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Joker Phillips out as UK’s head coach at season’s end

Joker Phillips AP

For the second time this season, a head coach has been relieved of his duties.  And this one will likely be the least surprising of any that will happen over the next month or two, particularly given the apathy that’s set in among the fan base.

In an open letter penned by Kentucky’s Mitch Barnhart, the athletic director confirmed that head football coach Joker Phillips will not return for the 2013 season.  Phillips will remain on through the end of the regular season later this month, and “[t]he search for a new head coach will begin immediately and will be managed internally.”

The firing didn’t come easy for Barnhart, who has a very close relationship with Phillips that extends far beyond the football field.

“I do so with a heavy heart for a man who has served his alma mater for almost 22 years as a player and a coach,” Barnhart wrote in the letter. “Joker Phillips has carried the banner for the Blue and White with honor and pride. I have enjoyed working alongside him and am thankful for his friendship for the last decade. His concern for the entire program, his work and teaching of young people, his humanitarian work, and the friendship we all enjoy with him will long surpass the scoreboard.

“I want to thank him for all of those things on behalf of Kentucky.”

Phillips played at Kentucky from 1981-84, and served as an assistant coach at UK from 1988-96.  He returned to his alma mater in 2003 and in 2008 was named as the head coach-in-waiting.  Upon Rich Brooks’ retirement, he took over as head coach in 2010.

In two-plus seasons, Phillips has posted an overall record of 12-23 and 4-19 in SEC play.  This season, the Wildcats are 1-9 and 0-7.

As for which direction UK may turn for a successor — and as will be the case for just about every SEC opening — keep an eye on Louisiana Tech’s Sonny Dykes.

“I understand the challenge and significance of finding a new leader for our football program,” Barnhart wrote. “It will be done with great concern for our student-athletes, students of the University of Kentucky, the Big Blue Nation and the citizens of the Commonwealth.  Kentucky Football needs to be and will be a championship contender in the SEC.”

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18 Responses to “Joker Phillips out as UK’s head coach at season’s end”
  1. pricecube says: Nov 4, 2012 2:57 PM

    He did accomplish one thing while coaching Kentucky. He ended the 26 yr streak Tennessee had in the rivalry. I guess Dooley deserves a little credit for that as well.

  2. jimbo75025 says: Nov 4, 2012 3:00 PM

    Wow, this year is most likely going to see quite a few SEC schools letting their coaches go.

    Phillips now confirmed.

    Everyone has know for months John L Smith is not going to be there next year

    The buttocks of Dooley and Chizik have to be cooked to about medium well by now.

    Anbody else I’m missing?

  3. cometkazie says: Nov 4, 2012 3:17 PM

    Kentucky’s team is miserable this year, but Louiville, right up the road, is undefeated.

    I don’t think it’s entirely a difference in conferences.

    I moved to the BlueGrass last year and it’s hard to find a football fan. Basketball, yes, but not football.

  4. mrmondaynite says: Nov 4, 2012 3:22 PM

    @cometkazie … You must live in a holler in eastern KY. When UK had success under Brooks, Commonwealth Stadium was sold out on a weekly basis.

    I was at UK from ’03-’07, and the stadium was always packed my last 2 years. I’ve gone to games every year since and attendance has been solid, excluding this year. I can’t speak for Louisville, but UK has a pretty dedicated fan base.

  5. mrmondaynite says: Nov 4, 2012 3:24 PM

    Commonwealth Stadium was at 97.7% capacity in 2011.

  6. tuscaloosaguy says: Nov 4, 2012 3:40 PM

    Like them or not; it’s always sad to see someone let go. Disrupts countless lives: assistant coaches, their families & children, other staff

  7. cometkazie says: Nov 4, 2012 3:43 PM

    I can’t find many here in Danville.

    There are a bunch of avid round ball fans, tho, myself included.

    I just don’t see the interest in football here that I saw the forty plus years I lived in S Louisiana.

    BTW, I really like it up here.

  8. mrmondaynite says: Nov 4, 2012 3:50 PM

    Ah, okay. Boyle County is a pretty cool place.

    Now that you qualified your statement (you came from LA), I understand more. I’m not sure any fan base can really compare to LSU’s.

  9. mrmondaynite says: Nov 4, 2012 3:50 PM

    I am in Columbus, OH now. I’d like to move back to KY at some point, if I’m able.

  10. cometkazie says: Nov 4, 2012 4:12 PM

    mrmondaynite says:
    Nov 4, 2012 3:50 PM
    Ah, okay. Boyle County is a pretty cool place.

    Now that you qualified your statement (you came from LA), I understand more. I’m not sure any fan base can really compare to LSU’s.
    That for me was the default status. I lived about 60y in La. and moved here to get away from the Gulf Coast and be near my daughter, who went to Centre.

    I miss the football fever and Louisiana food, but everything else here is great, esp the people and weather. I wouldn’t move back for the world.

  11. bunyanj says: Nov 4, 2012 4:37 PM

    Joker was a good UK man; but I think this should remind Wildcat football fans of how good Rich Brooks was. He was the best Kentucky football coach since Bear Bryant. Other posters are correct. The stands were full, they went to bowl games and nobody took them for granted. That search team ought to look for a coach that has a pedigree along the lines of Rich Brooks.

  12. houndofthebaskervols says: Nov 4, 2012 4:45 PM

    I’d be surprised if KY Jelly hasn’t already hired Petrino.

  13. kdbroom says: Nov 4, 2012 6:52 PM

    UK should go after Philip Fulmer. He already has connections in the area, is very familiar with the SEC, is rested, and — if he could turn it around — would stick it to UT.

  14. houndofthebaskervols says: Nov 4, 2012 9:10 PM

    What, the southernpontificator got no sweet soliloquys to send Joker off into the sunset with? lmao

  15. imforbigblue says: Nov 4, 2012 9:46 PM

    Are you freaking kidding me your saying UL being in the Big Easy makes no differnce they haven’t lost a game yet? If they were in the SEC they would have lost 3-4 games by now….wow morons taking like they know football smh

  16. houndofthebaskervols says: Nov 4, 2012 9:56 PM

    Louisville is the most overrated team in the country. If they were in the SEC, they would have one conference win…Kentucky.

    Their schedule strength is at 105 right now, nuff said. Charlie Strong probably has enough sense to stay put and clip coupons in that sissyassed conference.

  17. fnc111 says: Nov 5, 2012 6:21 AM

    UKKK = racists , only giving him three seasons.

  18. florida727 says: Nov 5, 2012 8:28 AM

    “fnc111” = idiot comment

    Give him a freaking decade and all you’d end up with is 12-29 extrapolated (look it up). Having Kentucky on your schedule the past 3 years is like having an additional bye week.

    Barnhart wrote… “Kentucky Football… will be a championship contender in the SEC.” — Good one. Best one-liner of the day. This one will make me laugh all the way into next week.

    In all seriousness, why keep him around? Let an existing assistant coach take over NOW and see whether or not he’s worthy of the top job. You have, literally, nothing to gain by Phillips playing out the string. At least use the time to evaluate other potential candidates from your own staff before moving on to a more nationwide search. This program is so mismanaged, it’s pathetic. There’s nothing worse in all of sports than having a lame-duck head coach. Literally NOTHING gets accomplished that helps the program moving forward.

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