With the football program opening the season 1-9 and currently suffering an eight-game losing streak, the University of Kentucky has announced head coach Joker Phillips will be fired after the season.
In an open letter to the school and public, athletic director Mitch Barnhart announced the decision:
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.
The press release went on to add, "The search for a new head coach will begin immediately and will be managed internally."
After leading the Wildcats to the BBVA Compass Bowl in his debut season as head coach in 2010—the fifth straight bowl game for Kentucky—Phillips has failed to lead the school to a bowl game in consecutive seasons.
Phillips released his own comments after the news broke (via Guy Ramsey of UKAthletics.com). Here's a portion of that statement:
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.
After losing to Vanderbilt 40-0 in a game that looked like it was attended by about 10,000 people at kickoff—and with fans and local sportswriters already calling for Phillips' head before that disaster—it comes as little surprise that the Wildcats decided to go in a different direction.
In three seasons with the team, Phillips has a 12-23 record. Kentucky may not have the history of an Alabama, LSU or Georgia—and it may be a basketball school first—but the program is still expected to be more competitive than that.
While Phillips will remain until the end of the season, you can bet the conversation in Lexington will now turn to the next head coach of the program. One thing is for certain: The Wildcats will be expected to immediately be better than this year's version that started 1-9 and played in front of far too many empty seats.
Hit me up on Twitter—my tweets aren't afraid to get emotional after a big win.