LEXINGTON, Kentucky. Long before the Kentucky Wildcats hit the top 10 in college football, coach Mark Stoops treated his team well in 2022.

Wednesday in mid-August — the epicenter of training camp when boredom and complacency can clash — Kentucky wrapped up another productive workout.

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Stoops felt he had another good team, but he knew he had a strong and stable program after nearly a decade in the UK.

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“I mean, it’s just nice,” Stoops said. “In the middle of camp, in the middle of summer, sometimes it gets boring. Sparks fly and the guys want to play someone else. But our guys are really interesting to train. It’s a great environment.”

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Stoops walked away from the hype caused a few days earlier by Kentucky basketball coach John Calipari, who told reporters during a pre-season trip to the Bahamas that the UK “is the school of basketball” and SEC rivals Alabama and Georgia were labeled “football schools.” Stoops defended his program on Twitter and later with reporters, saying he stays in his lane and watches a program that was “not born on third base”.

“I accept and love this, the history of our basketball,” he added. “I didn’t have this story. We are creating it.”

Kentucky will always be best known for its basketball tradition, but Stoops has made British football a respected and relevant program in the country’s toughest conference. He has led Kentucky to bowling in each of the past six seasons and finished in the AP Top 20 in 2018 and 2021. Kentucky comes into play this week at No. 14 Ole Miss (noon ET, Sportzshala) with the highest AP rating (7). number 6 since the end of the 1977 season, according to Sportzshala statistics and information.

In helping Kentucky break a 31-game losing streak to Florida in 2018, Stoops overtook Bear Bryant as the program’s all-time top coach on September 10 after defeating the Gators. Longest-serving coach in Kentucky history is 51–29 since the start of the 2016 season.

“At the college, high school and professional levels, there is respect for what we have done and what we continue to do,” Stoops said. “For me as a coach, that’s what you’re aiming for.”

Here’s a closer look at the steps Kentucky has taken to lift football, and what five other programs better known for basketball – Arizona, Duke, Illinois, Indiana, and Kansas – may learn as they approach the same mission.