Now that this season is finally in the books (exhale), I don’t feel bad comparing this team to other one’s that have failed miserably in Lexington. This year’s 2-10 team consistently played in a very empty Commonwealth Stadium. Two true freshman manned Kentucky’s offense for 3/4 of the season. The youngest team in the country also played the most difficult schedule. An overtime loss to WKU would seem to be the lowest point a program can go, until they lost to Vanderbilt 40-0 in front of the smallest crowd most have ever seen at Commonwealth Stadium. The Joker Phillips era has ended on a sour note, but is it the worst?
The Thin Thirty
In 1962 Bear Bryant product Charlie Bradshaw replaced Blanton Collier as head coach and made heads spin immediately. His brutal conditioning and coaching style rubbed the team the wrong way, with 58 players quitting the team and only 30 left to begin the season. The survivors not only had to deal with adversity on the field, but gambling and sex scandals surfaced off the field. The team limped through the year, but ended on a positive beating Tennessee in Knoxville 12-10 and ending the season 3-5-2.
Scandals and More Scandals
While I grew up during Mumme and
Fraud Claude Basset’s fiasco where 3 dozen NCAA rules were broken and recruits were paid, it has actually been worse before. In 1975 there were point shaving allegations that coincided with criminal activity off the field. Sports Illustrated painted a picture of terrible time in the program. After a game where UK blew a lead to a winless Auburn team, a person was kidnapped by 3 people that were involved with the program over what is speculated as a $50,000 cocaine robbery. The season continued with people making blatant mistakes that resulted in losses. Sonny Collins was questioned by the FBI and police multiple times after the person that was kidnapped was found dead floating in the Ohio River. The team ended 2-9 and was placed on probation, forcing them to miss a bowl game in 1976 when the team went 9-3. Mumme fudged up and was 2-9 in 2000 on his way out the door, but I’d say paying players isn’t as bad as players shaving points and being involved with drug dealers.
Jerry Claiborne’s 1st season was bad: 0-10-1 bad. However Claiborne did turn things around quickly, getting UK to consecutive Hall of Fame Bowls in the two years following, but his first season was ugly. The best name on the 1982 team: Randy Jenkins. A John Short favorite, he is best known for his quick kick. When he first got to UK Fran Curci proclaimed, “I finally got a QB that can throw the ball.” Claiborne used him exclusively on pass plays, tipping off the defense and leading him to throw for only 2 TDs and 20 interceptions. This season has seen some strange/bad QB play, but nothing like Randy Jenkins.
The Bill Curry era saw it’s worse record in 1994 with the Cats finishing 1-10. Their offense featured one of UK’s best running back’s of all-time with Moe Williams, but they still couldn’t score. The offense produced only 7 rushing TDs and there were more interceptions thrown (14) than touchdowns (8). The fan base thought they hit a homerun hiring a former National Champion at Alabama, but Curry’s old-school rushing attack failed miserably.
This year’s team was bad, and the next head coach will inherit arguably the toughest job in all of College Football, however we should be thankful that Joker did things the right way. The program is not better off than when he started, but it is much better than it was in 2001. It’s easy to fix things on the field, but it takes years to fix things off the field.