On the surface, there wouldn’t appear to be anything special about today’s game between Kentucky and Vanderbilt. The two teams have just two combined conference wins this season, although Vandy looks like they may be on the upswing after close games against Georgia, Arkansas and Florida; Kentucky appears to be rebuilding again after a bowl appearance last season.
But the two head coaches — Kentucky’s Joker Phillips and Vandy’s James Franklin — will be part of a milestone today as two African-American coaches will face off against each other for the first time in the history of the SEC.
“I understand the significance of it and respect it and appreciate it, and the fact it’s Joker, who I have tremendous respect for and really like as a man,” Franklin said earlier this week. “But I hope that we get to a point here pretty soon that this isn’t even a discussion point. But I understand the significance of it.”
Franklin brings up a good point. This story is great for us, and it’s a nice moment, but this should be commonplace enough that it’s not history-making. Both coaches have maintained their focus is squarely on getting a win today — each team will need to win two of their next three games starting today to become bowl eligible — more than the history they’re making.
“I didn’t know it, and I’m not sure if James knew it also,” Phillips said of the pairing. “It’s another SEC game, much-needed for both parties involved to reach some of the goals that we’ve both set.
“I’ll tell you this: It’ll mean more to me if I can be the African-American coach who gets his team to a bowl game every year. That would mean more to me than coaching in the game with two African-American coaches.”
(Tip of the cap: Louisville Courier-Journal)