LEXINGTON, Ky. (AP) — Kentucky coach Mark Stoops emphasized support for the fan base in the wake of a comment during his weekly radio show in which he appeared to challenge disgruntled Wildcats fans to “pony up” more financially to attract players to his program.
The 11th-year coach sparked scrutiny Monday night in response to a caller’s complaint about No. 24 Kentucky’s struggle to compete with Southeastern Conference powers Georgia and Alabama. The question came in light of Saturday night’s 51-13 blowout loss at top-ranked Georgia and raised the issue of name, image and likeness (NIL) financial opportunities for players. Several collectives operate to create NIL opportunities for Kentucky athletes.
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Stoops said fans have a right to complain and added, “I just encourage them to donate more, because that’s what those dudes are doing. I can promise you Georgia, they bought some pretty good players. You’re allowed to these days.
“We could use some help,” he continued. “That’s what they look like, you know what I mean, when you have 85 of them. I encourage anybody that’s disgruntled to pony up some more.”
During Wednesday’s SEC coaches teleconference, Stoops said one part of his comment was taken out of context and that he loves Wildcats fans no matter whether they donate “one cent, one dollar or a lot of money.”
“Really, just simply trying to rally people and in a way to move the needle,” he added. “Listen, I didn’t ask for this. (Georgia coach) Kirby (Smart) didn’t ask for this. It’s the way of the world. And you want to move the needle. That’s one way to do it.”
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Smart said he had no reaction to Stoops’ remark after Tuesday’s practice and called the matter “much to do about nothing, really.”
“I think Mark is trying to garner interest in money from his fan base for his collective and we’re all trying to do the same in terms of trying to get money for our collective,” he said. “Mark and I talked about NIL pregame, and we talked about it in our meeting. I’m not biting on that.”
The Wildcats (5-1, 2-1 SEC) host Missouri (5-1, 1-1) on Saturday night.