For the first time since AD Mitch Barnhart published a letter to Big Blue Nation about the impending dismissal of Joker Phillips, the current Kentucky football coach met with the media. It was, understandably, a very tough moment to be a part of. Phillips, even while acknowledging his fate at the end of the current season, still handled the media with professionalism and class. Phillips began by talking about his time growing up in Franklin, KY and later committing to playing football at UK, a place where’s he’s spent most of his adult life. He continued by stressing that he will always be a part of Big Blue Nation and understands that during his time as head coach, he “just didn’t get the job done.” It’s sad to see such a good guy let go from a position he’s so passionate about, but after the product that was put on the football field these last couple of months, a change had to be made.
-It’s tough to finish your collegiate career without a bowl game appearance, but it’s even tougher to know that you couldn’t do anything to save your coach’s job. C Matt Smith is one of those seniors that will exit with Phillips. Smith said it’s tough to see the guy that brought him to Kentucky, and “the first person he shook hands with” in the program, to exit in this manner. “I don’t think any of us expected [the firing] to come with two games left. It’s tough, I hate to see him go like this.”
-Smith described the Kentucky locker room as “silent” when Phillips and Barnhart broke the news to the players. He said there were even some players in tears. “When you’ve been a part of something like this, and you spend almost everyday with people, it’s tough to know they’ll be gone after this season is over.”
-You would think that with knowing a coach won’t be there more than two more games there would be a drop of in practice intensity by the players. Not so, said LB Avery Williamson. “Practice was actually good. It’s a different feeling, you know, coming into meetings and stuff. But, you have to try and ignore [the distractions] as much as you can. You now know there is a time limit with these coaches, and that’s the biggest difference.”
-Williamson, a junior, was asked if he had a preference of who would be Kentucky’s next head coach. “Nope,” he replied. “Just someone who cares about us as more than just players.”
–DL Donte Rumph is happy that Phillips decided to finish out the season. “We are all very excited he’ll be with us these last two games. It shows how much he loves this team and this university.”
-Rumph said that the team will definitely miss Phillips next year. “He’s a great guy. We love him and he’s the reason a lot of us are here. We just have to finish strong for him, for our seniors, for coaching staff, and for each other.”
Matt and the Gang talked about the UK/Transy game, UK Football coaching search, and much much more. Have a listen.