Like it or not, a change was made in Lexington. Joker Phillips has been relieved of his duties as Kentucky football coach. Athletic Director Mitch Barnhart informed the fanbase in an open letter. If Phillips disagrees with the move he hasn't said so publicly.
We, as coaches, are measured on results. We didn’t get the results we had worked and hoped for, therefore change is needed. In my current 10-year stay at Kentucky, we’ve had some memorable moments as an assistant, coordinator and head coach. We’ve had the opportunity to coach some fine young men and I am grateful to have had the privilege of watching them grow as players, as students and as people.
No matter when or how situations like this play out, there are always fans on both sides of the fence. A lot of fans were ready for a change, but some felt Phillips deserved one more season. In his seven seasons at UK, Bill Curry went 26-52. He had his best season in his fourth year when he went 6-6. He was 11-22 after his first three seasons. Phillips is currently 12-23. Based on that, maybe he should get another year.
However, Phillip's 6-6 season came in Year 1, and he's 6-17 since then. The 'Cats are 1-9 and riding an eight-game losing streak. Typically the third season is the make-or-break year now. Things have changed since the 1990s. Salaries and expectations have increased dramatically everywhere, as has the pressure to win and win quickly.
The football landscape within the state didn't do Phillips any favors either. Willie Taggart and Charlie Strong took over at Western Kentucky and Louisville respectively in 2010, the same year that Phillips joined UK.
Taggart is now 1-2 against Phillips, but he quickly closed the gap between WKU and UK. After losing the first meeting 63-28, there was the season opener last year in which UK struggled to pull out a 14-3 win. That brings us to this season when the Hilltoppers outplayed the 'Cats out of the gate and then held on to win 32-31 in Commonwealth Stadium.
Strong now owns a 2-1 head-to-head record versus Phillips. The Cardinals are currently undefeated and sit ninth in the BCS standings.
In the SEC, Vanderbilt and James Franklin vaulted by the 'Cats too. Saturday's 40-0 loss to the Commodores means that UK has lost the last two games to Vandy by a combined score of 78-8.
There were good moments though. In fact, there were great moments. Thanks to Joker Phillips, Steve Spurrier can never ever say that he's undefeated against Kentucky again. Joker Phillips was on the field at Neyland Stadium in 1984 when Kentucky beat Tennessee 17-12. He was a player then.
In 2011 he watched as his 'Cats ended the dreaded 26-game losing streak to the Vols with a 10-7 win in Lexington. Unfortunately, these moments were too few and too far in between.
Joker Phillips' tenure at Kentucky didn't go as he or anyone had planned. That said, he still has love for the program, bleeds blue and wants nothing but the best for it.
That will never change.