WBN Roundtable: How hot is Joker Phillip’s seat at Kentucky?

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Daniel Solzman, WBN Writer: Joker’s seat is hot but if Kentucky can get to 6 wins this season, he should be safe for at least another year. If the reports are true that Patrick Towles will be redshirted this season, I can only assume that Joker wants him to keep learning from practicing with the squad. Morgan Newton will be done after this season but if Maxwell Smith is able to stay healthy and finish out the year with a winning record, I will fully support Towles being redshirted.

Darren Durham, WBN Football Writer: His seat is pretty warm. I would not quite say hot yet, because Mitch Barnhart has shown an aptitude for patience with a coach but his credit line with fans is short. Which is tough because he never really had much of one to begin with. They have decided to make their voice heard by giving up their season tickets in record numbers and that is hitting the Athletic Department where it hurts. So that could force Barnhart’s hand but hopefully Joker beat Louisville and everything turns around instantly. If recruiting stays strong for this year, Phillips must find at least 5 wins to keep his job.

Glenn Logan, A Sea of Blue: It’s hard to say for sure, but if I had to guess, I’d say “uncomfortably warm” and not really hot. The lower ticket sales are a big hurter for him, though. I’d say that if Kentucky wins 4 games, given the low expectations for the year, it’s 50-50. If UK barely ekes out four wins, I’d bet against his return, but if the team seems to be rising at the end of the year, he’ll probably be back even at that low level. Less than four wins would produce a high probability of replacement. Five wins and I’d say he’s an odds-on favorite for another year. Six and his seat might cool a bit, and seven or more (counting the bowl), and he will have some of his skeptics (but certainly not all) rethinking things.

Four is the danger point. At four, I’d say he’s extremely vulnerable, but by no means dead. Mitch Barnhart has proven that he’s willing to burn quite a bit of political capital to defend coaches that he believes in, and I think he believes in Phillips. Those thinking that Barnhart might put himself at risk, in my opinion, are living in a fantasy world. Some fans might not like him, but I think his position with the administration would be almost unassailable right now, and that gives him a lot of latitude if he wants to use it.

Jason Marcum, WBN Writer: I believe that Joker Phillips is as firmly on the hotseat as any coach in the country, and it is unfairly so. The absurd backlash of the fanbase against Phillips and UK AD Mitch Barnhart is despicable, and is forcing Mitch to fire Joker if he is unable to win 6 games and go to a bowl game next year. With season ticket sales down 10,000 tickets sold, Mitch will have no choice but to let Joker go if he can’t either win 6 games and become bowl eligible, or get a monumental upset over a team like beating a top-10 Arkansas team on the road, or ending the 25 year losing streak to Florida. Even getting one of those wins won’t secure Joker another season, and in that case, Mitch will likely look at his options for a replacement head coach, even sending out “feelers” to gauge the interest in the UK job. At that point, Joker’s fate would likely be determined by the quality of his potential replacement.

Paul Jordan, WBN Founder and Editor: In all fairness, I can see both sides, and I think the seat is warm, but the thought it is hot before the season starts is kind of silly. Let the season play out first. If Kentucky can come out of Louisville with a win, the seat immediately cools albeit Kentucky needs to play well all season and make a bowl. If Kentucky goes to Louisville and plays hard and takes the game into the fourth quarter, I think the fans will ease up a bit as well. What everyone is scared of is Kentucky going to Louisville and getting blown out. If that happens, the seat because very uncomfortable. Speaking of wins, I think that a regression to four wins or less will mean a change. Any coach that goes 6 – 5- 4 will find themselves in a bad spot. Five wins should get him another year and with the recruiting classes he is bringing in, stop a lot of the negativity. It helps if one of those wins are against UL or Tennessee. Anything over 5 wins will shut the majority of people up. Six wins and a “bad bowl” will get this program back to where it was when he took it over. These are not sky high expectations, and it’s not fair to be calling for a coaches head before the season starts.  There is plenty of time for negativity.  Let’s support the team now. 

So what do you think. Do you agree with the panel or have a differing opinion? I set up a poll on the site and feel free to chime in on the comments section.