Tee Martin is a Joker Phillips guy. He came to the University of Kentucky two years ago to work for Phillips because of their friendship and didn't leave after his first season even when Alabama, which will be playing for the national title again this year, offered a job.
Still, the former Tennessee quarterback and UK receivers coach knew fans were restless with the UK?football program.?He heard the chatter, got reports about Internet message boards and radio call-in shows. He knew a 4-7 record going into the season-ending game with Tennessee and no bowl bid for the first time in six years had fans frustrated and venting about Phillips.
Beating Tennessee 10-7 Saturday to end a 26-year skid against a team Martin led to a national title when he was quarterback there helped put a smile back on most fans' faces and left Martin eagerly anticipating what could lie ahead.
"Last year we ended with a loss (to Pittsburgh in the BBVA Compass Bowl)?and the whole offseason you have that sour taste in your mouth," Martin, who cried on the field after the game as he hugged his wife, said. "So to end the season with a win, even though we didn't go to a bowl game, stop the streak and beat Tennessee is a lot of momentum not only for current players here but for when we go on the road recruiting. We can say we beat Tennessee, and that's good."
Yes, that's very good. Not just for the players and future recruits, but for the fans who had expectations raised by former coach Rich Brooks and now want Phillips and his staff to move the program forward even more.
"No question the fans needed this, and we gave it to them," Martin said. "This helps everything." He's right. Recruiting is probably the most immediate beneficiary of the win, but it also will make it easier for players to deal with a 5-7 season and go into the offseason weight program with more enthusiasm. Based on the way fans stormed the Commonwealth Stadium turf after the game, it should make them also feel better about the vote of confidence that UK athletics director Mitch Barnhart gave Phillips after Saturday's win.