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For the University and the Coach, It’s Time to Let Joker Go


joker

Mitch Barnhart should get in front of the UK football fan base on Monday and announce that Joker Phillips will not be the coach at Kentucky next season. Honestly, that is a very difficult sentence for me to write, but at this point its truth can no longer be denied. As a person, I am a huge fan of Joker Phillips. He is one of the most humble, generous and down-to-earth individuals that I have met during my time covering UK sports. He has been a great representative for the Big Blue Nation off the field, generously donating his time and stature to a number of causes throughout the Commonwealth. And on a personal level, he has always been a friend to both me and KSR in a myriad of ways. However on the field, it continues to become clearer that the football program is no longer well served by having him as its leader. As his time as a player and coach here for decades has shown us, no person bleeds blue to the core more than Joker. However Joker’s love for Kentucky and UK fan’s respect and admiration for him can’t change the fact that what is best for this University and its football program is for a change to be announced immediately.

The events in Columbia on Saturday didn’t tread any new ground, but they highlighted that things are at a historic low point for Kentucky football. Yes, some of this 1-8 season can be chalked up to bad luck and injuries, but they are only part of a much larger story of the slow decline of the UK program. While Kentucky has never been a SEC power, the Cats have descended from a middle-of-the-road SEC program with punching power to the laughing stock of the league. Kentucky went on the road to Columbia to play against another winless SEC team and suffered the joint indignity of not only being a 15 point pre-game underdog, but also then being unable to even cover that disrespectful spread. Every frustrating issue that has arisen during the past three years manifested itself on Sunday. Conservative playcalling, infuriating mental mistakes, illogical substitution patterns and consistent game mismanagement turned a potential win into an embarrassing loss. Not even Joker’s most adamant supporter could watch the game on Saturday and not think that Kentucky like a poorly coached team with significant issues on both sides of the ball. While young players continue to showcase promising talent, the team as a whole takes gigantic steps back virtually every week, turning the entire fan base despondent. It is a poor sign when for two of the past three weeks, the most positive comment from fans has been to root for the game to end quickly. But the reality is that nearly all UK fans have done something that has almost never happened in the program’s history. They have given up and ensured that nothing but negativity looms.

That is why it is so important for Mitch Barnhart to immediately announce that change is coming. The UK football fan base and program needs the jolt of optimism that comes with the possibility of a coaching change. But also, Joker Phillips deserves the chance to leave Kentucky in a positive manner. Because of his deep Kentucky roots, the vast majority of the Big Blue Nation is an extremely awkward and unusual position. While they believe Joker Phillips should be replaced, they also genuinely like him and truly wish he could have had success. I think that partially explains why despite growing resentment and a continued dramatic drop in attendance, the scenes at Commonwealth have yet to get all that negative. There aren’t the boo birds of the Curry era or the personal animosity that was often shown during the final moments of Billy Gillispie. Instead, fans have generally held their fire and hoped for the best, while unfortunately expecting the worst.

However such muted displays of feelings will not continue forever. The overwhelming sentiment up to this point towards Joker among UK fans has been one of sadness, as most are genuinely depressed that is has not worked out. But at some point, that sadness will turn into loud expressions of frustration, especially so long as many believe the possibility exists that the staff could be allowed to return for another season. I have said for weeks that absent a miraculous change, Joker Phillips would almost certainly be gone at the end of the year. But that miracle has now left the building and no circumstance exists in my view, in which he can be retained. With that the case, the only reasonable solution is to announce that inevitable decision immediately. With Vanderbilt looming this week, the possibility of a legitimately negative scene in Commonwealth Stadium exists. If the Commodores (who are better than last year) beat Kentucky (who is worse than last year) by anything resembling the 38-8 final from last season, it is almost certain that fans will vocalize their feelings in a public way. Another 3rd and long bubble screen play call that is stopped for no game could unleash the hidden anger in the crowd and set forth a moment that would make none of us proud. It hasn’t happened yet, but all signs point to its potential on a cold November Saturday to come.

However such negativity can be avoided and turned into a final positive act. Because no real animosity within the fan base exists towards Joker, if Barnhart acts now, the chance for a proud ending remains possible. With no worry left that their frustration may not be heard, fans can root aggressively and throw their unbridled support towards a young team that is playing hard and learning for the future. Fans can then show their appreciation for a man that has left his blood, sweat and tears on the field as a player and a coach and for whom they have great affinity, without worrying that it could be depicted as an acceptance of the season as a whole. The final three games of what has seemed to be a never-ending death march can now become something else, a celebration of a person they love and respect and the promise of hope for a football future. I don’t expect the crowd to join hands and bust into “Kumbaya”, but they can give a coach who deserves it, a classy exit that we can all remember fondly.

After the events of this season, it can’t be denied that a change atop the UK football program at the end of this season is required. The current path is clearly not working and a point of no return has been reached. Joker Phillips has to be replaced. But because of his time here and the fans’ genuine affinity for him, Kentucky should make the ending as painless as possible. Steps need to be taken to ensure that the most lasting moment of the Joker Phillips era in Commonwealth Stadium is the sheer joy on his face from last season when Kentucky ended the Streak and finally took down Tennessee. No one wants the strongest memory to instead be of a disgruntled fan base worried about the future, expressing their displeasure in a loud, unfortunate way. Like many fans, I want Joker Phillips to be a part of the Kentucky family for years to come, not only because of his many successes here both as a player and assistant coach, but because of what a good person that he is as well. That can happen if Mitch Barnhart does what needs to be done. Mitch should announce on Monday that at the end of the year, Joker Phillips will no longer be the UK coach. It is what is best not only for UK football, but for its fans and Joker Phillips as well.

Article written by Matt Jones

153 responses to “For the University and the Coach, It’s Time to Let Joker Go”

  1. Joker Fan

    Yes, it’s time for a change.

  2. Cking9698

    Really? Bad form

  3. d0gballs

    should have been gone last year IMHO

  4. J-Dub

    I agree Mr. Jones!

  5. Biggass Hungguy

    Thats a long post so could you read it to me on the radio in the morning Uncle Matt?

  6. Tired of Being 1 of 12 games

    Time to move on

  7. Ryan

    Wow

  8. Logan

    Compared to cancer this is nothing. Good post tho.

  9. Bob Loblaw

    Great post Matt. Sums up the feelings of all true UK Football fans. Let’s end this as positively as possible, and allow the coaching search to begin so we can maybe salvage some recruiting time. Let’s give Mitch the benefit of the doubt on this hire until he muffs it. I want Petrino as much as anyone else, but there are other “home runs” out there, maybe some that have not been discussed.

  10. rainingblood

    for sure dude. i was hoping for a 4-0 new season and we get crushed! The QB change was it for me! #laststraw

  11. Derek

    totally agree. end with class and maybe a motivated “win one for the gipper.” I don’t know why this article is “bad form”

  12. Wendell

    No matter who we get, we all need to realize that the best we will ever be in football is a 7-5 team.

  13. Juan4UK

    Well, there’s no good way to write this article Matt, but you did. And it was done as well as could be. I really like Joker and wished for a story book career as coach at UK, but….
    I wish him luck and hope that Mitch can find a way to do this so that Joker can save face and that fans can present themselves with class.

  14. Allan

    Very well-written. As a Louisville fan, Joker always seemed like a very classy guy. I certainly wish him the best.

  15. Tim

    Saddens me. But true.

  16. LuvDaCats

    Wow. Sad but true.

  17. Reality

    Matt, I’m assuming you are in the know and hearing “inside” talk about this happening?? You mentioned on post-game you didn’t think it would happen?

  18. We Are The New Vandy

    I am less worried about our perceived win ceiling as I am that our loss basement keeps being dug deeper.

  19. CardsOverCats

    Being a Louisville fan, I have to hate the university of Kentucky. However being a Kentucky native, it feels good when both programs show out. I think it’s time for a change for you all.

  20. yeah

    Mitch needs to get busy and grow a pair if he is going to make that announcement tomorrow….he should have let Joker go after last season. Many of us saw that Joker was not going to work out but we were shot down and called bad fans. I wish I had been wrong because I really do like Joker….he is just not SEC head coach material.

  21. David Cutcliffe

    UK can do better…better than me too

  22. Trublususu

    Extremely well written article. You did a great job ex-pressing exactly how I (and I think a majority of KY FB fans) feel. I didn’t give up on the possibility of Joker’s return until Sat. There were so few positives that came out of that game at Missouri. I think Mitch Barnhart owes the players and fans a statement of some kind regarding the future of the UK football program and very soon. I would hope that perhaps another position might be available for Joker in the football program if he desires to stay around the program. Again, Matt, a very good article.

  23. Mike

    I wonder how much UK’s revival in basketball is coloring expectations in football?

  24. Todd

    Is it just me or is this like the rabies scene in Old Yeller?
    Momma (aka Matt): “…there’s no hope for him now Travis. He’s suff’ren. You know we’ve got to do it.”
    Travis (aka Mitch): “I know momma….but he was my dog. I’ll do it.”
    BANG!!!
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M6hB9NTYD0E

  25. Commonwealth Comment

    In reality, Joker Phillips was not impressive as OC and the entire “Coach in Waiting” scenario was a mistake. Some fans knew it then, others would take much longer to come to terms with it. The Kentucky football program is now an absolute rock bottom—a laughingstock. Some fans will still refuse to admit that and in perennial denial, still call for “more time” for Phillips to succeed. It simply will not happen. He lacks the skills to make that happen. That’s not an insult, that’s a fact. He has been in over his head from “Day One.” I wish him well but it is long past due for Kentucky to move on—without Phillips—and get serious about fielding a winning football program. Ignore the fans who wring their hands and cry “No one will come here.” That’s total b.s. They said the same thing when Tubby Smith was presiding over the decline of the basketball program. And you are kidding yourself if you think Barnhart will announce any such head coach change until the season has ended. To do so, in his mind, would be to admit hiring Phillips as head coach to be a failure. He will not admit that. If Phillips was truly interested in seeing the program evolve for the better he would resign. That won’t happen either. He will hang in and collect that check. Barnhart has the chance to “do the right thing” in hiring a new coach. But will he?

  26. Yab

    Petrino or bust.

  27. Bluecat44

    Everyone’s entitled to their opinion but why not wait until end of season and see what happens We beat Tenn and with all young guys coming on. Next year will be better and the year after better still

  28. Jason

    Uh you are definitely overestimating how much “love and respect” UK fans have for Joker. Way overestimating.

  29. FL Cat

    Couldn’t have said it better myself. Send Joker out with class. How Mitch handles the rest of this season will shape my opinion on his time here as UK AD.

  30. Greenwell

    26 & 30 – we will get boat-raced by Vandy and UT. Fools gold.

  31. Mike

    I would immagine that no one probably feels worse than Papa Brooks, but for the life of me, I can’t understand what Brooks must have seen during their time together that would have led him to conclude that this man is prepared to take over the helm when he leaves. Brooks has been around a ton of coaches thruout his career, and it would be hard to conclude that this was nothing less than a poor lack of judgement.

  32. Patrick

    If Mitch did fire him but let him finish out the year, it’d be cool to see commonwealth packed to show Joker respect. Yes his coaching was pretty bad but he will always be part of the BBN and noone wanted to win more than him.. He just wasn’t good enough for the job. I’ll be there for the Sanford game if he is fired.. If not I will continue to leave my seat open to protest this awful display of football

  33. bige

    UK had more talent, prior to this season, than it ever has and barely was a mid-SEC team. This mirrors its recruiting prowess in the SEC. Great coaching may make Kentucky entertaining but great players is what will make it a competitive SEC football team. It would have been tough for any coach to get more than a couple more wins out of this team than this coaching staff. Talent isn’t there.

    As we have learned from bball…it ain’t always ‘the Xs and Os as much as the Jimmys and the Joes.’

  34. OwensboroDavid

    Well written Matt. This is the argument I made on Cats Illustrated a few weeks ago. Let Joker go mid season and he can get a proper send off while Mitch is courting a new coach. The kids will be excited for the future, thus play harder. Fans will be excited for the future, thus show up. It’s a win-win for everyone involved. Turn the page tommorow, Mitch.

  35. boooooooo

    25 Makes a lot of sense

  36. Other Side of the Coin

    28 – To compare this scenario to UK basketball is a laughingstock in and of itself. There is historic greatness and incredible fan support for UK basketball; we are fair-weather football fans at best and we have little patience for football if things aren’t going well. Joker was the OC when we were consistently winning under Brooks, and was a strong recruiting force that helped bring in some of the greatest talent that KY football had seen in some years. To say that he destined to be a failure and that some could “see it coming” is a lazy and unfounded criticism.

  37. carrico

    19-we don’t care what you think.

  38. Tomato

    Really Matt!

  39. Not Gonna Happen

    Mitch won’t let Joker go while season is in play, nor make an announcement. It just won’t happen so folks need to understand that. First it doesn’t help anyone but the fans if an announcement is made. It doesn’t help the players, nor the coaches, and it doesn’t look good for potential coaches. Furthermore, it will make it more difficult to search for new coach while everyone is still playing. Everyone needs to just ride out this ship, and be patient. Stop being such a microwave. Also, need to be realistic on the potential coaches UK can get. Tubberville and Cutcliffe might be realistic options, both won in the SEC, both left schools after having issues with AD’s. Both winning with current schools, one which has been in the BCS rankings over past few years. Fulmer and Belotti are other possibillities as well. Both are coaches who won at the highest level, and both want back into coaching. What UK can’t do is go after coaches who are not coaching and recruiting in or at a big conference. So take out Sonny Dykes or anyone at similar schools.

    Just need to realize, UK has the money to throw at a coach, however, how much money really makes UK attractive to a coach know that this is not an attractive football school? It is possibly the most difficult school to recruit for in the SEC.

  40. Dusten

    I sort of wish Joker could just go back to OC at season’s end. A respectful goodbye as head coach at the Samford game would be really nice, and would be encouraging to other potential coaches for next year.

  41. TarHeel

    Petrino… Are you all idiots. That’s the issue with sports fans today you would rather win games with coaches who have no class and obviously don’t care about their players or their program. Give me Joker and his record over his time here over Petrino..

  42. Owen

    I don’t believe there is any good reason for Mitch to announce anything now. It doesn’t make the school look good and it doesn’t make it look like the AD is behind the coach if he says anything to that point early. Joker should go, and maybe he should know that beforehand, but I see absolutely no reason why we should announce it ahead of time. We’re Kentucky, not a school that should even expect to be a regular contender and for that reason we need to approach this as cautiously as possible. We need to look like a place who is going to be behind any coach we hire, and throwing Joker under the bus during the season simply doesn’t help foster that perception.

  43. tyson

    Matt, one of the best, most well thought out posts I have read on here in awhile.

  44. Bluehills

    43) I agree.

    I also think this was one piece Matt wished he never had to write.

  45. Duuude

    42. The level of suck produced by Joker and the football team is one reason they should announce it. Something to get us angry fans to be happy about.
    Another reason is we can go ahead and start searching for a new coach and the new coach will know the job is open and can go ahead and start recruiting.
    There is no reason to NOT fire him immediately at this point, get over the “he’s just a nice guy, don’t throw him under the bus”. Bottom line is that he underachieved by ALOT and no longer deserves to coach at Kentucky.

  46. Chris M.

    Matt- One of the best posts I’ve read in a while. Mitch’s decision to make Joker coach-in-waiting was mind boggling, he’d never been a head coach or an OC anywhere other than UK. He was in over his head from the start and being bogged down with Randy “it’s not my fault”Sanders and Steve Brown as coordinators just made it harder. I would love to see Joker get a nice send off and a fresh start as a receivers coach at a BCS school.

  47. Lets be realistic

    As much as I would love for it to happen no announcement will happen before the end of the UT game. Just look at the Gillespie debacle, he ignored all fan criticism till the end of the season and then fired him. The best scenario for uk would be to win 2 of 3 for the gipper And joker being fired the Monday after the UT game. Then we go after a Coordinator at one of the top programs in the country( aka Alabama, Ohio state, etc) that has been the formula for success at miss state, Louisville, Vanderbilt, all of which have the same issues if not greater in terms of winning difficulty. The fact is a coordinator at a major program would jump at the chance to coach in the SEC( just look at Alabamas former OC he is coaching at Colorado state, not as glamourous as any SEC school). Most head coaches in football don’t spend a ton of time with recruits, it’s the coordinators that run the day to day recruiting. Therefore a young and god recruiting coordinator to provide a positive spin on a new staff would lead to better success down the road.#hirekirbysmart

  48. Get in Line for a Coach

    I agree that Joker needs to go but we’ll be the 4th best job open, just in the SEC. That doesn’t bode well for us finding a coach who can make a true difference. We’ll be having this same conversation about another average coach in 3 or 4 years.

  49. Goober say's hey

    Yeah it sounds great except we’ve got ol’one bullet Barney as our AD and if there is a way to screw things up he’ll do it.

  50. Butch

    I agree Matt. It is time for a change. AlsoWendell if 7-5 is the best we will ever be in football. Why would we even care? We can be much much better than that and will be if we get the right coach and support from this administration!!!!

  51. Reality

    Thank You for this MATT. This is a good post that relieves some stress from this season ticket holder. I just wish that what I, and many other saw that this was not going to work was taken care of last season. This could have been season 1 of rebuilding with a new coach. Unfortunately this was a wasted season. Mitch is staying silent and letting his close friendship with joker get in the way and making him look more of an ignorant AD than he already is. Get your head out of your olympic sport A$$ and do your job.

  52. Captain Wildcat

    Great view and article Matt! Well done.

  53. Roppel

    Very well said Matt! Sad to say, but the time has come for a change……..GO CATS!!!!

  54. wildcat502

    Everyone is calling for Joker to be fired. And I agree, but we will never have a winning football program, until the administration decides to make it a winning program. I`m 51 years old and I have seen several coaching changes and none have made a difference. The only one that did was Curci and we were placed on probation afterwards. Unless you call going 7 and 5 or 6 and 6 as a winning program and I do not.
    The coaching calls yesterday were horrible, the punt and 3rd and 26 and we run the draw, etc. I`m tired of the 3 to 5 yard play over and over again. But the call that sealed it for me was pulling Whitlow out and putting Towels in, after seeing that Whitlow was moving the team. That took all the rythum (spelling) away from Whitlow and that determines whether the quarterback will be successful or not.
    Do we need a coaching change?? Sure. Will it do us any good??? Probably not. Not until we put money into the program. Recruits do not want to set in lawn chairs to watch a movie screen when being recruited, when the schools we recruit against have a building specifically made for recruiting. They are building new stadiums or up grading the older ones.
    I love Wildcat football and I still watch them. I love these kids because they wanted to play here and will always support them. But, can our coaches recognize talent that we currently have??? Harmon looked good yesterday and he isnt even on the roster. Is he better than the guys who were in front of him?? It looked so yesterday.
    I hope we can turn this around, but can we?? Not with this administration. During the 60`s through the mid 80`s, this was a basketball state. Our high schools were turning out D1 talent every year and the older guys, in our adminstration remembers that. They are basketball people and always will be. Football will always prevail over football , with football never getting close and Barnhart has to keep them happy. Donor money is basketball driven.
    If we do not make a move, now, forget recruiting for this year. After the 09 and 2010 years, we cannot afford to lose recruiting this year.

  55. Lip set

    41). YES, we are all idiots. We would rather win games with a low life coach than pay two million bucks a year to win one game. Just call us crazy.

  56. SupCats

    JIM TRESSEL!!! win-win situation for Him and UK football program.

  57. wildcat502

    Basketball will prevail over football……………sorry about the typo on my post above

  58. Floyd

    IMO the decision was made before the Arkansas game. I also think that Brooks will be Barneys only confidant in the hiring of the next coach. In the words of NJT, “this does not bode well for Kentucky”.

  59. Lets be realistic

    Uk isn’t the fourth worst job in the SEC. At worst we are in a three way tie for second worst. UT demands national championship contention and can’t face the fact at best they are a bowl team for the next 2-4 seasons. What coach would want to take over a program that if they fire Dooley would be 4 coaches in six seasons with a fan base that expects to beat Florida and Alabama every season. And auburn is beyond a dumpster fire, if they fire chizik they will have a mass exodus of recruits and players at best they can manage a .500 season in a season or two bit auburn fans want to beat Alabama and that ain’t happening unless cam newton finds a few more years of eligibility. What UK has going for it is it has SEC money, but much lower expectations. The three things you HAVE to do to guarantee you 4 seasons is 1) beat Louisville(they are a big east team with a sixth of the tv money, uk should never lose) 2) beat the 3 non BCS schools on the schedule( a given) 3)pull out a win or two vs similar/lower SEC competition (Vandy, mizzuo, ole miss, auburn, the UT of the last few years). That’s it to meet uk expectations and lets be honest if a coach came here beat Louisville, Tennessee, Vandy, and three non BCS schools every year for 4 years. They would name a new athletics facility after them. At other SEC schools especially the ones in a firing mood right now would fire a coach with that 4 year record.

  60. 100110101010

    Sad day for the BBN.

    Love you Joker, respect the hell out of you…. but it’s time to part ways.

  61. Peter Principle

    *sigh*

  62. derekabney

    So who do we make the interim coach? I Say fire Sanders and Philips. Make Minter the interim Head Coach and he can run the defense while Pat Washington coaches the offense.

  63. Richard lacy

    It was past due! Thanks for trying Joker and good luck to you in the future in whatever path you choose.. Can’t wait to see who we hire. If we get some little “up and comer” I’m going to be highly disappointed

  64. westerncat

    This has to happen but the question will Mitch do it?

  65. SoCal Will

    Well stated, Matt. Bet you were a first rate lawyer. I too would like for Joker to leave next month with his head held high….

  66. Paul

    # 55, in ’98 or ’99 I heard Fraud Bassett say he was lobbying the AD for recruiting facilities, how important they were, how our competitors all had good ones. He did a lot of harm to the program, but he was right about the need for continuously improving the facilities.

  67. J-Dub

    12 ~ I will take 7-5.

  68. john

    I really want either Petrino or Tressel.They would restore hope back into the program almost immediately. Heck Gruden would be a great coach too. It’s time for Mitch to step up to the plate and get us a real football coach.

  69. Ares

    I could not agree anymore. 100% spot on! Look we all know what is going or should happen and in life the gray area is the worst. He has to know it is coming do what is best for him, the team and the fans. Make the decision to move forward let the search begin and let him finish out. The fans won’t rip him if they know he is gone. Leave it up in the air and it could get ugly and that won’t help our cause.

  70. Lets be realistic

    I have noticed this on this site and on sites talking about a potential UT job opening. That fans throwing Jon Grudens name out as a candidate. It’s not happening at either program. As great as it would be to have Saban as a DC, Chip Kelly as OC, and Belichik as HC but that’s not gonna happen at any program let alone UK or UT. Our fans need to accept that a lower conference head coach or a major conference coordinator might be the best thing for uk.

  71. We Are The New Vandy

    Don’t worry, I’m sure Joker and his staff have already contacted Mitch to let him know that they believe in their abilities so much that they will all work for free next year to prove it to UK and the fans. No money, cars or benefits for these guys because they believe in themselves and their ability to put a quality product on the field. Joker will let Mitch know that he doesn’t deserve at least four years to prove himself because he’s already siphoned over $5 million from the UK coffers to take us from bowl eligible to being the new Vandy. Its all good!

  72. blitzedanddazed

    First let me say that this post has the “Law Dog” written all over it.
    Ky cannot wait until the end of the season to announce Joker will not be back.
    With the college football bowl season lasting forever, Ky has to let the world NOW that it is looking
    now for a Head Coach.
    Just so the Vol fans don’t think their program is going to be saved by Jon Gruden, let be the first to say that Chuckie will be the next Coach of the Cleveland Browns.
    Ky will go after and hire Frank Solich from Ohio U.

  73. SayHarrowToTheRepeat

    San Francisco Giants News and Views in 3, 2, 1…

  74. Lets be realistic

    Kirby smart will win a championships as a head coach. Alabama knows it because they want to keep him around until saban retires so he can take over. The only problem is Saban is not quitting anytime soon. So uk can step in and hire him as a HC. He would have top 5(in the SEC) defense in his first year and defense it the difference from 8-9 wins and 3-4 wins. Tennessee hasn’t been good in the last 5 years becAuse they haven’t had a defense.

  75. Yab

    #41, spoken like a truly gracious loser. Mitch is a manager of people. Tell him to do his damn job, keep Petrino in line and give him financial support. As for you, you can teach your own children morals instead of relying on a football coach. His job is to win football games.

  76. capt

    Can we please get rid of Sanders while we’re at it? Maybe Minter too, since our defense has been swiss cheese this year.

  77. Linda Taylor

    Excellent post Matt. I know that as bad as I feel and all the other fans that hoped Joker would succeed feel, none of us feels as low as Joker himself does right now. This is a difficult situation for all involved. I hope the fans who will be getting what they have wanted for 3 years will now temper their vitriol and give Joker a dignified goodbye.

  78. Lets be realistic

    73- frank solich is 68 and will be more concerned about youngsters on his lawn than coaching uk next season

  79. 59 is wrong...

    #59 you are absolutely wrong…UK is the fourth worst potential job of all of the four potential openings. Hands down. If you went to any other SEC fan base site with that non-sense you would get laughed out of town.

    Kentucky needs a young talented coach who wants to be a builder and wants to stay for the long term. The objective for Mitch should be a 15 year project to get to regular SEC contender. It may seem laughable to suggest that, but 15-20 years is probably a realistic timetable to get this goal and sight but the work has to start happening now. As such I think you’ve gotta go for a 5 year+ contract with a hefty buyout. Give someone the security that if they don’t succeed they will be secured. It might be a lot to ask but if you are going to ask a coach to take a risk on UK, you’ve got to be willing to pay for that risk…

  80. David

    If Joker was such a classy guy he would resign and save Mitch Barnhart the heartache of firing him. Yes, pay out his contract and be done with this disastrous hire. UK Admin. and the fans owe this man nothing, he is a millionaire thanks to UK and has not earned the money. If you or I had performed as poorly on our job as this staff has we would have been canned a year ago.

    Mitch should announce on Monday that Joker has been released and we wish him well. Let’s move forward and find a coaching staff that can move this program forward. That’s my opinion, I could be wrong.

  81. KCK

    You should’ve posted this around this time last year, Matt. The Joke’s been on us for three years. I, personally, won’t be clapping and cheering at all for this guy; just the fact that’s he’s gone. Bout time.

  82. Big Butt Becky

    75, exactly right. 41 is probably one of the enabler’s that has had season tickets for the past 3 years. as a head football coach, YOUR JOB is to WIN football games.

  83. 79 is an idiot

    The bleacher report which isn’t uk friendly at all ranked uk third behind UT and Arkansas

  84. Mad Chet

    I can’t believe Charlie Strong hasn’t been mentioned as a candidate. It just shows how dumb most fans are. He has head coaching experience. He wins games he is supposed to win. He is recruiting in-state. He knows how to coach defense. Too many upsides to ignore just because he is UofL’s head coach.

  85. 79 is an idiot

    Who would go to auburn when they fire coaches two years after winning a title. UT fans still think this is the late 90′s and can’t face the fact that Tennessee has been elite in 5 years. High school athletes don’t even remember the last time UT was a contender. The coach is everything. Alabama wasn’t winning titles before saban, miss state and Vanderbilt were door mats until Mullen and Franklin. Will it take time to compete in the east, yes. Could we be a bowl team every year with the right coach? Also a yes #hirekirbysmart

  86. allwillbegood

    Good stuff, I just don’t understand why Saturday was the breaking point? I mean did we not already know that this team isn’t very good?

  87. Jokersajoke

    Vandy and Tennessee will destroy us. We may squeak by Samford. Yes we have young players but so do other SEC schools and theirs are better. Every SEC school also has upperclassmen, redshirt underclassmen (which is a concept Joker doesn’t understand)and better incoming recruits. Sympathizers quit making excuses and face reality. Joker has taken us to a Curryesque low.

  88. Face facts

    You can say what you want about how you can’t compare the UK basketball job a few years ago(during gillispie) and the uk football job now. But UK basketball was BAD, I know you have purged that from your memory but we weren’t even in the conversation with unc duke and Kansas. And before Gillespie we were horribly average for the last 5 years of tubby’s tenure. Uk basketball would still be average/bad if we didn’t land THE single greatest recruiter in college basketball right now. I’m not suggesting UK could be a national contender but in 2008 thru 2010 UK lost 3 games in each year by a possession. And brooks was an average to above average coach at best. Even with this horrible coaching staff we lead against georgia and South Carolina. With the right coach for this program and a good staff behind him, uk is a 7-9 win team for at least the next three years. Don’t let the score and the win lose record make you think this team isn’t talented. To be honest if uk and Alabama could start this season over again but with the coaching staffs traded. Uk would have 6 wins through nine games and the joke would have Alabama at 5 wins instead of undefeated with their talent.

  89. Kevin C.

    Sad….for Joker?? Speak for yourself, Matt. I’m sad for the players. I’m sad for the season ticket holders. I’m sad for myself, for all the wasted time watching Joker’s coaching failures play out on TV over the years, while secretly wishing I could just timewarp myself to basketball season. But I’m CERTAINLY not sad for Joker. He has raped the university of obscene amounts of money, negotiating a pay raise in the process…all while doing NOTHING to prove he was worthy of the job to begin with. When Rich Brooks retired, the program was in good enough shape to warrant doing what was necessary to take that next step, and go after a “real” coach. The fan support was at an all-time high, the bowl wins were a great recruiting tool, and boosters and alumni were chomping at the bit to strike while the iron was hot. But Todd and Barnhart had already sealed the fate of the program, prior to Brooks’ retirement, by giving an unproven OC the reigns. It makes me so sick listening to Joker mumble the same pathetic crap at the post-game press conference, and again on the radio show, EVERY. SINGLE. FREAKIN’. WEEK. He’s like a druggie, who habitually lies…tells family and friends what they want to hear…just to get them off their back…and then goes back to the bad habits the next week.

    Sick of it. Done with it. NOT sad about it…I’M F*CKING PISSED!

  90. SadCat

    Has Joker been paid $5,000,000.00???
    Wow!!
    Why all the hand wringing, Matt??
    Fire him ASAP

  91. Dr. Tom

    Good post Matt. No established elite coach will take the UK job. Too many negatives against that possibility. Poor facilities and uncertainties of what kind and when any improvements will be made. Sorry but the new coach will be an “up and comer”. They are out there…Saban was at one time an “up and comer”. Barnhart has to find that person. Please, we don’t need Petrino…we just don’t need to go there. And even if he would take the job, how long do you think he would stay??? He would leave us high and dry in a minute!!

  92. Gogh Big Bleu

    I’d rather win zero games every year than hire the scum that is Petrino. Nuff said. Integrity > Win column.

  93. time for the truth

    #7hoursofhell

  94. W in Chester

    As a Big Blue Football fan I keep thinking about the “Football Coaches” Mitch has connections with and this may be out of left field but when Mitch was at Oregon St. there was coach Dennis Erickson who just recently coached Arizona St . I have this feeling Mitch could look at him.

  95. UKBlue1!

    It’s about time. Barnhart won’t pull the plug yet. No David Cutliffe.

  96. Jimi

    Things to mark down!

    -There will be no announcement before the end of season
    -Joker will not resign
    -Mitch Barnhart will do what HE thinks is best
    -The Negativity of the fan-base will continue to grow and grow the longer this drags out
    -There is a possibility Joker will be back next year

  97. putinrichie

    Good article Matt. Joker is a very classy and professional head coach who cares more about UK football than most would believe. Not only did he leave Lou Holtz’s South Carolina staff to come to UK for a similar position while we were on probation, but he turned down offers by Bob Stoops and Jim Tressel to be an assistant at OU and OSU during his tenure at UK. He was a hot name as an assistant when he was made the HCIW. In hidsight, it wasn’t the best move, but Brooks was aging and it was a move that was made to help recruiting.

  98. BigBluSoTru

    Historic low and slow decline of the fb program, what have you been smoking. This program has never been consistently up.

  99. tdr76

    I said this before the end of last years season.

  100. James K

    I’m sad for Joker. I really do feel bad for him. Some of you guys are lack compassion. This is football; it’s not life or death. No, I am not happy with his performance as the leader of our football program, and yes, I do think he should be replaced.

    Here’s my thing, and something that I think we should all consider: this is a man that has spent a strong percentage of his professional career attempting to revive the program that he loves, the program that gave him a lot. I think it’s going to be extremely humiliating and difficult for Joker to sit in front of all of us and be confronted with the fact that he failed… and failed miserably.

    This isn’t some random coach that came here with no real connection to the state or the program. It’s a home grown guy. Personally, I’m going to pat him on the back and say ‘nice try, thank you for the effort. Let’s see what someone else can do.’

  101. gcat4496@yahoo.com

    Another indicator is 2013 recruiting. According to Scout, the Cats are ranked #56 is recruiting. Menawhile, 12 SEC teams are in the top 25 and I believe Arkansas is somewhere in the 30s. Even Vandy is around 15-20. This does not bode well for the future. When you couple that with inept coaching you see what is unfolding in Lexington.

  102. Phat Wreck

    We need a proven program builder with ties to the state of Florida. MB needs to take a hard look at former USF coach Jim Leavitt. He started the USF program from scratch and built it into a top notch program displacing FSU and Miami. He made a huge mistake and was fired for it. I believe he deserves a 2nd chance and could be a perfect fit for BBN. He previously turned down offers to be HC at both Alabama and Miami to stay at USF where he grew up…so he is a very talented coach and recruiter with baggage (sound familiar). I believe he is currently coaching linebackers for the SF 49ers under Jim Harbaugh…waiting for an opportunity to return to the college ranks.

  103. Tanya

    I think this is an awful way to be a UK fan. Let the season end first. Joker is a PERSON down deep and I have news for you…. NO ONE wants to coach at UK. I hate that KSR is constantly on the lookout for a new coach at UK. let it go….

  104. BobbyPsNeckBrace

    #107 “What you said….”

  105. Dave in Bangkok

  106. fireant

    well said #104

  107. huh

    Good for you to FINALLY join the rest of the fan base – you know we all knew this was a bad hire. And you know we all knew joker should have been let go last year. Beating ut put this program back 3 or 4 years. Big flipping deal, we beat the WORST ut team in 50 years / with a coach their fan base wants fired…

  108. Dave in Bangkok
  109. CharlieStrong

    #84 Wish in one hand and **** in the other…which one filled up faster????

  110. BoobyPsNeckBrace

    #68 Ain’t gunna happen. I would coach the Taliban before dying in that graveyard known as Commonwealth…

  111. barn

    we’re a Basketball school. Adolph made us that way. it’s a cruel world if you want to have a sec caliber fball team, but it’s a wonderful world if you love basketball.

  112. BILL

    I just cannot wait to get the the next losing coach. UK should keep Joker. One losing coach is no better or worse than another. Good lick Mitch in finding the next John Ray. Fix the facilities problems first. then go after a good coach.

  113. smiddy911

    #92 – fail.

    #111 – That’s not the whole story. It was decided the day we gave Rupp the Cadillac and Bear Bryant the watch. Had Bryant stuck around… who knows.

  114. meeksuperfan

    100 says it best. ERIC MANGINI SHOULD BE THE COACH WHOS WITH ME.

  115. Coach Rich Brooks

    #112-You are exactly what is WRONG with some in the UK Football fanbase… a loser attitude with low expectations. Go cheer for someone else.

  116. B-dub from Paducah

    Well-reasoned article, Matt.
    I agree wholeheartedly!

  117. GoCats2010

    113. For the one millionth time, the watch and car story is completely false. Joe B has said it 100 times, it never happened. It was a joke that was said in jest that magically became fact. Kind of like when George Washington led us to victory on his noble unicorn in the Revolution…didn’t happen

  118. Rixter

    We all agree that Joker is a good man, bad coach. He must go, the sooner the better. Many loyal UK fans have taken to rooting against this team because we fear even a single win may save this man’s job.
    We all want what is in the best long term interest for the program more so than a single meaningless win. I for one HATE rooting against them. SO, Mitch..make it official NOW, and let us root for OUR TEAM once again!

  119. BLUE BALLS

    Fire the bum!!! I own 2 companies and he’d of been fired last year for losing….his job is to WIN….not lose!!!

    PERIOD!!!

  120. JPhelps

    Glad you finally jumped ship… I’ve been saying it for 2 years!

  121. JIMMIEUKFAN

    The Western game was breaking point. Did anyone expect better things after that? I didn’t.

  122. SteveM

    Another disasterous hire by Barnhart run amok. When are people going to hold HIM accountable?

  123. Kyreds

    With all the talk about wanting to fire Joker what about all the talk about the INJURIES they have had? Thats not Joker`s fault!

  124. Rixter

    123, you are right. We are the only football team in America to lose a player to injury this year. Let’s bring Joker back under a new long-term contract.

  125. booger

    Why do people want Charlie Strong? Put L’Ville in SEC and they have losing record! If Joker is let go—-he should be put in as asst. AD or some type of job like that.

  126. Rixter

    What’s sad is, we will always have to refer to the 6 – 7 year, when we lost a bowl game to a team without a coach, we’ll have to refer to that as ‘Joker’s good year’

  127. Teddy Bridgewater

    Cards are BCS top-ten, haters!

  128. treeman74

    Good article. Call me a fair weather fan, but I know a turd when I see one. If I can predict the 3rd down plays why should we think that DC’s in the SEC won’t know what’s coming? Blind loyalty can be admirable, but it can be laughable too. I think we’ve reached the latter. Next…..

  129. CharlieStrong

    #125 Says a guy who has witnessed 75 years of LOSING records in the $EC……

  130. Hash

    If they get this Cutcliffe clown nothing will change. I don’t understand at least trying to get a big name.

  131. HeyDummie

    129 so how does that prove his point wrong? Chawlie doesn’t want any part of the SEC, he’d prefer to keep swimming in the Big East pond.

  132. BrotherBear

    Joker was a terrible OC. He should have never been dubbed “coach in waiting” as that is one of the dumbest things to do in a college program–you can’t hire from within. The only person that helps is the person in waiting–does nothing for the school or team. If it didn’t work under Brooks with Joker has OC, then the same tactics would be used under Joker, and therefore would remain unsuccessful.
    No, Joker should NOT go back to any sort of leadership role in this program, football or otherwise. He should not be a part of the athletic department in any way. If you truly want him to go out with dignity, let him do that. But don’t keep him in a position that will constantly remind him of his failures, and for Pete’s sake don’t let him have any more power or control to bring down the rest of UK athletics! Let this be his final season and be done–back to the life of a supporter and fan of UK football and the University of Kentucky.

  133. Earache

    Great read Jones…with that said (enter Billy Madison voice) “a simple he should be fired” would have worked.

  134. Scott

    KANSAS STATE is undefeated!!!! if they can build one certainly UK has a glimmer of hope if we hire the right coach

  135. Hash

    132-I agree, Joker’s hands shouldn’t be on anything that has to do with UK athletics. A lot of this has to do with assistants and coordinators too. I mean really we have Andre Woodson on the sideline. What the eff does he do anyway? He was a decent QB but is he really ready for any type of coaching job? The buddy system that Joker has instilled within UK football has completely destroyed everything that Rich Brooks did.

  136. Hash

    134-Kansas St. is in the Big 12. Quite a bit difference. That’s like saying we should hire Charlie Strong.

  137. I'm A Joke

    And I approve this message. You people have no idea how hard my job is. I get paid big $$$$ to find a way to lose. How many of you have EVER been able to get paid millions to make one bad decision after another. The easy part of my job is cashing my $$$$$$$$$$$ check each month. And in a few months, I will be getting a HUGE BUYOUT! Now I have to decide how to spend it…Implants for my Condi Rice doll, invest in Solyndra, buy bonds in Greece, play the 0 in roulette…maybe buy a few wind turbines. No matter what, I MAKE MORE THAN YOU!

  138. The Joke

    Me and Charlie are headed to Auburn. I will drag that program into the toilet too.

  139. wildcat502

    Barnhardt will not make a move until the year is over. Then it will take a few weeks to find a cheap coach, then recruiting will be over and we lose out, again. After the 2009 and 2010 recruiting, we cannot afford to lose this year. That would set us back another 3 to 4 years. Barnhardt does not understand this, NOR DOES HE CARE. ITS JUST FOOTBALL.
    I bet we end up keeping Joker. We need to let Joker go now, so we can name the new coach immediately after the Tennessee game and that staff can go out and start recruiting. But that will not happen, because Barnhardt, nor the adminstration cares, as long as the basketball boosters are happy.

  140. Save Joker

    Keep him. I guarantee he will get UK back to mediocre football. No Steve Spurrier or Cal is coming to save Kentucky football. Why are we so proud of 6-6 and 7-5 and bowl games for losers? Oh, I forgot, it’s about money and not wins and losses. My point is, if Joker goes, pay for the best coach money can buy and stop settling for average!

  141. Kenny Power's Agent

    The Joke has got to go. AND THIIIIIIS! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zjCtHgNEcV0 – You’re welcome.

  142. barn

    134–k state is winning right now mainly because that whole conference is down right now. when have you ever seen the sec fall off like the b12? probably never

  143. JOE KER

    I was at Phil Fulmer’s last game as coach of UT vs. UK…..it was already decided he was not returning to coach the next season and they showed videos of him as a UT player, coach, highlights of his career, etc. If MITCH cared about Joker the way he says he does, he’d do the same thing during the last home game AFTER announcing he wouldn’t be bringing him back. MITCH f’ed up in hiring him it is clear, let him ride this out with DIGNITY.

  144. GapToothDanny

    > to the Athletic Director, now & future: don’t ever hire a popular ex-player to coach the football team! I hate to see someone who escaped UK football on good terms come back and sully his legacy as coach.
    Reserve the meatgrinder that is UK football for total strangers. Oh, and while I have your attention Mr. AD, can the football program re-classify to NAIA? Just asking…

  145. Gogh Big Bleu

    #113 No. If you’re a win at all costs type, you fail. If the most important thing in your life is W vs L, you fail.

  146. JBR

    80 & 89…dead on…I’m with you

  147. ukcat58

    Very well written. Yes, Joker is good for UK, just not as the coach of UK FB. He was way over his head as an assistant in the SEC and the coach in waiting was a mistake and has cost us 3 years. It will take us several years to re-establish what Coach Brooks built. Vandy will beat us, just how bad will it be – If it is by more than spread, it reinforces the bottom of the barrel status that Joker has put us in.
    Please Mitch, have mercy on Joker and us – Let Joker go, NOW!!!!

  148. CharlieStrong

    #131 Well I sure drilled UKs offense when I was at Florida!!!!!Besides, Uk would be a step below Temple for a D-1 football coach.

  149. STEVE!

    Mitch doesn’t have any contacts other than in Oregon (Rich Brooks) and Tennessee (hired two foot ball assistants from there and got two recommendations from Pat Summitt for Women’s basketball coaches), so we will probably get somebody from one of those backgrounds

  150. Buckets

    Foiled again, I see. Wow. I guess opposing viewpoints and making fun of Matt are unacceptable around here. OK.

  151. Ed has Tickets

    #41, didn’t we hire a basketball coach 3 years ago that was perceived to be the same way? That appears to be working out okay.

  152. Chuck

    #125 you’re right. UL may be winning but who are they beating and barely at that. They only teams they really beat bad were Mo.St. and UK. They were lucky to win against So.Miss, Cincy, So.Fla, and No.Car. If Strong was that good those games shouldn’t have been close. Besides he has ties with that Hurtt guy. We don’t want him hanging around Lexington. If Strong leaves Eastern Parkway U. it’ll be to a big name football school.

  153. LadyLuck

    #152 Huh,that would make me want to ask Charlie Strong to purchase my lottery tickets if he is THAT lucky.Plus he whipped us like a rented mule even with calling off the onslaught….