Skip to content

Kentucky Sports Radio

University of Kentucky Basketball, Football, and Recruiting news brought to you in the most ridiculous manner possible.

Can Kentucky support an elite football coach AND John Calipari?

“The other night we had a joint basketball-football banquet and Adolph Rupp was presented with a big four-door Cadillac. All I got was a cigarette lighter.”

Bear Bryant, decades ago, was frustrated by the favor the University of Kentucky gave to the basketball program, instead of football.  Even though Bryant might have been kidding, and no such gifts were likely ever awarded, it was an allusion to the dominating grip basketball had in the Bluegrass, while the rest of the southeast was consumed with football.  In 2012, it doesn’t look like anything has changed.

With Kentucky football off to a 1-3 start to the 2012 season, and new Twitter accounts like @TresselToUK popping up, the questions presents itself: “Can Kentucky support an elite football coach?”

Well, it didn’t work in the middle of the 20th century, and now that Calipari is the highest-paid NCAA basketball coach around, even though he’s definitely earned it, will a big-time football coach want to compete for attention?

In spite of speculation, it’s proper to warn that we’re unlikely to have a coaching change in the near future; the contract situation is such that the athletic department will probably be motivated to retain the current staff.  But in a purely hypothetical way, it’s interesting to wonder what the University would be able to do should they want a coaching change.

As appealing as a coaching change might be to some fans, it’s important to understand that, as Bryant (jokingly) pointed out, any possible new coach will be second-fiddle.  At almost every other school (excluding IU, UNC, Duke, and probably Louisville), football coaches are used to being the big man on campus.  I doubt any one could come into Lexington and take the top-dog position from John Calipari.  Tubby, maybe.  BCG, definitely.  But Calipari?  Well, that’s just bad timing.  Calipari has earned every bit of adoration he’s gotten so far from Kentucky fans, but it’d be almost impossible for a football coach to come in and get the same level of attention.

Not only has Calipari’s success made the head football coach position feel a little bit like a “sidekick” job, but his salary takes a big chunk out of the budget at $5.2 million after endorsements and bonuses.  Consider that a coach like Nick Saban clears very nearly $6 million, and honestly ask if the University can reasonably support both.  Calipari is already the highest-paid government employee, and now we want to double that salary?  Seems hard to fathom.

Most schools that have success in both football and basketball put football first.  Ohio State, Texas, Florida, and others all have some success with both sports.  Ask any fan which is more important, and they’ll invariably say football.  It’s simply not that way in Kentucky.  Whether we’re good at basketball because we care more about it, or we care more about it because we’re good at it, the order is firmly in place: basketball first, football second.

As Bear Bryant showed, most towns aren’t big enough for two elite coaches.  Those that are put football first.  With no way to change BBN’s priorities, can we ever expect to have a premier coach?

Not if we keep giving them cigarette lighters…

Article written by Corey Nichols

59 Comments for Can Kentucky support an elite football coach AND John Calipari?

  1. Chad
    9:04 am September 24, 2012 Permalink

    Can someone tell me where the stage is usually at for BBM? What sections?

  2. hawkeyetim
    9:06 am September 24, 2012 Permalink

    The increased revenue will more than pay for the coach’s salary and his assistants. Remember, football makes more money than the basketball program. We NEED to hire an elite coach.

  3. CatGrad7072
    9:07 am September 24, 2012 Permalink

    ” it’s proper to warn that we’re unlikely to have a coaching change in the near future; the contract situation is such that the athletic department will probably be motivated to retain the current staff. ”
    Now that’s a downcline in common sense of Joker-esque proportions.

  4. Lpool003
    9:08 am September 24, 2012 Permalink

    Louisville made it work for a few years with Petrino/pitino, if you consider Donovan elite then Florida also. Texas could be another, Ohio state… It would all depend on your definition of “elite”

  5. mores
    9:09 am September 24, 2012 Permalink

    “the contract situation is such that the athletic department will probably be motivated to retain the current staff.”

    False. Most schools eat a lot of money when they fire a coach (see Notre Dame still paying Charlie Weis’ salary). But Joker only has one more year left on his contract, and it costs less than the value of lost ticket sales from this year alone. We could hardly be in a better fiscal position to change coaches.

    We could afford a coach if he made the program a perennial contender. The question is whether we can identify, hire, and retain a coach of that caliber.

  6. Floyd
    9:11 am September 24, 2012 Permalink

    Petrino and Calipari cannot exist at the same school. However, Leach and Cal would have been a great combo, but that boat has sailed. Hire a new AD first.

  7. Azubuike's Bicep
    9:13 am September 24, 2012 Permalink

    Can’t get an elite coach without a good program. Can’t have a good program without an elite coach…

    It’s like a married couple; Is it the drinking that causes the fights, or is it the fact that she b!tches every time you open a beer.

  8. Duuuuuude
    9:16 am September 24, 2012 Permalink

    This is nonsense. Of course we would support a quality football program. We have had a pretty shitty football program now for half a century, yet despite that and until recently we have filled and expanded Commonwealth Stadium. There is no support from the legislature, and no support from the school administration for football, but there is rabid support from the fans. There is no excuse for not being able to have a quality football and basketball program.

  9. Roger
    9:18 am September 24, 2012 Permalink

    “the contract situation is such that the athletic department will probably be motivated to retain the current staff.”

    Where in the hell are you getting this? Go read your bosses post from last night – seems most in the media are conceding Joker is gone in less there is some type of miraculous turn around.

    Also don’t agree with your assertion that no big-time coach would come here because they don’t want to play second fiddle to John Cal. As someone who played college football I don’t think head coaches are as concerned with fans/popularity/media as much as we ‘from the outside’ would like to believe. They care about doing their job and winning games, if you do that, everything else falls in place.

    Again, who do you think the biggest coach is that we could land? Right now ‘possibly’ Petrino. With that said do you think he would turn us down because of John Cal and our basketball program? Hell no. The money is there, a big coach sells commonwealth out upon being named. We just need the powers to be to allow UK football to retain a bigger piece of their own pie as far as $$$$ goes.

  10. Just Sayin'
    9:19 am September 24, 2012 Permalink

    any elite coach knows that by getting Cal in your corner and by supporting the bball program, you get doors open and keep them open.

    but all this is pointless since mitch will royally screw this hire up worse than anything. He’ll either keep joker or hire someone worse. without a mike pratt for football, there is no one there to take this away from mitch. he’ll use his goofy search firm, probably the same one that gave us bcg.

  11. Big Blue Kat
    9:29 am September 24, 2012 Permalink

    I just have two words for you: John Gruden.

  12. Jones Returns
    9:30 am September 24, 2012 Permalink

    Hire Rich Rodriguez
    Hire Rich Rodriguez
    Hire Rich Rodriguez
    Hire Rich Rodriguez
    Hire Rich Rodriguez
    Hire Rich Rodriguez
    Hire Rich Rodriguez
    Hire Rich Rodriguez
    Hire Rich Rodriguez
    Hire Rich Rodriguez
    Hire Rich Rodriguez
    Hire Rich Rodriguez
    Hire Rich Rodriguez
    Hire Rich Rodriguez

  13. asf
    9:33 am September 24, 2012 Permalink

    We need to find the football equivalent of Billy Donovan, who has easily co-existed with several higher-profile football coaches at Florida. So we need a football coach who can have a legitimate shot at being top-10 every 5 years or so (even winning a national championship if we’re lucky), but then slips down into the 11-25 range most of the rest of the time. Not a top-level coach, but at the very highest partition below top-level. That’s the only way to make it work.

  14. Jack
    9:34 am September 24, 2012 Permalink

    Nice article and sentiment. Excellent syntax, whatever in the he’ll that is? Factual? Not hardly. Ever heard of a gentleman from Paris named Blanton Collier? Won an NFL title with Cleveland. John Ray was Ara Parseghian’s defensive coordinator and considered a great get. Charlie Bradshaw was the Bear himself right- hand-man. Fran Curci was excellent but a little fast and loose with rules. Bill Curry’s last game before taking the UK job was with SEC champion Alabama in the Sugar Bowl. (hmmmm? Anything to Lear there.) Rich Brooks was way, way better than most, which explains why he did as well as he did. Kentucky is a basketball state in A league filled with THE football states. Live with it, enjoy what you can and, above all, support the coach you have until he’s no longer the coach. This job ain’t easy and this coach hasn’t had ,many breaks along the way. Quit your damned crying!

  15. Todd
    9:35 am September 24, 2012 Permalink

    Tressel would be an intersting hire with his latest “cheating” (used loosely) alligations that caused him to removed from Ohio State. I think we have enough slimebags crawing around Lexington trying to find something on Cal. I would more inclinded to bring in Frank Solich from Ohio. He was let go from Nebraska basically for following Tom Osborne. He won his fair share of games in a highly competitive Big 12. And look what he has done at Ohio, which we can all agree on is not the easiest place to win at. Ohio Univisity probably gets the third or fourth level recruit from thier own state behind OSU, Cincy, and Mount Union.

  16. Jones Returns
    9:35 am September 24, 2012 Permalink

    Joker Phillips Salary = $1.7 Million Per Year
    Rich Rodriguez Salary = $1.91 Million Per Year

  17. asf
    9:36 am September 24, 2012 Permalink

    Barring an absolute miracle, I can’t see how Joker survives, but due to the contract situation with him, UK will wait as long as possible before they let him go. So he will almost certainly be the coach through the season and probably into the off-season. Possibly right up until his replacement is hired. It may be one of those deals where we don’t see anything happening for months, then suddenly Joker is fired and then the new coach is announced, say sometime around February or March.

  18. JoJo
    9:37 am September 24, 2012 Permalink

    We could afford a hot mid-level coach, plus pay Joker what we’re obligated to pay next year, for less than what a top-level coach would actually cost.

  19. Waynein Frankfort
    9:40 am September 24, 2012 Permalink

    #17 Rich Rod is a very intriguing proposition. I actually think he could come close to re-creating what he had at WV here in Lexington. Michigan was just a bad fit for him. He tried to make the jump to an elite program, but Michigan isn’t elite anymore, but their fans and boosters still think they are.

  20. JoJo
    9:41 am September 24, 2012 Permalink

    Tressel is an interesting possibility. It would get him back into football. He’s a lifetime Ohio guy, so he stays close to “home”, and he could get revenge on the SEC big boys by playing the spoiler.

  21. SteveM
    9:44 am September 24, 2012 Permalink

    If anything football related interferes with anything Calipari is doing….. drop football…..oh, sorry…looks like we’ve already done that. Why don’t we pursue a big time athletic director instead of this amateur we have now????

  22. Coal Miner
    9:44 am September 24, 2012 Permalink

    That gold zippo just wasn’t enough for ol’ Bear huh?

  23. Turner the Burner
    9:50 am September 24, 2012 Permalink

    “it’s proper to warn that we’re unlikely to have a coaching change in the near future; the contract situation is such that the athletic department will probably be motivated to retain the current staff.”

    Really? Where have you been? Joker will have to be either fired or extended after this year. You cannot have a coach in his lsat year of the contract with no clarity on his future…. At that point, he cannot recruit players because he may not be there. So, you saying that it is unlikely we will have a coaching change in the near future is false. Mitch can’t extend so he must be fired.

  24. Jeff Garlin
    9:54 am September 24, 2012 Permalink

    Is the car and ciggerette lighter story true? Didn’t Oscar Combs say on the radio that it was a myth?

  25. Mack
    9:54 am September 24, 2012 Permalink

    Rich Rodriguez’s problem at Mich mostly existed because he was not a “Michigan Man” and attempted to install a “none Mich” system (scoring, fast, exciting football).

  26. Head Bussa
    9:55 am September 24, 2012 Permalink

    9 — Totally agree with you Roger about coaches’ feelings about the UK job. This idea that we can’t get a good coach to come here is overblown. Quite simply, the Kentucky head coaching gig is a job in the SEC and there are only so many of those to go around. If you are a confident coach and want a head coaching job, you will not look at Kentucky and think ‘I can’t win there because of ………..’ Now, there may be some coaches who do that but I believe most coaches do not. Most coaches see a head coaching job at a relatively big school in a major conference, as well as place where they can really build a decent program.

    I also wanted to point out that Corey does not have a clue. Joker is gone. Point blank. Period.

  27. Baffled...
    9:57 am September 24, 2012 Permalink

    Bad post, bad argument, tired Rupp/Bryant quote and story. Was this primarily copied and pasted from 100 other sites, articles, posts over the past 10 yrs to fill space or meet a deadline? Love the site but this is lazy the whole way round.

  28. Head Bussa
    9:58 am September 24, 2012 Permalink

    I do not believe we should hire Rich Rodriguez, nor do I think he would make a horizontal move and leave Arizona for a similar program in Kentucky. In addition, have you ever been to Tucson? It’s an amazing place to live.

  29. SB
    10:05 am September 24, 2012 Permalink

    In order to attract high caliber coaching talent, the entirety of the the football facilities needs to be overhauled. Commonwealth needs a face lift.

    You may be able to attract elite coaches with money, but elite talent on the field takes facilities, fan-base, and fanfare; the latter of which, UK already has. The path is drawn out, administration and government needs to take that next step…

  30. Duck Fuke
    10:05 am September 24, 2012 Permalink


    Cal has always come off to me as a guy that is confident enough with his abilities and program to be able to “share” the spotlight. Cal is not some provincial guy, he knows what the big cities are like being a former pro coach and he knows that in those situations the basketball team is only of several things competing for people’s interest on a given weekend.

    Besides Cal is smart enough to realize the financial impact a successful football program can have on the school as a whole, and he never has impressed on me any bit of vanity or selfishness that would cause him to sabotage any other program.

    One more thing Cal in my opinion would try and find away to make a successful football program at UK some kind of advantage he can exploit as he has always seems to be an “out of the box” thinker.

    Cal is not self conscious enough to be envious of anyone else’s success, not like that diva up the road.

  31. DG
    10:05 am September 24, 2012 Permalink

    I think that two big time coaches could survive at UK because of its strong fan base. If UK would invest the money for a great coaching staff they could fill commonwealth every week.

  32. Head Bussa
    10:05 am September 24, 2012 Permalink

    I don’t mean to be cruel, but is Corey, the writer, really this dumb? Why in the world would he ever believe that Joker will not be fired and, in addition to that, believe it so much that he would try to convince readers of that?

  33. Mike Martin
    10:06 am September 24, 2012 Permalink

    IMO it all depends on the coaches. I think it would be easy here because Cal is such a big supporter of all the other programs. I could see some back lash at Louisville with Charlie and Rick, but I believe Cal can get along with just about anyone, and this program would be able to support both easy if given the chance. To hell with the boat sailing, bring in Mike Leach and let’s win some football games. I’m not sure your top teir football coaches could be as sucessful here due to all the factors associated with SEC football, recruits, northern most state, basketball state etc, but Mike don’t care. Look what he did when he was here before with the air raid, what he did at Texas Tech. Don’t get me wrong, the guy is a different kind of nut, but it’s a good nut. He takes kids no one knows and turns them into top pro players. Go Mike Leach!!!

  34. BlueTexan
    10:10 am September 24, 2012 Permalink

    #6/#10/#21- You cut-to-the-chase and identified the REAL problem with UK football…Barnfart!
    IF we had a real AD who had a handle on football coaches…we’d have a chance to land a respected coach – not an assistant whose proven he’s not HC material. Sadly, Barnfart will probably lean toward a search firm that is just looking to make an easy dollar off us. A professional AD would have already identified the 2-3 targets and taken the offensive. Season ticket sales are Barnfart’s report card. Not the rifle team.

  35. unblockable
    10:15 am September 24, 2012 Permalink

    “the contract situation is such that the athletic department will probably be motivated to retain the current staff.”

    Where does KSR come up with these writers?

  36. DaveUK
    10:17 am September 24, 2012 Permalink

    Corey – the contract situation has nothing to do with whether Joker will be fired after this season. The $2.55M buyout (100% next year, 50% year 2) is small compared to the $4-5M this season ALONE they are losing in season ticket and single-game ticket sales. This has been much discussed already.

  37. ChicagoSucks
    10:29 am September 24, 2012 Permalink

    The cigarette lighter rumor has been disproved for quite some time. That being said, your point is valid. Plenty of schools are able to field successful schools in both sports. However, Florida is really the only one in the SEC.

  38. kybigblue
    10:52 am September 24, 2012 Permalink

    Until the last two years wasn’t UK in the top 25 in college football attendance since the expansion of the stadium every year but one. Our biggest problem is the lack of a good recruiting base. We aren’t like Fl, TX, Calif. with a big recruiting base so it will take an exceptional recruiter and coach to get UK even into the top 1/2 of the SEC East. It has been ages since we had a winning record in the SEC.

  39. don'tbedumb
    10:53 am September 24, 2012 Permalink

    The only reason Florida, Ohio St., Texas, etc. can compete in both sports at a high level is because of the talent the states produce in football make it to where elite coaches want to coach that talent.Kentucky will never have the in state talent.Basketball is easier to pull talent away from other states than it is to pull a Texas kid from Texas to Kentucky, just doesn’t happen. Just like Kentucky kids want to play bball for UK, most Florida or Texas kids want to play for there home state school.

  40. Juan4UK
    10:56 am September 24, 2012 Permalink

    All, the people that think that UK, a program with a $90m budget, can’t afford another $3m in coaching salary budget from a purely financial standpoint, SHUT UP!!! The bulk of coaching salaries are from endorsements, re-negotiated with sponsors upon hiring of a new coach. So stop. Coaching salaries are not the issue.

  41. Big T
    10:58 am September 24, 2012 Permalink

    Im Shocked he is still employed TODAY! You are 1000% wrong on both accounts – Joker will be promptly fired at the end of season and a quality football coach can coexist at UK. We just need to find one. I am not comfortable in leaving that job to Mitch so I say fire him too!

  42. HicksPickSix
    11:01 am September 24, 2012 Permalink

    I’m ready for the big dogs at KSR to come to the Joker-like realization that Corey Nichols isn’t getting the job done. Many of the comments here can be used to support both Nichols and Joker getting the axe…

  43. 2blue4U
    11:10 am September 24, 2012 Permalink

    I think it is very feasible to have success in football and basketball. I think everyone will agree that we are on the top in basketball. I also think that the majority of the UK fanbase would be happy with a football program that is competitive. I wouldn’t expect championship football every season, but it would be great if we had a football team that gave us a chance in every game.

  44. schwing
    11:13 am September 24, 2012 Permalink

    calipari isn’t a government employee. the UKAA is privately-funded and self-sustaining.

  45. goukats
    11:15 am September 24, 2012 Permalink

    UL and WKU have rebuilt their programs with Florida recruits,and UK does not have to recruit instate players to be successful.In fact the biggest problem with UK football in the past was their reliance on Kentucky players.UK is in the SEC and that is a big plus in attracting quality football players.
    Pressure needs to be put on the AD and UK president or whomever to force them to make the change and bring in a coach who can turn the football program.The right hire will fill the stands and can make this school competitive.
    Joker and his staff have shown they cannot do this and it’s time to let them go.

    11:35 am September 24, 2012 Permalink

    39. How do you explain UL having more than half of their players from Florida/Miami, Teddy Bridgewater was recruiting by Miami and he still choose UL. Now unless you say UL cheated to get those players it shows that the kids would be willing to play out of state.

  47. SingleWide
    11:38 am September 24, 2012 Permalink

    If Bonnie and Clyde were a good duo why can’t Cheating Cal and Cheating Petrino?????
    May as well have TWO crooks at UK and WIN!!!

  48. Billy Gillespie's Beer Goggles
    12:17 pm September 24, 2012 Permalink

    Go get Tressel … he is not a big ego guy. Just give him a couple million and a couple cases of big blue sweater vests.

  49. Linda Taylor
    12:19 pm September 24, 2012 Permalink

    12 – I was just wondering if you caught the AZ-OR game Sat. night. It wasn’t pretty. I couldn’t watch past the 1st half and UA is my alma mater.

  50. Dick Gosinia
    12:26 pm September 24, 2012 Permalink

    #46 – there is no doubt in my mind that UL is cheating to get those Fla players. Clint Hurtt is a known cheater and just because he went to UL doesn’t mean he has stopped, just he hasn’t been caught yet.

  51. WayneinFrnkfort
    12:32 pm September 24, 2012 Permalink

    #49, I just saw the score from that game. Oregon is a scoring machine right now however, you have to take both the good and the bad. The good is what he accomplished at WV, which I think is comparable to UK, but this game with Oregon might be a red flag also.

  52. Linda Taylor
    12:57 pm September 24, 2012 Permalink

    Head Bussa – Have you ever lived in Tucson? I’ll take Lexington any and every day over Tucson, even when we have 2 inches of ice on our tree limbs and electric wires. That’s how much more I love living in Lexington than Tucson. That said, I really enjoyed my time as a student at UA (even though our band unis were hideous). Now however, Tucson, like most cities near the border with Mexico, is suffering greatly with the huge influx of illegals. Crime, overwhelmed hospitals, drug traffic, high unemployment rates, housing collapse worse than most of the country, etc., have made southern AZ an area you just don’t want to be. Many of my friends are looking to move away from Tucson and are just waiting until their kids finish school or they retire.

  53. Linda Taylor
    1:00 pm September 24, 2012 Permalink

    51 – They had 4 redzone opportunities in the 1st half that they just collapsed on. It was painful to watch, especially after watching the drubbing KY took earlier in the day.

  54. faycts is optional
    1:09 pm September 24, 2012 Permalink

    The cigarette lighter story is a myth. This article is even more of a myth.

  55. Please Stop
    1:54 pm September 24, 2012 Permalink

    Please stop writing. It is awful. You clearly don’t understand what you are talking about.

  56. FredTX
    3:15 pm September 24, 2012 Permalink

    Coach Bryant himself, on a number of occasions, has said that the story was just that. A story, nothing more. It was, in his words, a good banquet story. He left for A&M after winning the Cotton Bowl with the Wildcats. A&M came after him and they just had too much going for them for UK to be able to retain him.

  57. Bear's Ghost
    5:00 pm September 24, 2012 Permalink

    Of all the STUPID things I’ve read on this site and there have been a few, this is WITHOUT DOUBT, THE STUPIDEST OF ALL. I could write 6 pages on your ignorance but I’ll limit myself to this most ignorant of ignorant statemets: “I doubt any one could come into Lexington and take the top-dog position from John Calipari.”
    First, YOU MAGOON!!!
    Second, football and basketball don’t compete! Football coaches and Basketball coaches don’t compete. Both are representatives of our University. I don’t compete with my brother and he doesn’t compete with me. YOU ARE AN IDIOT!!!!!

  58. njCat
    12:32 am September 25, 2012 Permalink

    poor Corey. I normally agree w/ Matt that people should refrain from criticizing the writers on this ‘free’ site… but in this case I’m afraid its warranted. Tired, false arguments in support of a pointless position.

    If Jim Tressel or Mike Leach could come in here and win 50% of their games in the SEC – they will have earned their $4-5 million and the fans will pack an expanded stadium. If they can complete for SEC championships every three or four years, the fans might just go as crazy for football as they do for bball. Its total balony to promote the defeatist attitude that KY can never be good in football because of the bball program.

  59. I miss Mumme
    8:16 pm September 26, 2012 Permalink

    1st of all #57 the UK football program “don’t compete” with anyone under joker !