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

18 Comments

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.”

Michigan heads to France for Wolverines’ European Vacation, The Sequel

Getty Images
Leave a comment

Brace yourself, Paris, for the 2018 version of the Khaki Invasion.

Last year around this time, the Michigan football program took a trip to Italy as part of a spring practice schedule that included meeting the Pope as well as distributing backpacks to refugees.  Thursday, as previously announced, the U-M program is leaving Ann Arbor to head to Paris and Normandy for what this year will be strictly a true vacation as the Wolverines’ have already put the finishing touches on their 15 spring practice sessions this year.

According to mlive.com, this year’s trip will include “tours of the famous Louvre Museum, Eiffel Tower, Notre-Dame Cathedral, a football clinic for locals, civic and community service events.”

“It’s an educational opportunity,” head coach Jim Harbaugh said according to the Detroit News. “(We all) connect. Not all learning is done in the classroom or on the football field.”

The Wolverines will be entering their fourth season under Harbaugh.  In the previous three years, they’ve gone a combined 28-11 and finished third (2015), third (2016) and fourth (2017) in the Big Ten East.  Last year, Harbaugh was the highest-paid coach in the Big Ten and the third-highest in the country at just a shade over $7 million.

Wyoming’s Craig Bohl issues statement on Josh Allen’s controversial tweets

Getty Images
Leave a comment

Yes, this is really a thing.

Josh Allen is expected to be one of the first. if not the very first, players selected in the 2018 NFL draft that kicks off tonight.  However, overnight, years-old tweets surfaced after they were mined from the former Wyoming quarterback’s personal Twitter account that have landed the rocket-armed signal-caller in a bit of hot water.

Specifically, some of the tweets that surfaced, which have since been deleted, had Allen dropping n-bombs and other offensive language posted in 2012 and 2013, when Allen would’ve been around 15 or 16 years old.  While it was later learned that most of the words in the offending tweets came from popular television shows or movies, Allen has since apologized by stating he was young and dumb.

With the Allen camp in full damage-control mode — Allen reportedly called Stephen A. Smith at two a.m. this morning to explain and apologize for the tweets — his former college football program has gotten involved as well, with Craig Bohl issuing a statement of support for his ex-quarterback.

“I know Josh has apologized for the Twitter comments he made while in high school,” the Cowboys head coach stated. “As a member of our football team, he had great relationships with his teammates and our fanbase. During his time at Wyoming, he embraced diversity. We wish him all the best on his big night.”

Despite the mini-controversy less than 24 hours before the draft, it’s not expected that it will impact Allen’s positioning.

Georgia loses second player to transfer in as many days

Getty Images
1 Comment

On the same day they picked up a significant graduate transfer, Georgia has seen another player leave Kirby Smart‘s football program.

As all of the cool transfers are doing these days, Jaleel Laguins took to his personal Twitter account to confirm that, “[a]fter careful consideration with coaches and family, I’d like to announce that I will be transferring from The University of Georgia.” “Athens will always be a special place for me, but now it’s time to start a new journey,” the linebacker added.

A four-star member of the Bulldogs’ 2016 recruiting class, Laguins was rated as the No. 10 inside linebacker in the country and the No. 21 player at any position in the state of Georgia. He was the top-rated linebacker in UGA’s class that year, and only three signees on the defensive side of the ball — defensive tackles Julian Rochester and Michail Carter, and defensive end Chauncey Manac — were rated higher.

As a true freshman, Laguins played in six games. He took a redshirt for this past season, and would have to sit out the 2018 season if he moved on to another FBS program.

Laguins was the second Georgia player to transfer this week. Tuesday, Pat Allen, a four-star 2015 offensive lineman, announced on his private Twitter account that he too was moving on from the Bulldogs. Allen began the 2017 season as UGA’s starting left guard but lost it heading into Week 2 and never regained it.

UNC and Minnesota line up future home-and-home deal

Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images
Leave a comment

While one football series between an ACC and Big Ten team may be hard to come by, North Carolina and Minnesota have put together a future home-and-home scheduling agreement to look forward to. The Tar Heels and Gophers will meet for the first time on the football field in 2023 and follow up with a second game in 2024, the schools announced on Wednesday.

North Carolina will host Minnesota on Sept. 16, 2023. The two schools will then open the 2024 season at Minnesota, either on August 31, 2024 or for a Thursday opener on August 29, 2024.

The ACC and Big Ten each require their members to play one game against another power conference opponent each season. North Carolina already satisfied that requirement in 2024 with a season-opener against South Carolina scheduled to be played in Charlotte, NC, but the 2024 game fulfills the power conference scheduling requirement for the Tar Heels. The home-and-home series will also satisfy Minnesota’s obligation to the Big Ten scheduling policy for both seasons (Minnesota is getting an exemption for 2018 and 2019 due to previous scheduling arrangements being in place prior to the Big Ten’s stance on strength of schedule in non-conference play.