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Kentucky extends coach Mark Stoops through 2018 season

Mark Stoops has proven he can recruit at Kentucky. Now, can he win? In his first two seasons, Mark Stoops has proven he can recruit at Kentucky. Now, can he win? (Mark Humphrey/AP)

Kentucky appears to think head coach Mark Stoops has the program headed in the right direction, as the Wildcats announced Tuesday that the school has extended the coach's contract through the 2018 season.

Stoops' new deal extends his term from Dec. 31, 2017 to June 30, 2019. The extension amounts to five remaining years on the coach's contract.

In a statement, Kentucky athletic director Mitch Barnhart said Stoops is doing all the right things with the Wildcats.

“We are excited about the enthusiasm and recruiting success that Mark and his staff have brought to our football program,” Barnhart said. “We had the nation’s second-largest increase in attendance last season and we have had the two largest spring-game attendances in school history (in 2013 and 2014). In recruiting, Mark and his tireless assistant coaches have made an obvious impact with their first two classes and that momentum is carrying forward for 2015.”

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According to Kyle Tucker of the Louisville Courier-Journal, Stoops will also receive a pay raise over the final two seasons of his new deal.

Stoops, a former defensive coordinator at Florida State, went 2-10 last year in his first season as head coach in Lexington, including 0-8 in the SEC. But Stoops has been building a foundation with recruiting: Kentucky's 2013 signing class ranked 29th in the country, according to Rivals.com, which was the school's highest-rated class in history. The Wildcats improved on that mark with a 28-member class in 2014 that was regarded as the 17th-best in the country and included 10 four-star signees.

Kentucky has also drawn crowds of more than 50,000 and 35,000 fans, respectively, to its first two spring games under Stoops, the most to ever attend spring games in Lexington.

With that fan support and the Wildcats' improved recruiting, it's easy to understand why the school would extend Stoops's contract. The coach has basically been forced to oversee a complete turnaround with the Kentucky program. Former head coach Joker Phillips digressed in each of his three seasons in Lexington, where he won four total SEC games and failed to recruit against the best in the conference. Stoops's next step will be turning his own impressive recruiting numbers into wins.

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