Kentucky Athletics Director Mitch Barnhart announced Sunday via an "Open Letter to The Big Blue Nation" that he has decided to make a change in the direction of the UK football program at the end of the season.
The Wildcats dropped to 1-9 overall and 0-7 in SEC play on Saturday after a 40-0 loss to Vanderbilt, their worst loss to the Commodores in 96 years. Attendance at Commonwealth Stadium was announced at 44,902, although most estimated the actual figure to be closer to 20,000. It was the fourth time this season UK has failed to draw 50,000 in the 68,000-seat stadium.
"Obviously our football program is not where we want it to be and we are all disappointed; coaches, players, administration and our fans," Barnhart wrote. "After much conversation, evaluation and prayer, I have determined that it is in the best interest of our athletics program to make a change in our football coaching staff at the conclusion of the season. 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.
"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, now in his third season as head coach, saw his record with UK drop to 12-23 with two games remaining in the season. The Wildcats have an open date this week before returning to action Nov. 17 against Samford in the final home game, then a trip to Tennessee for the season finale on Nov. 24.
It was unclear as of Sunday afternoon whether Phillips would be on the sideline for the final two gtames. Barnhart was not available for further comment, per university spokesmen.
In another statement released by UK, Phillips offered his reaction: "We, as coaches, are measured on results. We didn't get the results we had worked and hoped for, therefore change is needed.
"I am very appreciative of Mitch Barnhart and Rich Brooks for providing the opportunity to have been the head coach here. Mitch is the best athletic director I've ever been associated with. He's fair and honest and he's "all in" in terms of student-athletes' well-being. Rich is the best mentor a young coach could ever have. I learned a lot from him in terms of plowing ahead."
Phillips had two years remaining on his contract for which he is still owed $2.5 million.
"The search for a new head coach will begin immediately and will be managed internally," Barnhart wrote in his statement to the fans. "I understand the challenge and significance of finding a new leader for our football program. 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."
Phillips' full statement can be read CLICKING HERE to visit our KentuckyScout football forum and join in the discussion with other UK fans.
To read Barnhart's entire "Open Letter to The Big Blue Nation, CLICK HERE.
Joker Phillips to be replaced at season's end
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