Joker Phillips has been fired as the head football coach at the University of Kentucky.
In the overall scheme of things, this is in the best interest of Kentucky football, but it is not a day for celebration.
When Joker Phillips was hired as coach of Kentucky, I was contributing for Jeff Drummond over at another site at the time, and I wrote a blog about how Joker Phillips could become the "face of the program" if he were to build upon Rich Brooks' success here. The whole premise was that Joker Phillips was "one of us," a diehard, bleed-blue Kentuckian who loved this program as much as we did, and he would not leave it if tempted by greener pastures elsewhere.
Obviously the tenure of Joker Phillips as Kentucky head football coach did not turn out anything like the possibility that I had envisioned. The football program may again get on track to bowl games and SEC wins, but an opportunity was missed here. A chance for Kentucky football to have its very own home-grown, long-tenured, football coaching icon has passed.
The next coach may prove to be the most successful hire since the Bear roamed the sidelines in Lexington, but then what? If he's a young up-and-comer who finds success, the reality of college football is that in three to five years, if a program like Florida or LSU comes calling, that young up-and-comer is up-and-gone.
With an older coach who may be looking at one last shot at redemption, a similar timetable develops, but the end game is retirement in that scenario or at least enough rumors of said retirement to stall things out on the recruiting front.
What if Kentucky takes a chance on a guy that has some sort of stigma attached to him? History has shown time and again that a few good years at the helm somewhere is likely enough to wash out the dirty laundry that was previously tied to the coach and the big boys will come calling again.
So, yes, while I believe the decision to part ways with Joker Phillips was the correct course of action and came about at an opportune time, it still should not be celebrated.
Joker Phillips' tenure is just the latest in a long line of what might-have-beens for a long suffering football fanbase. His shortcomings are the shortcoming of one of our very own. He was unable to put the pieces together to build upon the modest success of the previous regime, and the reality is that Kentucky football is facing a very uncertain future now in a conference featuring historically difficult competition.
Here's hoping that three years from now I'm not opining on why the next guy didn't work out.