Barring a miraculous turnaround and a bowl run this season, it is quite likely Joker Phillips will lose his job as Head Football Coach at Kentucky. Fan unrest and plummeting ticket sales will contribute to force Athletic Director Mitch Barnhart’s hand. At least that is the logical progression from where the situation sits now. The question that fans need to ask themselves is: What’s the point?
Kentucky fans are abuzz with speculation of whom the next football coach will be, ignoring the fact that the job is not open at this time. There have been some pretty outlandish theories out there. Some downright silly ones. And one very sad one. You know who that one is. But no one seems to be looking at this rationally. What coach with good prospects would seriously consider coming to coach at Kentucky? The facilities lag behind the conference, the program keeps less than half of its profits, the fan-base is apathetic and of course there is basketball to deal with. UK would have to pay a whole lot of money to bring in a high-tier coach.
Perhaps Barnhart is aware of that, he has said that money won’t be an issue if a new football coach needs hired. Or he could just be posturing, knowing nobody expensive wants the position. In reality Barnhart’s job is to make sure all of the sports at UK perform to the best of their abilities, his work is reflected in Kentucky’s Capital One Cup standings. And the University has rocketed up the charts. If the plan is to bleed football dry to build the other sports (sans basketball, which is solvent) , then it is working and admirably pragmatic. The money from the SEC TV contracts is enough to keep the program profitable, regardless of how many fans stay home. Or perhaps Barnhart is just stubborn and intends on keeping Phillips. He might as well.
There have been rumors swirling that UK had a proposal for the state government for roughly $200 million in bonding capacity to make improvements to campus and approx. $70 million was slated for football and Commonwealth Stadium. University President Eli Capiluto burst that bubble in a recent interview. While admitting that a proposal for the money was in the works, he remarked that football improvements were “absolutely not” included. He also stated that they currently have no plans for stadium renovations. When asked about the need for updates, the president pointed out that they are upgrading the soccer and softball complexes. When his interviewer, Ryan Alessi, pushed Capiluto about how badly CWS needs work, he responded that he felt that UK had facilities in the “middle of the pack” in the SEC and the “lowest ticket prices in the country”. Apparently he hasn’t visited other SEC schools, facilities are sub-par, the ticket prices are 3rd cheapest in the SEC however.
So if the administration at UK is unwilling to support football in a manner consistent with an SEC school, why bother firing Phillips? By no means has he shown that he is a top-level coach worthy of running an SEC program, but by no means has UK tried to conduct itself like an SEC program for him to run. That isn’t to say that Mitch Barnhart and Eli Capiluto are to blame for Joker Phillips’ lack of success, but to say they didn’t contribute is blind. So there is no point in bringing in a new coach, then hamstringing him with the same issues that Phillips has dealt with, the same ones that forced Rich Brooks to give up and retire. If UK is happy with doing just enough to cash that SEC paycheck, then just keep Joker, it’s the mediocre thing to do.