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Head Ball Coach: The SEC’s Newest ‘Rat Race?’

“I hope I ween.”

You change coaches when you start losing to teams you’re not supposed to lose to, historically speaking, and you do it in consecutive games.

You change coaches when you’re off to your worst start in 60 years, and you’ve passed the season’s midpoint and you still can’t be sure you’ve hit bottom.

You change coaches when you’ve fallen so far behind your biggest rival that you have to trade in your binoculars for a telescope to watch him pull farther and farther away.

Somebody writing about Kentucky, you say?  It might sound like it, but Kevin Scarbinsky, of, wrote this recently about the struggling Auburn Tigers.

The Tigers are faced with the worst-case scenario: not only are they losing miserably, but in-state rival Alabama is having a ridiculous level of success.  Similarly, though not as severely, Kentucky fans have to watch a currently-winless SEC season, while Louisville remains undefeated and ranked fairly high in national polls.  For a basketball state, where we’re not gonna go ripping off titles anytime soon, this is about as bad as football can get.

So, with Auburn beat writers discussing the inevitability of Chizik’s discharge, is it a race to hire the best coach available?  A lot of UK fans have mentioned Bobby Petrino in their hushed whispers, but even if the entire fanbase should decided they want Bobby, that may not be enough.

According to Scarbinsky, apparently there is “a quiet movement has begun behind the scenes to gauge and enlist support for Bobby Petrino as the next coach [at Auburn],” or so an anonymous booster told him.

So, Auburn, and probably Tennessee, find themselves all in a similar position.  And possibly all looking at the same small pool of applicants.  Sounds like an arms race to me.  And what can Kentucky do to get ahead?  The Auburn folks are already gearing up:

The discussion of the next coach can wait. The machinery to create the opening can’t, not with actual or potential job searches at Arkansas, Tennessee and Kentucky as well.

They’ve jumped feet-first into the coaching search for next year, and if Auburn is already both feet into their coaching search, what should we be doing?  Should we be past the hypothetical stage, where we fill our reasonings with “probably’s” and “currently’s?”  Scarbinsky may have written about the inevitability of a change at Auburn, but it reads, prophetically, like it was written for us.  And he’s right.  The Tigers are already looking for a coach; if we don’t start soon, we may be left out in the cold.

Article written by Corey Nichols

69 Comments for Head Ball Coach: The SEC’s Newest ‘Rat Race?’

  1. Ygritte
    9:05 am October 22, 2012 Permalink

    You know nothing, Corey Nichols.

  2. cdc_uky
    9:14 am October 22, 2012 Permalink

    I would like to think UK already has a list and is working it…

  3. Dickie Z
    9:23 am October 22, 2012 Permalink

    Didn’t Auburn just win the championship 2 years ago with this coach?

  4. JayCee
    9:25 am October 22, 2012 Permalink

    Arkansas has also made it clear that they plan to have a new coach in place by December.

    Look, there’s UK sucking hind teat again.

  5. Ben
    9:25 am October 22, 2012 Permalink

    We are always last in football. I fully expect us to wait and be last in the search as well. Nothing changes over the past 50 years

  6. Joker say's
    9:26 am October 22, 2012 Permalink

    What do ya’ll think about keeping me one more year? With so many teams looking for a coach you know Ky is at the bottom of anyones wish list. I promise to double my victories mext year as well from 1 to 2.

  7. JCH
    9:28 am October 22, 2012 Permalink

    UK is currently looking, or so says the “buzz” I’ve heard. The same “buzz” was out there when Billy G. went down and Cal was hired but that was quite a bit more easily predicted! So, take it for what it’s worth.

    Now, put yourself in Petrino’s or any other top/decent coaching applicant’s position and, no matter who started their list first, how would you rank the coaching opportunities listed in this post?

    1. Tennessee
    2. Auburn
    50. UK

    Yes, I know there are only 3 teams listed..

    If Petrino is the best available, he isn’t coming to UK, period.

    We’re looking at the likes of Duke’s Cutcliffe or possibly one of the cast-offs from the other 2 teams mentioned; Dooley or Chizik. At best.

    Of course, there’s always John Gruden!

  8. JayCee
    9:29 am October 22, 2012 Permalink

    7- UT is broke and Pat Dye hates Bobby P.

  9. Long time fan
    9:32 am October 22, 2012 Permalink

    What would u guys think about Rich Rodriguez? I bet he would leave Arizona for the SEC. His teams are really exciting too ala Mummeball!!

  10. JCH
    9:32 am October 22, 2012 Permalink

    #6, another 2-3 outings like Saturday and you just may get your wish…

    In fact, I think you deserve it. Here’s why:

    1. Injuries to our best players, especially at QB – all things being equal but swap Max Smith for our QB platoon and we win Saturday

    2. UK has played the toughest schedule in the nation. Every single team with the exception of Kent and Western have been ranked at some point this year; most in the top 10.

    3. Most importantly, youth. UK is the 3rd youngest team in DI. If these guys go out and put up as impressive performances as they did Saturday, Joker deserves another year.

  11. TampaCat
    9:35 am October 22, 2012 Permalink

    Kirby Smart of Alabama! This guy is the “must” hire!!!

  12. JCH
    9:35 am October 22, 2012 Permalink

    #8, maybe so but I said “put yourself in Petrino’s or any other top/decent coaching applicant’s position”, not Pat Dye’s.

    UT might be broke but as a top head coach prospect I’d much rather go there where I will get all the support I need from the school and not have to split the fanbase like I would in Alabama. And UK would still be waaaaay down my list.

  13. Smitty
    9:36 am October 22, 2012 Permalink

    3 – Yes, he was the coach there. They won it behind Cam Newton. Their coach has been terrrrible in every year besides w/ Cam

  14. mike
    9:36 am October 22, 2012 Permalink

    Maybe we can pry chizik away from Auburn. He won a national title.

  15. mike
    9:38 am October 22, 2012 Permalink

    I forgot to type LOL at the end of my last comment.

  16. JayCee
    9:39 am October 22, 2012 Permalink

    12- Doesn’y matter where he WANTS to go. It’s where he can get hired.

    UT is still paying Fulmer, Summit and Pearl on their contracts. They also just finished a $multi-million practice facility. They can want Petrino and he can want to comes, but the money has to come from somewhere and UT is currently operating in the red.

    As for Auburn, Pat Dye and Bobby Lowder make the calls there and both LOATHE Bobby P.

    Again, he can wish in one hand and shat in the other, It’s about who can and who will hire him.

  17. JCH
    9:41 am October 22, 2012 Permalink

    #9 – An opportunity to come to the SEC is attractive but probably not at UK – how many head coaches have gone on to better jobs after leaving UK?

    How many have even gone on to other head coaching jobs, good or otherwise?

    I still think it’s either Chizik or Dooley who are just trying to “stay” in the SEC, somebody like Cutcliffe where it would be a “huge” jump or we get a “no name” and hope to catch lightning in bottle.

    However, the “buzz” I referred to in my first post says the checkbook is wide open (both for salary and facilities) so maybe $$$ will lure in one of the top prospects. Lord knows the egos of these guys is large enough they all think with enough $$$ they can build a winner at any school.

    Here’s to hoping!

  18. bluesince66
    9:42 am October 22, 2012 Permalink

    There is nothing Joker can do to deserve another year. He is the reason we are so young to begin with. UK would’ve won Saturday with Max Smith yeah right. Georgia for some reason does not get up for UK, and most times allows us to play them closer than we should, has a lot more to do with Georgia than it does us. Joker took a program on a slow steady climb to respectability to over the cliff as one of the laughing stocks of college football. I’ve watched parts of 2 UK games this season and if Jokers back I won’t be watching any.

  19. JCH
    9:46 am October 22, 2012 Permalink

    16 – and again, I said Bobby P. or ANY OTHER TOP/DECENT COACHING PROSPECT.

    The point is no top coaching prospect will want to come to UK over UT and Auburn; or Arkansas for that matter…

    Read my post at 17 for reasons why and further discussion.

  20. Long time fan
    9:46 am October 22, 2012 Permalink

    Coach from Ohio U would be a pretty attractive hire right now.
    I’m still in favor of Rich Rod. I expect him to try to get back to the mainstream. He has to make another stop from Arizona before he lands a big job.

  21. JCH
    9:47 am October 22, 2012 Permalink

    18 – parts of 2 whole games… I don’t think you’ll be missed much!

  22. JayCee
    9:48 am October 22, 2012 Permalink

    19- that’s where you’re screwing up. BP is an island compared to other “name” coaches. He is a proven winner with baggage, which makes him available to UK now when he would never be otherwise.

    I’m not talking about other coaches here, I’m talking about the one or two that UK actually has a fighting chance at hiring.

  23. believeblue
    9:48 am October 22, 2012 Permalink

    13…shouldn’t you be writing life policies instead of surfing the net??

  24. SteveM
    9:49 am October 22, 2012 Permalink

    Nothing is going to change. No coach with any kind of future will ever coach at UK under Barnhart.

  25. JCH
    9:50 am October 22, 2012 Permalink

    20 – UK is not “mainstream” college football. Has Rodriquez really fallen that far? Maybe but I’d be surprised.

  26. Poco Chang
    9:52 am October 22, 2012 Permalink

    #17, Please use more double quotes. You missed “lightning in a bottle”, “wide open”, “top prospects”, and “winner.”


  27. JCH
    9:53 am October 22, 2012 Permalink

    22 – and, again, I am talking about all coaching prospects.

    Do you really think UK will hire a coach with “baggage” – especially highly publicized and local baggage – after the Billy G. debacle???

    He may do well here but for the same reasons you list for his not going to Auburn, he isn’t coming to UK. Mitch can’t risk another hiring blunder like Billy G. and Petrino is an almost guarantee to be one with the only exception as he may win.

  28. JCH
    9:54 am October 22, 2012 Permalink

    26 – thanks, it’s early…

  29. Evan
    9:54 am October 22, 2012 Permalink

    2 straight posts with a Cuba Gooding Jr. reference… Can we make it 3?

  30. JCH
    9:55 am October 22, 2012 Permalink

    24 – loose the “under Barnhart” and you’re absolutely right

  31. Jayce...
    10:01 am October 22, 2012 Permalink

    JayCee, I appreciate your posts–they are normally very informed and knowledge, but Tennessee has big money boosters (like most SEC programs) so pretending they won’t fire Dooley is foolish. It has been confirmed by multiple radio personalities that two very influential boosters are prepared to pay the Dooley buyout. Furthermore, you are simply reading the headline on UT’s budget problems. While UT posted $4MM in the red, they also gave $6MM to the academic side of the university…not exactly “broke” when you look at the details.

    Unlike UK other schools in the SEC make a way to do what they want in football…

  32. #16
    10:02 am October 22, 2012 Permalink

    Absolutely FALSE information you are providing about Bobby Lowder. Bobby Lowder was the reason Auburn flirted with Petrino in the first place.

  33. Unknown Fan
    10:04 am October 22, 2012 Permalink

    Commonwealth Stadium is the boneyard for football coaches.Maybe BarnFart needs to consider putting UK football in a conference they can compete in…..WAC,C-USA..

  34. Blue
    10:06 am October 22, 2012 Permalink

    Nobody’s mentioned him, but I think Mike Leach will be one of the top targets. Like Petrino, but to a much lesser degree, Leach is a proven winner with baggage. Although he has a job currently, one would think he would dump Wazzou in a second to come back to the SEC. And, he’d be returning to a place where he has previously coached and had success, and reportedly loved the area. He and Mumme proved that the Air Raid offense can be successful in the SEC, and it would be just the thing to get butts back in the seats at Commonwealth. I’ve been saying Mike Leach for two years, and if we’re ever gonna try to lure him back to Lexington, now would be the time before he really gets the ball rolling out west.

  35. Longtime fan
    10:06 am October 22, 2012 Permalink

    I think it’s going to be an unexpected name. Id like to get Rich Rod but I agree not likely. No way they take Dooley. His next job is in the Sunbelt or the MAC. Chizik, I say, there is like a 90% chance he sits out a year before he finds a decent job. Last big name coach we had was uh…..Bear Bryant? Chizik isn’t coming. Frank Solich from OU or dare I say, Cutliffe, though hiring a guy from Duke just totally sucks. Lol

  36. BlueTexan
    10:37 am October 22, 2012 Permalink

    List all the names you wish…the REAL problem is the one making the hiring decisions. Fire Barnfart. Recruit a professional AD who’s respected in the coaching ranks…hire him/her and give them the responsibility to clean house and FINALLY start building a program. Barnfart has proven he isn’t up to the job…why allow a mediocre administrator to ‘right-the-ship’? Doesn’t make sense.

  37. tdaddy
    10:38 am October 22, 2012 Permalink

    why does petrino even being mentioned by ky fans as a possible candidate, he is not like coach cal, where haters thought he might cheat and are jealous of him, petrino was a proven liar at louisville and a proven cheater/adultery. so why would ky fans want a guy like that just for wins?

  38. tltaworl
    10:43 am October 22, 2012 Permalink

    My top 3 are as follows:
    1. Kirby Smart
    2. Jim Tomsula
    3. Chris Peterson

  39. tltaworl
    10:45 am October 22, 2012 Permalink

    35. UK athletics is in a much better place since Barnhart has been here. It is pointless to even think that Barnhart gets fired…unless he screws up on this hire 🙂

  40. jch
    10:52 am October 22, 2012 Permalink

    35 – Under Barnhart UK has won a basketball championship and become perennial threat to repeat, the UK women’s basketball team is better than it has ever been and is a top 10 program, the UK baseball team is as good as it has ever been and is also a top 10-15 team…. the list goes on, look it up.

    You may not like Barnhart but building a case to fire him is absurd. I believe he just received an extension and big raise which, considering the performance of the athletic department, was deserved.

    What has he done poorly? Hire Billy G.? Yes but he was an up-and-coming coach at the time and we’d already been turned down by Cal and Donovan.

    And he honored Brooks’ “coach-in-waiting” and hired Joker when, and lets be honest here, no one else wanted the UK football job even though they had been to 4 straight bowl games.

    And you want to fire the guy?

  41. UKfootballfollies
    10:55 am October 22, 2012 Permalink

    #33 – Mitch can’t change the conference and lose all the SEC football money that pays for his Olympic sports.

  42. goUKats
    10:56 am October 22, 2012 Permalink

    Auburn will hire Petrino and Barnyard will hire UKs’ coach-in-waiting, Rick Minter,college footballs greatest defensive mastermind.

  43. Mr G
    11:09 am October 22, 2012 Permalink

    I think Mitch is going to hit a home run with Joker’s replacement. He knows very well what the stakes are and I think he’ll do it right this time. I’m pissed off, too and I turn down free ticket offers every week but I think Mitch will make all of us proud this time.

  44. Ouch
    11:09 am October 22, 2012 Permalink

    Both Auburn and the Carolina Panthers are being punished for the Cam Auburn National Championship shenanigans. The truth will find you out.

  45. A Brighter Day
    11:12 am October 22, 2012 Permalink

    I agree with Mr. G, we’ll get it right this time.

  46. casual fan
    11:15 am October 22, 2012 Permalink

    #37 – your typical season ticket holder reaction to your list is “Who?”

  47. jch
    11:16 am October 22, 2012 Permalink

    40 – let’s hope not, on both accounts…

    I’d just as soon see Petrino not hired anywhere, but that’s just me.

    I mentioned this earlier but, if (and it’s a big if), UK can put together 2-3 performances like Saturday’s over the next 4 games I think Joker deserves to finish out his contract under the following conditions:

    1 – no extensions will be offered to him until after next season
    2 – he gets rid of Randy Sanders and Rick Minter and seriously look at all other coaching positions. He should also enlist the aid of Barnhart to find suitable replacements.

    With all of these conditions met, I could live with Joker another year to see if this very young group of Cats can be competitive in the SEC.

    NOTE: I don’t see this as being a likely scenario – nor would it be my preference

  48. jch
    11:21 am October 22, 2012 Permalink

    44 – I believe those guys would fall into the “no name coach, hoping to catch lightning in a bottle” category…

    Probably not the best outcome, even if we do catch the “lightning” whomever it is will be gone after a year or two to a better opportunity.

  49. jch
    11:28 am October 22, 2012 Permalink

    How about some reasons a top tier coach (or close) may be interested in the UK job

    1 – QB situation
    – Max Smith – SEC caliber, proven, experienced and 3 years eligibility
    – Patrick Towles – extremely talented, 4 years eligibility
    – Jalen Whitlow – experienced, talented, “Wildcat” option, 3 years eligibility

    2 – Very young, talented receivers

    3 – Very deep, young, talented running backs

    4 – Young, decent O-line

    5 – Very young, talented defense across the board

    6 – and, oh what a punter!!! 😉 sorry couldn’t resist!

    Oh year, who put all this together? The Joker did…


  50. kybigblue
    11:30 am October 22, 2012 Permalink

    If you had a chance to coach football at Auburn, Arkansas or Kentucky which would most likely be your last choice? I don’t think starting late against Auburn will have an impact of Kentucky’s search but there will be other schools who UK would be more competitive with in a search for a coach so UK doesn’t want to drag their feet.

  51. SlickRicTheRuler
    11:33 am October 22, 2012 Permalink

    So if Joker does get fired, this is who UK should hire. They should hire Neal Brown from Texas Tech. Is he a big flashy name? No, and maybe I am naive for thinking a second attempt at hiring a former UK guy would work. He did play under Mumme and he runs a spread offense down at Texas Tech. Then you bring in Tony Franklin from Louisiana Tech to be the OC. He did coach under Mumme as well.

    No dont get too hype about my idea, as in no way am I suggesting to bring back a ton of former guys who were here under Mumme, I just thought that these two would be solid. Brown is pretty young so you might be able to give him a nice term on a contract.

    Now on the defensive side, can we just bring somebody in that runs a 4-3.

    Over the years, I have came to the conclusion that DEEP DOWN INSIDE, UK football fans they wont ever be a top 10 team, all they want is a chance to be competitive and upset a few teams every year. If they could go 7-5 and make a bowl they would be happy. If the team is putting up 400 yards per game in offense they are happy. If the team is averaging 30+ points per game, fans are happy. UK needs excitement.

  52. Mike leach
    11:37 am October 22, 2012 Permalink

    I’m waiting for my effing call mitch

  53. I Could See It
    11:38 am October 22, 2012 Permalink

    I could see Joker playing out his contract in a fashion of #45 keeping in mind #47. I just don’t think that Joker and his coordinators are on the same page. That being said, Joker should have done something about it. I’d love to see Joker weather the storm with new faces on the staff at the end of the rainbow. Don’t see it happening, but I could live with it one more year. Wouldn’t it be something to bring in Hal Mumme as the offensive coordinator? Of course you’d have to lock him up in between games and practices, but we’d put points on the board against anyone. I’d even go as far as saying let the coordinators go NOW and finish the season with graduate assistants if necessary. This would be a good faith move on Joker’s part, admitting that there is an issue. Couldn’t do worse.

  54. kirby smart
    11:44 am October 22, 2012 Permalink

    Kirby smart may be a no name coach for the ticket holders but 4-5 star recruits know his name. He has talked to more 5 star recruits than joker can in his own dreams. I know it’s at Alabama but what he does for Alabama is pick and choose who to offer a scholarship to, therefore he is a great talent evaluator which is what we need. We may not be able to sign kids away from the Florida of the world but the nfl is full of guys that went to no name colleges because no d1 school gave them a shot. That’s the talent we need to find and get on a regular basis.

  55. jch
    11:51 am October 22, 2012 Permalink

    49 – good comments and suggestions. I don’t know the guys you are suggesting but they sound like decent candidates from your description.

    And, I couldn’t agree more with your assessment of the UK fanbase; just give us something to route for until basketball starts!

  56. jch
    11:57 am October 22, 2012 Permalink

    And, why not Mike Leach???

    I wasn’t around when he was at UK and not sure how involved he was with the scandal under Mumme. But, if he wasn’t heavily involved, why not hire him? He was great at Texas Tech he just couldn’t dodge the heat for treating Chris James’ son like he probably needed to be treated…

    Did the truth of what he did ever come out? Or are we still only hearing what Chris James says happened??? Were there any other similar accusations???

    Seriously, I don’t know the situation well.

    What are the reasons NOT to hire Leach?

  57. Kirby smart
    11:58 am October 22, 2012 Permalink

    Plus you could still bring in someone like tony Franklin to install the spread offense. The difference being that kirby smarts defenses would keep the other teams from scoring 40+ while we put up 30+ a game

  58. doubleD123
    12:05 pm October 22, 2012 Permalink

    I think we should be looking at someone outside of COLLEGE football we need someone who has an NFL background, but has coached at the college level before not named petrino.

    im talking about Jay Gruden, Jay is the OC at the Bengals, has ties to the NFL and would bring in a high scoring west coast offense that could possibly attract recruits to UK on top of selling our bball program. The fact is, in Jays first year as OC he coached 2 rookies to Pro Bowls and I KNOW FOR A FACT he wants to be a head coach somewhere in college or the league.

  59. Kirby smart
    12:06 pm October 22, 2012 Permalink

    54) reason 1) look at WVU to find out what happens to the spread offense when it plays against good defenses and the last time I checked the SEC is known for defense.
    Reason 2) when mumme had that offense at uk we couldn’t win more than 7 games because for every 30 points we put on the score board, the opponent would put up 35-40.
    Reason 3) brooks was a defensive minded coach and had more success than any other uk coach. If you want consistent bowl games hire someone who knows defense and better yet SEC defense.
    Reason 4) you can hire an OC to bring the spread to uk

  60. bluesince66
    12:09 pm October 22, 2012 Permalink

    The only way I would go for one of the gimmick offensive guys is with a head coach that is all about defense. Mummes numbers weren’t near as good after he had been in the sec for awhile. Defensive coaches figure that crap out. Kirby Smart would be my choice, but I think we have as much chance hiring him away from Bama as Bama would be hiring Antigua away from KY. Someone saying Calipari turned KY down while trying to sound like they know everything couldn’t be more off.For those who wouldn’t have a problem with Joker back again I really don’t know what to say.

  61. Bob Diaco
    12:13 pm October 22, 2012 Permalink

    How about me? Defense is looking good

  62. fatkidineastky
    12:16 pm October 22, 2012 Permalink

    I am in agreement with #41…..”I think Mitch is going to hit a home run with Joker’s replacement. He knows very well what the stakes are and I think he’ll do it right this time. I’m pissed off, too and I turn down free ticket offers every week but I think Mitch will make all of us proud this time.” He will not listen to the paid sources ever again…(Billy G)….he will go with his boosters (Calipari) or his own search (Mitchell, Henderson, Cedergren, et al.) which have been winners….

    I believe – as ben Crenshaw said…”I’m a big believer in fate,” Crenshaw said that night. “I have a good feeling about tomorrow. That’s all I’m gonna say.”…AND BOOM!!!! I just feel it…we gonna get a Sonny Dykes type coach that will electrify Commonwealth Stadium and actually LOVE TO BE HERE FOR THE LONG HAUL!!!!

  63. jubrho
    12:34 pm October 22, 2012 Permalink

    Get Cal to recruit our next coach. No one can recruit better.

  64. Suggestion
    1:13 pm October 22, 2012 Permalink

    Suggestion from the list of you’ve never heard of before: Lance Leipold – Wisconsin Whitewater

  65. Why not?
    1:14 pm October 22, 2012 Permalink

    Eric mangini is an espn analyst right now, is 41 and has boat loads of nfl experience to sell to recruits.

  66. CarolinaCatFan
    1:22 pm October 22, 2012 Permalink

    They will not keep Joker without an extension. A lame duck coach cannot recruit. Tony Franklin will not be at UK. I think it has something to do with a book he wrote and the Mumme troubles. I’m not sure about all of the details – just something Matt mentioned on the radio one day. I’ll take Sonny Dykes in a heartbeat. Would love seeing these young playmakers in a dynamic offense. I think we’ve got some talent on both sides of the ball I just think they need to be in a scheme that better fits their talents and they need to be playing for coaches with a better grasp of developing them.

  67. JB
    2:13 pm October 22, 2012 Permalink

    Its a shame Louisville has more SEC wins than we do this year.

  68. SlickRicTheRuler
    3:16 pm October 22, 2012 Permalink

    There are several coaches that are within reach that would be good hires, but several of them have ties to the Mumme administration. If it came down to it, do you think UK would hire a former coach from the Mumme staff?

  69. Sources Close To Program
    3:35 pm October 22, 2012 Permalink

    Those touting the old Mummy staff overlooked one key position, head coach. However, I assume that Claude Bassett is your choice for that position. YEE HAA…big Claude is back in town…FREE UK COWBOY HATS for the first 50,000 fans.