I get it. Joker Phillips has about a 1% approval rating right now with the UK fanbase. Some people can not be convinced that anything but termination is the solution for the downgrade of the UK program. And I can honestly understand that frustration. This season has a Billy Gillispie type feel to it, where you just can’t fathom a way this season ends anything but badly. But, I want to take you back to a different time and date not too long ago, in hopes that you might step back from the ledge.
October 14th, 2006: LSU 49, Kentucky 0
That was the worst loss that Kentucky had taken in over 10 years. At that point in the season, Kentucky was 3-4. They had lost by 31 to Louisville, and lost another game to Florida and another game to Steve Spurrier and South Carolina. At that point in his tenure, Rich Brooks was 12-29 in his 3+ years in Lexington.The offense under Andre Woodson was sluggish. People called Rich Brooks a lame duck coach and the “Ditch Mitch and Rich” bumper stickers were all around campus. It was hard to find a soul in the world who thought Brooks would be back for a 5th season.
And then the Cats beat Mississippi State in Starkville. The next week they beat a ranked Georgia team at home, a win that I still think was the biggest in Brooks’ tenure and may have saved his job. The Vanderbilt fell, and then Louisiana-Monroe was beat, and the Cats were suddenly 7-4. Just 34 days earlier, Brooks’ approval rating was basically 0-percent. A month later, fans were back on board. It can happen just that quickly.
The thing that keeps me with just the slightest bit of hope is the amount of games this season that can truly turn this season around. Even if the Cats lose the next 3 games, pushing them to 2-4, they still have swing games in Ole Miss, Mississippi State, and Tennessee. I truly think that Tennessee game, with a win, could be the game that gets the fanbase back on board, especially if it happens to give them a 6th win. It would be Joker’s Georgia.
It is hard for me to ask fans to still have hope, and to pull back on the anger just a bit. This season has been embarrassing, even during wins. And the “improvement” just doesn’t seem to be happening. But sometimes, as fans, we want to win so badly and so quickly, that we jump to the worst conclusions we can. In this case, that the program is screwed and Joker needs to go. I simply point to the coach right before Joker. A coach that will someday have his name in the Ring of Honor. A coach that some consider the best at Kentucky since Bryant. A coach that we all wanted fired in 2006.
Let’s let the season play out. If the team goes 3-9 and doesn’t have a single win to hang our hat on, then fire away. But at least give the coaches and players more the 1/4 of the year before you quit. At least give them the chance to prove us wrong.