Kentucky lost to a Sun Belt team last weekend. Something has gone terribly wrong. Joker Phillips will be the fall guy by the end of this season, as he should be for the results that have been presented on the field this year, but he is far from the only or even the main problem for the Kentucky football team.
Kentucky has rarely been good at football. The Wildcats won an unrecognized national championship under Bear Bryant a million years ago. Fran Curci won an SEC title in 1976. They went to 5 straight bowl games from 2006 to 2010. That’s about it.
I love Joker Phillips. He is a great guy and he loves Kentucky football more than 99% of the people inside Commonwealth Stadium. He is a good recruiter. But it is painfully obvious that things have gotten worse since he took over the football team. Some of that can be blamed on attrition and poor projection for Rich Brooks’ last 2 recruiting classes. Mark Story of the Herald-Leader pointed out that Phillips has had a lot of bad timing and bad luck. At this point most would agree that it will take a Brooks-like run to a bowl game this season to save Joker’s job. If that doesn’t happen, Kentucky fans could have a new coach.
If Kentucky is looking for a new coach this winter and wishes to make a home-run hire, some things are going to have to change. Especially in the arena of commitment to football. The Kentucky Kernel published an article regarding the lack of financial support that football faces. Kentucky football is expected to bring in $27.6 million in revenue and is budgeted to spend only $9.5 million of it. The rest pays for the rest of the athletic department and gifts to the university itself. Kentucky basketball somehow manages to spend $12.6 million for a much smaller staff and fewer players. The other athletic programs are expected to lose $11.6 million , with football funding it.
A big reason that Kentucky is behind the rest of the SEC? They don’t spend SEC money on football. They rank 12th out of 14 in football spending and have decided facilities disadvantages. Joker Phillips had a recruiting budget of $336,035 in 2011, which is only slightly more than the athletics department spends of Big Blue Madness. That is ridiculous. Kentucky already lacks a strong high school football talent base and will need to travel to recruit top players, but they are handcuffed.
Finally Big Blue Nation is going to have to change if they want to attract a top coach. It’s never popular to blame a programs poor fortunes on the fans but sometimes they have to share some of the blame. Walking out of overtime games. Openly booing their own players. The basketball-school mentality. Never showing for the spring game. If you want to have an SEC-level team and atmosphere, then you need to do your part to act like SEC fans.
This article wasn’t intended as a “Farrrr Joker” post but certainly recognizes the likelihood that he will be let go. Until he is, Kentucky fans should continue to hope for wins. If a coaching search were to happen, no decent football coach will consider Kentucky unless these issues are addressed. It’s the reason Brooks retired early. It’s partially doomed many UK coaches over the years. There needs to be a culture change in Kentucky before moving forward, otherwise there is no point in firing Phillips, the next guy will deal with the same problems and end up with the same results.