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Friday July 3rd, 2015 2:16AM

Kentucky hires FSU assistant Mark Stoops as coach

By The Associated Press
LEXINGTON, Ky. -- Kentucky has found its new football coach.

The Wildcats announced Tuesday that they have hired Florida State defensive coordinator Mark Stoops to coach the Wildcats.

Stoops replaces Joker Phillips, who was fired on Nov. 4. Phillips went 13-24 in three seasons at Kentucky. The Wildcats were 0-8 in the Southeastern Conference this year.

The 45-year-old Stoops will be introduced here at a news conference on Sunday. No. 13 Florida State (10-2) plays Georgia Tech Saturday in the Atlantic Coast Conference championship game.

His hiring concludes a quicker-than-expected coaching search for the university. After Saturday's season-ending loss at Tennessee, Kentucky athletic director Mitch Barnhart said he had no timetable to find a replacement for Phillips.

But it didn't take long for Barnhart and the Wildcats to make a move. The decision makes Stoops a head coach for the first time in his career.

``I want to thank (Kentucky) President Eli Capilouto and Mitch Barnhart for this opportunity,'' Stoops said in a statement. ``I promise the faithful of the Big Blue Nation I will be focused and driven to create a positive, winning atmosphere for the program and an environment that all of Kentucky can be proud of.''

Stoops becomes the third brother in college football's famed coaching family to lead his own program. Older brother Bob Stoops is the head coach at Oklahoma and Mike Stoops is the Sooners' defensive coordinator. Before joining the Oklahoma staff this year, Mike was the head coach at Arizona.

Mark Stoops has been the Seminoles' defensive coordinator the past three seasons. Florida State's defense was ranked 108th when he took over and he has turned the Seminoles into one of the nation's top defensive teams.

The Seminoles have the nation's second-ranked defense, giving up 249.4 yards per game. Kentucky allowed 391 yards a contest this season.

``Our desire to get better defensively and continue to expand our recruiting base helped guide us to Mark,'' Barnhart said. ``He comes from a coaching family and has been in big games and big atmospheres throughout his career.''
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