Mark Stoops: People say it's not personal. Well, it is

Posted by: Chris Vannini on Tuesday April 18, 2017


Recruiting is a cut-throat part of college coaching, and Mark Stoops says it’s personal by design.

With the (likely) upcoming early signing period, it could cut down on late flips in the process. Before that passed, Stoops joined Kentucky Sports Radio and was asked if it hurts to lose a flip or lose a kid in a close battle.

“Of course it does,” he said. “The common phrase is, ‘It’s not personal.’ Well, it is personal. Recruiting is personal, because we spend so much time on it. We work at it, we evaluate, we watch tape, we watch these kids for years, we build relationships with them on the phone, by them coming to campus, social media, just all the time we put into it. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t get frustrated.”

But Stoops accepts it, and he’s been on the other side too, winning a recruiting battle. UK is a basketball school, and flipping or recruiting a committed player is something that doesn’t happen as much with hoops, maybe because there are far more players in football.

“I’ll tell you this, it’s just part of our job. It is. It’s part of our job,” Stoops said. “We’ve taken guys that were committed to other schools and other schools have taken guys that were committed to us. What (media) aren’t used to, because you follow it so closely and you follow basketball, it really doesn’t happen in basketball. Even the basketball coaches kind of shake their heads when we talk to them about it. ‘How do you guys deal with that?’”

It’s only gotten tougher over the last decade. Take the Big Ten for example. There used to be a gentleman’s agreement not to recruit players who were committed to other Big Ten schools. Urban Meyer came in, changed that, and the rest of the league followed what the rest of the country was doing.

“If I go back 10-12 years as an assistant. We used to take it personal, get mad, maybe if you saw the coach that took him, you’d say something to him or whatever,” Stoops said. “Nowadays, shoot, my own brother will recruit my player, I’ll recruit my brother’s player, my best friends are in coaching at other schools, we’re going to recruit them, you know what? You don’t even say a word.

“Want to know why? It’s a part of our landscape. It’s just what we do. I have an obligation to recruit the best players at Kentucky. I’m going to do that. I’m not afraid of competition. We’re going to grind, get some and lose some. But what you have to keep perspective is that it’s just part of our deal. Look at the top 10 college programs. They go through it, as well.”

While losing a recruit can bite at Stoops, he doesn’t want fans to take it the same way.

“Sometimes fans get upset if someone decommits, and it’s just like, what’s meant to be is meant to be,” he said. “We’ll get the players that are meant to be at Kentucky.”

Kentucky had the No. 29 recruiting class for 2017, but that was also No. 11 in the SEC. The Wildcats currently have six committed players for the class of 2018.

Chris Vannini is in his fifth year with CoachingSearch.com and serves as its managing editor. He has previously written for the Detroit Free Press, The Oakland Press, The State News, MLive.com, 247Sports and SB Nation.  A graduate of Michigan State University, Chris now lives in the Dallas-Fort Worth area.  Be sure to follow @coachingsearch and send emails to chris@coachingsearch.com.