It’s no secret that I’m a bit of a UK Fan. I grew up in a house where when UK was on t.v. that’s what we watched. I still love watching college basketball and football; while each institution I work at adds one more team to my list of allegiances, UK is always at the top.
This year our football performance has been worse than dismal with a 2-10 record. Our wins were over Kent State and Sanford. Who? Exactly- I didn’t even know Sanford had a D-I football team. Two of the losses were shutouts: Florida beat UK 38-0 and Vandy beat UK 40-0. We can almost always put the Vandy game in the winning column every year, so being shut out is particularly awful. That loss came with horrible attendance (less than 19,000) at a home came in Lexington.
The next day Kentucky Coach Joker Philips was fired.
As a Kentucky fan, this was an awful low year. Sure our Basketball team won the national championship in April, but we also expect that our football team at least has a winning season. It’s hard not grow pessimistic and defeatist about the future of the program. No one else in the country believes in us, so why should we as fans care?
Today UK hired a new coach– Mark Stoops the current Defensive Coordinator at Florida State. You can ask anyone who works for or with me, I was giddy! He’s the brother of Bob Stoops the head coach at OU. He’s got a great track record of turning awful defenses around. Immediately this announcement caused an about-face in the Big Blue Fan Base. Fan’s who have been counting down to Basketball season since August are now talking about buying football season tickets and counting down days until the opening game in 2013.
Coach Stoops hasn’t even started at UK yet and he already has the fan base believing that we can be a competitive SEC football team. Let me just tell you, that’s a big deal!
Tonight I read one of the many entries posted since the news broke shortly after lunch from my favorite sports blog, Kentucky Sports Radio. This post includes the details of how UK landed Stoops. One of the things that stood out to me the most was point number 2 about how Stoops had a plan and wanted the job.
There were other similarly ranked coaches out there interested in the UK job, but none were as passionate about the position and possibilities as Stoops. KSR reports that when he met with the Athletic Director (Mitch Barnhart) and whomever else were involved in those meetings he showed up with a passionate plan of how UK could be competitive in the SEC. He was excited about the program and is confident that the program can be respectful and competitive within our conference. This passion and approach to the coaching position sold our AD on Coach Stoops.
I couldn’t help but think the leadership lessons within this process that all of us can learn from. What made Coach Stoops standout from the other coaches were two things- his passion and his plan. He took his experience and knowledge and leveraged it to become the best candidate for the job. Not only did Stoops land the coaching job, but he’s garnered the support of a passionately picky fan base in less than 10 hours.
Leaders should approach situations with a passion and plan. I think we do this for two reasons. First, this cause those who are “above” us, like the UK AD, to have confidence that they can trust us with vision and the future. KSR reported that Barnhart chose Stoops over a coach with whom he already had a personal relationship because of how Stoops approached the job. Stoops won over the people in highest leadership at the University because his approach showed they could trust their program in his hands.
Secondly, it creates enthusiasm and buy in from those you lead. It’s easy to see this by just reading the comments on the KSR blog and comparing them to comments made just last week. One leader, with a positive and solid vision for the future of one football program changed the attitudes of those he “represents” in leadership.
The future remains unseen. We don’t have any idea how Stoop’s plan will work out and if any change will come to the reputation of UK football. What we do know is that we have a head coach who not only has experience and knowledge of the game, but the ability to lead it with passion and a plan. I can’t help but believe that his attitude and leadership are just as big of a piece of success on the field as recruitment. I think it’s something we can all learn from.