Joker Phillips is 2-1 this season at Kentucky and is coming off a bowl appearance in his first year as the head coach, yet he finds himself on the hot seat. Maybe not with the administration but the support among the fan base is drying up fast.
That may surprise some considering UK’s lack of success in football historically. However, Phillips is unique because he is the only coach in generations to inherit a Wildcat program that wasn’t saddled with a string of losing seasons or probation. He inherited a healthy program with expectations and so far his program is not living up to the new standard.
Kentucky went to a bowl game last season but an uninspired effort left the Cats with a blowout loss to Pitt and its first losing season in five years. UK is 2-1 currently but with games against Florida, LSU and South Carolina looming it’s hard to imagine they won’t be 2-4 at the midway point. Even their wins over Western Kentucky and Central Michiganwere far closer than they should have been.
The tipping point for the fans might have been the lackluster performance against Louisville. The rebuilding Cardinals came into Commonwealth Stadium last Saturday and snapped a four-game losing streak to Kentucky after pushing them around for 60 minutes.
Fans are always going to be angry when you lose to your rivals but when they get discouraged watch out. Right now, Kentucky fans sound more discouraged than angry. They were hoping that Joker would build on Rich Brooks’ modest success but now they’re just hoping that the program doesn’t bottom out.
If the regression continues the remaining support of the fans will dissipate. When you lose the faith of the fans, it’s only a matter of time before you lose your job.
Joker can certainly turn it around because there is precedent for a coach losing the fan base and then winning them back over. His mentor Rich Brooks did it at Kentucky five years ago.
Larry Glover hosts Larry Glover Live weeknights from 6-8pm on 590, WVLK in Lexington and on statewide television on the Wazoo Sports Network. The show is available for download on his website www.larrygloverlive.com.