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.”