’s Butch Jones

Tuesday, July 11

Florida’s Jim McElwain, Georgia’s Kirby Smart, Mississippi State’s Dan Mullen, Vanderbilt’s Derek Mason

Wednesday, July 12

Alabama’s Nick Saban, Kentucky’s Mark Stoops, Missouri’s Barry Odom, Texas A&M’s Kevin Sumlin

Thursday, July 13

Auburn’s Gus Malzahn, Ole Miss’ Hugh Freeze, South Carolina’s Will Muschamp

Things are still subject to changes between now and mid-July but it’s pretty safe to start making plans if you want to hang out by the escalators in the lobby. The names of the players from each school who will be attending have not been announced yet, but that news should come out later in the summer.

At first glance, it seems like a pretty jammed week. New Tigers coach Ed Orgeron leads off on Monday while SEC East favorites Florida and Georgia headline Tuesday (and don’t discount Dan Mullen getting asked about Ole Miss issues either). The conference king and local legend Nick Saban will be the attraction on Wednesday while Gus Malzahn, Hugh Freeze and Will Muschamp bat cleanup on Thursday.