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Joker With a Small Step in the Right Direction


If you heard the radio show this morning, in addition to hearing a sweet 80 year old Joanne rip me a new one, you also heard me say that Joker Phillips has to do something to try and reach out and win over fans. Well on cue, Joker Phillips made his most impassioned plea to UK fans yet of his tenure in Lexington. This afternoon he spoke at the Kickoff Luncheon and addressed what he needed to have addressed months prior. He acknowledged that fans are restless but he implored them to please support the team and get behind the UK football program. He suggested what is true. There is very little to sell to recruits about UK football apart from its loyal fans and if you lose that, trying to compete becomes even harder. And he made it clear that even if people have problems with the staff or the issues in the coaches box, supporting the players should be of a priority to the fans. It was probably his best attempt at addressing the elephant in the program and from all that I have read, it seems that he handled it well.

The reality is that Joker has given the perception that he is tone deaf when it comes to the criticism of UK football. He rarely addresses any of the substantive critiques people have with where the program is headed and when pressed, he gives the most generic, unresponsive answers to questions about its future. When the news came out yesterday that season ticket sales were down 27%, I expected Phillips to go on the offensive. I wanted Joker to come to every possible place he could go and let the world know that he had a plan for bringing UK football back. I thought he would do media interviews, talk to radio shows and go on television, all to say, “I get it…you are upset and we are turning this around!” If Calipari had similar bad news, don’t you think he would have been addressing it within 30 minutes of its release? I wanted that from Joker as well.

The reality is that we didn’t quite get that sense of urgency. I still wish Joker would do more to reach out to the fans and make a statement that things will be different and the program is headed in the right direction. But his comments today were a good first step towards that goal. The UK football program is at a crossroads with its fans and its future. This year is crucial, not only for Joker Phillips, but for the program in general. Fans feel that urgency and it is why there is so much displeasure and corresponding pleas for support. All we want is for Joker to show that he feels it too and gets where fans are coming from. It wasn’t perfect, but at the UK Football Luncheon today, he started taking steps down that road.

Article written by Matt Jones

38 Comments for Joker With a Small Step in the Right Direction

  1. Rich Brook's tomato
    4:32 pm July 27, 2012 Permalink

    I guess the “NOISE” has finally gotten to him. I would love to see Joker give us fans a REASON to get behind him! We need him to get his team to come out with a “Prove the world wrong attitude”!!

  2. James K
    4:32 pm July 27, 2012 Permalink

    Hey Matt.

  3. TheBear
    4:35 pm July 27, 2012 Permalink

    Why would anyone expect Joker to reach out to fans when his boss wouldn’t dream of it. His boss has spent all summer saying things are fine, no worries. What, he’s supposed to go out there say something different?!? The whole lot is clueless.

  4. JDTampa
    4:35 pm July 27, 2012 Permalink

    What do they expect. I don’t watch the derby every year to see who comes in last! For 20 years I got behind the players and supported the team financially through season tickets. To my knowledge I am not responsible for ONE recruit coming to UK and turning the program around because I had two seats in the end-zone. At least I didn’t receive a letter claiming so. All I ever received in the mail was a renewal letter, increased ticket prices, fancy slogans, and repeated beatings from SEC teams.

  5. Love my cats
    4:37 pm July 27, 2012 Permalink

    I have a feeling this could be a special year, us fans need too get behind our team. Show them we support them when there up an where there down!

  6. tim clark
    4:37 pm July 27, 2012 Permalink

    i stopped buying season tickets and this will be my 3rd season not buying, can’t respect the man much less of how he is as a coach. not that he is doing a sandusky, but i don’t care for the man’s morals and what i saw in the past, i would not want him as a role model for young men. he can talk and preach but his feet do the opposite, i guess i call it low character

  7. Common Sense
    4:38 pm July 27, 2012 Permalink

    Probably one of the best statements I’ve ever heard Matt say is “There is very little to sell to recruits about UK football apart from its loyal fans and if you lose that, trying to compete becomes even harder.” Yet UK fans don’t get this fact. They would rather “make a statement” by refusing to buy season tickets, which is a flat out atrocious act. Be a FAN, support the team! Go Cats!

  8. Winnee
    4:39 pm July 27, 2012 Permalink

    I want a public apology from Mitch to UK FB fans. He owes us at least that much for his comments in the past. I’m with JD. Fans will be there, we’ve just grown tired of supporting a program that shows no desire to move forward to being competitive. If you don’t think Mike Leach would have sold season tickets, then you’re mistaken.

  9. Common Sense
    4:42 pm July 27, 2012 Permalink

    Joker has “low character”? He might have a quiet personality but he is certainly a class act. Oh well, don’t bother buying your season tickets in 2 years when this team goes bowling!

  10. James K
    4:43 pm July 27, 2012 Permalink

    Listen, guys. UK Football has only sniffed a great season, and even then, they were ranked near the bottom of the SEC.

    Temper your expectations for football and you will be a lot happier. It’s a no-win situation to pout about UK Football not being great.

  11. Carnifex
    4:48 pm July 27, 2012 Permalink

    After the crap sandwichs Mitch has been handing us for the past 2 years, the least he can do is apologize to the fans. And since it’s the least, I don’t expect that much from him. He’s the most do nothing AD on the planet.

    He Mitch….just cancel football! Think how much money you could spend on womens synchronized swimming then!

  12. Hokey Pete
    4:48 pm July 27, 2012 Permalink

    Matt, you hit the nail on the head. When “great fan base” is the only thing you can sell to recruits, you’ve got serious problems that go far beyond the nameplate on the Head Coach’s desk. That being said, the entire football program, from Mr. Barnhart on down, has less PR savvy than Chick-Fil-A.

  13. Rich Brooks' tomato
    4:50 pm July 27, 2012 Permalink

    We haven’t had a winning SEC record IN 35 YEARS!!! If our administration doesn’t care about supporting UK football, why should the fan base continue to spend money to support it?!!When Mitch and Co. show UK fans that they are SERIOUS about changing the historic mediocrity of our program, we’ll come back in HUGE numbers!!

  14. Big Blue Coming at You
    4:53 pm July 27, 2012 Permalink

    It’s nothing more than a desperate attempt to save his job. No butts in the seats are a direct result of a poor coach but i’m sure Joker will try to blame the players for that too instead of man up and admit his own faults.

  15. jpgott2
    4:54 pm July 27, 2012 Permalink

    I like that Joker came out with a little passion here, but I have watched too many “tone deaf” post game pressers and interviews to believe he can change UK for the better.

    UK fans during the last 5 seasons (2nd half) of the Brooks Era, saw UK finally pull away the years of putridness, to actually show a pulse in football. With Brooks’ retirement, UK fans felt Joker would be able to continue the bowl, and show continued improvements, since Joker was apart of the buildup, but that has not, and now Joker is in his 3rd year, with a lot of gaps in the team.

    Season ticket sale toped in 2009 because fans were excited, as were recruits (sell the fans to recruits). UK was even in the top-25 in attendance for a lot of this time.

    The problem with the last 2 seasons is that they have been so putrid, that fans have had enough, and the recruits are looking elsewhere. Our instate recruits (great class this year) are looking elsewhere (not even on their list).

    When a coach is trying to find “some playmakers” in that last quarter of last season, you have to question the leadership, and their ability to evaluate/develop talent.

  16. Big Blue Coming at You
    4:57 pm July 27, 2012 Permalink

    5. The fact that your spelling and wrong use of the word “there” is so poor, it makes me believe you’re too stupid to know any better.

  17. Boohoo
    4:59 pm July 27, 2012 Permalink

    When your coach treats the fans like this…”Call me when we’re 3-9″…what kinda of response do you think you’ll get??? When our AD basically calls me a “microwave” fan (a 30 yr season ticket holder!!!) for wanting a competitive team…what kinda of response do you think you’ll get??? I turned my car around on the way to the game when I heard Mitch say that (not lying)! I’m sick of it! I’m sick of losing! If wanting a competitive team and not renewing makes me less of a “fan” then so be it. Somebody has to do something! Apparently money (or lack thereof) is the only way they’ll listen.

  18. ribin
    5:05 pm July 27, 2012 Permalink

    Need some real excitement — sense of ‘something’ happening — not more of what we got last year – tickets are down –I gave up two of four I’ve had for year. I haven’t given up on UK football — have looked at reality. We schedule cupcakes — (like the WKU – in state team) but know we’ll beat or almost beat one good team during the year and then struggle with the rest of the sec — talk will be how we are ‘so close’ and if we get a couple of wins early — bowl eligible almost — then rest of season is a guess as to if they will or not — then we get hope (gonna be a bowl game) and effort has been lacking there.

  19. Math
    5:13 pm July 27, 2012 Permalink

    13,000 less season tickets sold x $50 (avg price w/ B/W fund) = -$650,000/game
    $650,000 x 7 = $4,550,000 loss this season.
    $4.55M = top tier coach

    This doesn’t take into account the fact that we’re about 20K less season tickets sold from the high water mark ($7M/season), nor does it take into account the more money they could charge if we were good.

    Fan support (or lack thereof) most certainly can make a difference. Maybe not with recruits, but it sure can with coaches. A hit like they’re taking this year shows GROSS misunderstanding of your audience.

  20. DirtyDave
    5:21 pm July 27, 2012 Permalink

    #18 “Ribin” I think you’re absolutely right! Although I have no clue what you just daid

  21. Jason
    5:21 pm July 27, 2012 Permalink

    It’s hard to get excited over the signing of 3 star athletes.

  22. Hokey Pete
    5:23 pm July 27, 2012 Permalink

    Some of this could have been avoided had UK done SOMETHING in the off-season to show that it’s committed to winning football. Instead, the athletic director bickered with the legislature over who’s at fault for the lack of funding football receives. Coach Phillips has been put in a tough spot that’s not entirely of his own making.

  23. Wow
    5:25 pm July 27, 2012 Permalink

    Dude can’t catch a break. Snaps the Spurrier and Tennessee streak. Loses to the eventual National Champions on a last second field goal two years ago (closest game Auburn had all season). Has ONE bad year where he had lost Randall Cobb and people are ready to burn the house down. I’m not saying he’s been the greatest thing since sliced bread but Brooks scheduled cupcakes and prayed that we’d beat Vandy and Mississippi St.

  24. jpgott2
    5:54 pm July 27, 2012 Permalink

    23., Brooks had to deal with UK on PROBATION!!! Joker became coach with UK on a 5 time Bowl streak! Tennessee sucked last year, and beating South Carolina was more of a fluke.

    Joker can not DEVELOP players, and his lack of direction when discussing problems with the team is mind-numbing (every post game presser).

    Please tell me 1 team that has tough out of conference schedule, especially one who plays in a tough football conference. Heck, UL schedules a bunch of softies in their non-conference, and they play in the biggest joke of a BCS league, in the Big East. They lost West Virginia on their schedule to the Big-12, and replaced them with Temple, who is 1 of 3 BCS teams projected to be worse then UK.

  25. Blue
    5:59 pm July 27, 2012 Permalink

    16. Haha grammar police!! Get a life.

  26. Daryl Isaacs
    5:59 pm July 27, 2012 Permalink

    Joker knows he is gone. Being a staunch booster who provides many gifts to the program, I voted to have him gone already.

  27. UKBlue
    6:09 pm July 27, 2012 Permalink

    I honestly don’t care what UK does on Joker; I wish UK would get it, but the history is just too long that they don’t or won’t. The fact that Joker or no one from UK didn’t preemptively come out & try controlling or spinning the Herald Leader article before it was realized is well eye opening. Besides Cal, I honestly wonder if anyone at UK understands PR or marketing. UK is getting their asses handed to them in football & now apparently fundraising, and UK administration is just sitting back watching it happen & doing nothing or not enough to stop it or apparently from their actions, not even trying to control it.

  28. Bret Michaels
    6:45 pm July 27, 2012 Permalink

    We have a football team?

  29. blitzedanddazed
    7:25 pm July 27, 2012 Permalink

    I have been attending UK Football games since the 1960’s. The last time UK fans have had to “suffer” the arrogance of a UK Head Football Coach was when Bill Curry walked the sidelines. Now Joker Phillips, in his usual arrogant manner, has played a game of “chicken” with the UK fan base and lost. For Joker’s sake I hope that he wins the opening game of the season. If not, Joker will be a lame duck coach for the rest of the 2012 season. The players, the assistant coaches and the fans will fold up like a cheap comic book.
    I have always said that people that wear the character on their sleeve do so because they know that failure is at hand.

  30. CatGrad7072
    8:15 pm July 27, 2012 Permalink

    Pay higher prices for a crappier product. Name a business owner that expects customers to show up for that business model

  31. Michael
    8:56 pm July 27, 2012 Permalink

    Matt, go play tennis.

  32. Ukfan4life
    9:04 pm July 27, 2012 Permalink

    The blame shouldn’t be on Joker alone. The budget for the football team is ridiculous for an SEC team . I am a season ticket holder and I suggest that we get off Jokers back and get on Barnharts . If we are to compete in the SEC, we must spend SEC money!!!

  33. Rommy Goodwin
    10:03 pm July 27, 2012 Permalink

    The only way to make a change is to not buy tickets to the games…Otherwise the University and Mitch have no incentive to make a change..

  34. UK
    11:34 pm July 27, 2012 Permalink

    Not arguing against anyone who chooses not to go to UK football games, its your own right to chose one way or the other.

    However, stop the argument that not going to games will “light a fire under UK/Barnhart”. You act as if they have all this money they are not using, and will not use until they lose enough money through fan attendance. The fact is, UK football does not have the money to spend. Do you honestly think UK/Barnhart enjoy 4-5 win seasons? Do you honestly think they do not care about the largest revenue source for the university and are content with where the program is?

    Like I said, it is your choice to go, but not going will not bring in a new coach, better recruits, better facilities, etc.

    80 thousand fans cheering great plays and booing poor plays/coaching decisions, but involved in the games and supporting UK through and through, will bring success.

  35. Andy
    1:22 am July 28, 2012 Permalink

    How about we all go support these kids that are giving it all? By canceling tickets and fans boycotting the season, it sends a wrong message. I understand the staff hasn’t done it’s best but at least go out there and show some support for these young men.

  36. MtnCat
    6:03 am July 28, 2012 Permalink

    Blame the fans, UK is a poor excuse for a football team.
    Until the people in charge of athletics are replaced then it will always be something other than them. I for one am tired of hearing excuses. Probation, geography, politics, fans, everything but “we’ve had 35 years to get this right and we still have no clue.” You’re an idiot if you expect anything else from this bunch.

  37. JayCee
    11:21 am July 28, 2012 Permalink

    34- when the well runs dry, a fire will spontaneously ignite under somebody. You can bet your sweet ass on that. Basketball, even at the top of its game, cannot support even half of Mitch’s pet money-wasting projects, much less they support themselves.

    Once UK figures out that their beloved tertiary sports programs can’t fund themselves w/o fans in the football seats, we’ll see one of two things happen: An effort to manufacture results on the football field or the greatest snow job in the history of mankind. And I really don’t think UK is dumb enough to go head-to-head with fan money again on nothing but a bluff.

    What say you? You think UK is in the business of going broke due to football apathy, or do you think they’ll come around and finally try to compete by giving football the same advantages as basketball?

  38. JayCee
    11:27 am July 28, 2012 Permalink

    35- knock yourself out, bro. How did blind loyalty to the players for years and years thru the 80’s and 90’s change anything as of today?

    It didn’t. Just like your bleeding heart for these kids won’t change a damn thing in the future. Demand deeper change. Demand more for our players from their own damned school.