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Compare how Tennessee handled Dooley fired to way Kentucky handled firing of Phillips


Folks at Vanderbilt must be feeling really good today because in the last two weeks the Commodores have drilled Kentucky and Tennessee and forced both schools to fire their coaches the day after the loss.

However, there’s one big difference in what Tennessee did Sunday when it released Derek Dooley compared to how Kentucky fired Joker Phillips.

Tennessee athletics director Dave Hart didn’t post a letter to fans on a website. Instead, he held a press conference to talk about his decision and what direction the coaching search would go. Dooley issued a statement.

Kentucky athletics director Mitch Barnhart announced Phillips’ firing on the UK website and has yet to talk publicly about it as speculation continues to swirl about who the next coach might be. Phillips has met with media members five times since his firing and has been open, cordial and informative.

Dooley and Phillips have had about the same lack of success in their three years. Dooley was 15-21 at Tennessee and was 0-15 against top 25 teams. He lost 14 of his last 15 SEC games, including one at UK last year. The Vols must beat Kentucky on Saturday to avoid going winless in SEC play for the first time in school history. Offensive coordinator Jim Chaney will serve as Tennessee’s interim coach while Phillips will coach his final game after UK beat Samford last week and players carried Phillips off the field.

Tennessee will be looking for its fourth coach in six years. Phillip Fulmer was fired in 2008, Lane Kiffin coached one year and then Dooley came from Louisiana Tech where he had a losing record and is gone after three years.

Hart said he probably wouldn’t use a search firm in choosing his next coach. Is Barnhart? We don’t know. He won’t tell us.

Hart said he considers previous head coaching experience “critically important.” Does Barnhart? We don’t know. He won’t tell us.

For those who say the Tennessee program is more attractive, remember the Tennessee football program is on probation until August 2015. The university’s athletic department posted a $3.98 million budget deficit for the last fiscal year and is paying buyouts to Fulmer, former athletics director Mike Hamilton, former basketball coach Bruce Pearl and former baseball coach Todd Raleigh. Now add another $5 million buyout for Dooley. That makes about $2.5 million for Phillips look like nothing.

Rumors swirled again Saturday that UK was close to a deal with Fulmer. On Sunday, speculation was that Cincinnati coach Butch Jones — who turned down a lucrative offer from Illinois last year — was offered the job.

What sales pitch is Barnhart using considering UK has had three straight losing seasons, attendance has dropped dramatically and the 2013 schedule is more difficult than the one this year? We don’t know. Barnhart won’t tell us.

What about Hart? What’s he selling at Tennessee?

“This is the ultimate challenge, which competitors embrace,” Hart said. “This is the ultimate challenge, for a football coach to come into this league. If you’re a competitor and you want to prove your worth, come into the Southeastern Conference. Come to the University of Tennessee. You’ll get that opportunity.”

Sounds like a possible sales pitch to Bobby Petrino to me.

Hopefully, Barnhart is saying the same — and more — to possible coaches even if Petrino, the former Louisville and Arkansas coach, is obviously not on his list.

Permanent link to this article: http://vaughtsviews.com/compare-how-tennessee-handled-dooley-fired-to-way-kentucky-handled-firing-of-phillips/


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  1. C-Weed

    Thank You Mr. Vaught. Someone from the media having the guts to call Barnhardt out on this. Thank you for not towing the company line and speaking for the fans.

  2. Clay

    Awesome story. Thought the same thing when I heard there was a press conference at Tennessee! Makes Mitch look silly.

    1. steve from Dayton

      I guess I missed the point…’often happens to me; I thought the point was Mitch’s programs are in much better shape than Tennessee’s. First we wanted Mitch to fire Joker. Then when he did it, we aren’t satisfied with the way he did it.

      Folks here seem to want a press conference. I’m not sure what we would learn from that? Mitch is working in the background; he’s not sharing…nuff said.

      In the end, Joker is still gone, we aren’t on probation nor are we paying much to coaches who are leaving. The new hire will be announced when he is signed.

      Would our fans accept Phil Fulmer?

      1. larryvaught

        Great post theresa. Summed it up perfectly.
        Steve, valid points and don’t think Fulmer would be a popular hire. he’s been out of work for four years. Just think folks would like Mitch to give some insights into direction of search, etc.

  3. remember Bill Curry

    Larry, great job not calling Barnhart incompetent,ineffective,conceited,aloof and a fool. I think NO ONE is expecting any thing close to a great hire. While we expect U.T. to show a real commitment.

    1. Jim

      UT is nowhere close to having their act together and Vaught did not say so, either.

      1. remember Bill Curry

        That’s not what I wrote Jim…and I think any intelligent UK fan would expect at this time for the UT AD to outperform Barnhart.

        1. Jim

          UT has no excuse for being as bad as they have been and going through so many coaches. They have a national title and a rich winning history. Their AD is worse than UK’s. But, are they trying to one up each other in the bad hire department?

          1. remember Bill Curry

            He didn’t hire Dooley or Pearl .

  4. Jared_S

    Great article Larry! The cold hard truth! Mitch makes me sick.

  5. Tom

    From what I’ve heard and read no one is contacting future recruits. Doesn’t sound like MB has made the commitment to UK football in order for it to be successful. If I was MB’s boss I would be asking if he is doing the necessary things i can not believe an ad at any NCAA school would post a firing online and not have the back bone nor the integrity to speak to the fans or the media. What is he hiding? What is he afraid of. I think it is time to start looking for a new AD

    1. john l

      If true,a very state of affairs.

  6. Wes

    Mitch is making people sick.

  7. Mike Flannery

    Larry; I feel the same…it seems that Barnhart is not really concerned with the heartbeat of the UK fans. It totally seems he is concerned with keeping his and others jobs in the Athletic Department “as easy as possible”. I understand that to a degree, but, when the majority of the OVERPATIENT fan base wants to try and get Petrino, would’t you hope an effort to satisfy those who support the program might be expended. Petrino has to be smart enough to not jeopardize his “last chance”. If he goofs this one up…….?? Come on Mitch, the fans are paying the bill, not the
    University of Kentucky. This is a great chance to get a proven winning Coach, don’t goof it up like you have the long ago requested “recruiting room”.

  8. grant

    Well , I know what circling the wagons means, unfortunately , in this instance it seems Mitch has circled the wagons against the fans. At least on the surface it seems like that. I am not sure there is a standard protocall for a hiring situation in that the School in question disclose to the public as to who they are targeting, but at least say something in an informal way as to the possible direction andwhat expectations you want from the next choice. From a p.r. standpoint this is a failing grade for UK. Also like Larry said in a previous article, Joker is left standing holding the bag all by himself on an island, no support from UK. Does this look bad to a future coach ? I don’t think it looks appetizing.

  9. Jim

    The letter approach wasn’t the professional and accepted way of doing things. It should have been a press conference first. The open letter to the fans and alumni could have been put out after the presser.

    As far as what is Mitch’s criteria or sales pitch, who knows. We, the fans and alumni have little faith in the AD and for good reason. In a time of crisis, he shuts everyone out. He could at least make a statement or two. He doesn’t have to give hints as to who it will be. But, he could try to instill a sense of confidence about the situation and maybe give a timeline. My expectations are very low. So, maybe I will be suprised in a good way when the announcement is made.

  10. Tom

    Well said Mike. I agree with Larry on his call in show Sun morning on WLAP when he said Mitch is looking for a coach who will not be demanding. Mitch is looking for a yes man instead of a coach who will demand winning from the players and an administration who is committed to winning. Mitch seems to be out of touch with the UK fan base. I pay @$3,000 a year for season tickets to see an inferior product year after year.

    1. David

      I agree Tom he probably wants a yes man. He will drive a many a ticket holder and donor like myself away if he does not hit a homerun. I do not consider Fulmer a homerun

  11. Rob

    When Mitch sent his tweet out this past Saturday imploring fans to show up at the game to support Joker and the seniors, I tweeted back a lot of the points made in this article. DeWayne Peevy immediately tweeted back to me “Why do fans care about a press conference from Mitch” and that instead of preparing for a press conference, they were utilizing their time preparing a list of candidates that, and I quote, “Have the integrity to run this program as it deserves.”

    What a copy out. Cal was actually involved in a NCAA investigation when he was hired, and I believe that turned out well, huh? Petrino has had lapses in judgement, no worse than any normal person, and NEVER a problem one with the NCAA.

    Bottom line, we do not have an AD or President willing to commit to the success of this program. And when he makes the hire that I think he will, I hope the fans join me in withdrawing their support from the program.

    We will continue to be a doormat in the SEC as long as we have the same administration we have now. Disgust is what it is.

    1. rqa

      Rob, why don’t you wait and see who is hired before you go off pissing and moaning? If you don’t like the hire, piss and moan at will…

      UK was unaware of the NCAA investigation surrounding Memphis (not Cal) at the time of the hire. News of that investigation broke about 2 weeks after Cal had been hired.

  12. john l

    I really hope UK President Capaliuto is paying attention to Mitchs’ lack of leadership.Too bad UK does’nt have Tom Jurich,who i’m sure would already have a coach in place,as he did when he hired Charlie Strong.And too bad UKfans have to endure more of Barnharts ineffectiveness.

    1. larryvaught

      i don’t see president giving a lot of guidance. Felt Lee Todd was more involved, more in tune with sports issues, concerns

    2. rqa

      So john…what coach is going to leave their team with 1 or 2 games left in the season? Better, what coach is going to admit that they are talking to other schools with games left on the schedule???

      1. john4uk

        There are several coaches currently unemployed who had far better won/loss records than the coach we just lost.Tressel,Petrino,and Fulmer are names that come to mind.

  13. Dewayne

    Barnhart is just a arrogant $@&”$. He looks down on the fans of Ky. He thinks he’s so much smarter than everyone around this great state and therefore we don’t deserve a explanation of what’s going on. He thinks we should be satisfied with whoever he hires because he’s the AD and he knows best. We have a personal agenda. My only personal agenda is wanting the football team to be competitive.

  14. Catmandu

    Comments such as these continue to amaze me….Do you really think it would be smart for MB to communicate his hiring plan to the public when he is competing not only with the other schools in the process of hiring a coach but also with schools trying to keep their coach? MB understands the competitive nature of this process and doesn’t want to give away competitive information by being ignorant. Give MB time and support and he will do the right thing. Continuing to write these kind of comments would make you part of the problem.

    1. rqa

      Well said.
      Mitch has answered every one of the questions that Larry put forth.

      “Hart said he probably wouldn’t use a search firm in choosing his next coach. Is Barnhart? We don’t know. He won’t tell us”

      That is bullsh*t Larry and you know it. Mitch said that the search would be handled internally.
      He has said that money would not be a factor that they had the ability to pay as much as anyone…

      Larry, looks to me like you are only hearing and reading what you want to read. Perhaps you only hear the answer to your questions if they come directly from you regardless of the fact that others have already asked the same questions and have received responses.

      Commit to previous head coaching experience??? So if Mitch comes upon the next James Franklin you want him to take a pass because he committed to a requirement???

      Larry, you are proving every day that you are more interested in stirring the pot than simply reporting.

    2. David

      What coach at another school are you referring to?

    3. Jimcats

      I fully agree with Catmandu. I’m not a big Mitch fan, but surely we can see that he hasn’t much to sell (in UK football) and is at a great disadvantage when compared to ADs at places like Auburn and UT. He might like to be doing plan A, with plan B as a good alternative, and plan C held back as his desperation move. With Plan C being very possible–again–it wouldn’t be so wise, or necessary, for the whole sporting world to know it when they see it. Give Mitch a break and accept that he has a tough enough job without us piling it on.

      It’s the job of media folk to get us the hot poop while it’s still hot and I can also understand their frustration when Mitch won’t even let out a hint.

      It’ll all work out soon and then we can pending the whole off season bitching about the “lousy hire”.

  15. Dewayne

    I’ll be the first to admit he’s got a tough job trying to sell the HC job to potential coaching candidates and I’d anybody thinks Nick Saban or Urban Meyer is gonna walk through the door needs to wake up. All I’m saying is to just ignore the fans the way he does and act like they don’t deserve to know which direction he’s going is complete BS. I spend my hard earned money to support UK like all these other fans and I think we deserve a public comment and not something from Matt Jones inside source. That’s another story all together.

    1. larryvaught

      Amen Dewayne amen

      1. rqa

        So you want to hear a rehash of what has already been said and written?
        Internal seaerch, money no object, searching to find the candidate with the best fit, expects to compete for championships.

        What else do you want to know? Names and dates of contact with each potential candidate???

    2. David

      I agree. I have not seen this much secrecy since leaving Afghanistan. I figure I have plenty of time to decide if I am giving that yearly donation. He has to make a hire I would think before April. I have loss all faith in our AD, I do hope he proves me wrong and hires Petrino.

  16. Mike Flannery

    Catmandu, sounds like you support the unprofessional back door written statement on Joker’s release. He could have at LEAST made a public announcement of the search and the CRITERIA for what he was looking for in our next Coach. He could have stated how he would undergo it with possibly a few names of those UK Alumni he might consult ( Van Note etc ). We well understand that names cannot be discussed for obvious reasons, we have heard from many sources that Petrino was not or will never be an option. As I have previously said, I will be the first to apologize of he does make a good hire.

    1. Catmandu

      I do not believe MB well written public release on the official UK website to efficiently and effectively communicate his thought process and decision to the BBN was unprofessional. Painful, yes. Unprofessional, no. As “rqa” has already asked, “What more do you want to hear?” MB knows what needs to be done and I am sure he is communicating internally and externally with the appropriate individuals in order to make the best decision possible on the next HC hire. Personally, I would prefer MB to focus ALL of his available time on the hiring process to insure greater success in the future. Any time MB would spend communicating what we, as fans, should already know would take away from the ultimate goal…hiring the best coach possible.

  17. Rqa

    Sounds like a sales pitch to Petrino? I guess you missed the part about the next coach “…requires head coaching experience and integrity”.

    Living in TN every, and I mean without exception media member in the Nashville market reads between those lines to mean no Kirby Smart, no Bobby Petrino.

  18. Mike Flannery

    One Coach whose name has not been mentioned is Franklin from Vandy, is he tied up on a long term contract with a huge buyout, or, is there a shortage of assistants with pretty wives?

    1. steve from Dayton

      If you think Franklin from Vandy hasn’t been mentioned, then you’re not paying attention.

  19. David C

    Sure he’s saying the same thing! Yeh right. Whatever he said last time didn’t work as how many walked away while we waited for Bill Parcells? Mitch needs to be in front of cameras saying he’s looking at all candidates and why we have an attractive position in Lexington. I hate saying this but it took Tom Jurich like 10 seconds to get Charlie Strong and make announcement. Bobby Petrino is out or he would have already named him HC by now. At this point just name the up and comer and lets move forward.

  20. Chuck

    Mitch’s lack of a public statement further shows the lack of commitment to the football program. It shows me that Mitch doesnt want the attention paid to the football program. It seems as though he would rather let things die down a bit to where people wont care who he hires. At this point he is losing members of the fanbase each day he remains silent. I dont expect him to tell us who he is looking at, just make a statement to keep people that care about the program interested.

  21. Terry

    Mitch’s silence and sending a letter to the fan base shows there is not much thought to the people that pay the bills. If you want to say it was a classless thing to do, then so be because it was. And Mitch should take notice that the fans are done supporting a program that the administration won’t support. That should be evident from what I was told was another sparse crowd on Saturday night. I have season tickets since 1975 and had not missed a home football game since 1996 until the last two and I just had no desire to go because of the lack of support from the UK brass.


    While I certainly understand the critical view of Mitch, I feel differently about the situation. If he is out working all the time on getting a new head coach, that is what I want him to do. He does not need to talk to us about it….what can he really say that will matter. We are going to get a new coach, the fans brought that on by not renewing and not showing up. So let the guy do his job….if it is a bust that will be terrible, but talking to us when he cannot say who he is talking to is not going to do much good. Go spend full time on hiring a head coach, and we all hope you hire a good one….that will last.

    PS…..Lee Todd was an excellent “CEO” type university president. Eli Capiluto seems to be very much an educator president. Thus his focus on the campus life, dorms and improving the educational experience. I think UK could use some of that….

  23. Chuck

    All one has to do is go back to Mitch’s comments before the Vandy game, another back handed slap in the face to the micro-wave fans that really arent real UK fans. Mitch has brought alot of this on himself and his hand was forced begrudgingly to fire someone he had no intention of firing.

    With the way he has handled this hire, he will be very lucky if the crowds return next season. Im guessing they wont as I am expecting a very un-inspiring hire. Not really thrilled with many of the names that have been thrown around.

    1. rqa

      Chuck, tell us what you know about how Mitch has handled this coaching search?
      Nothing…that is what you know. You have absolutely no way of making any intelligent assessment of the process.

      Mitch’s track record of hiring good coaches is pretty damn good and his judgement has been proven to be much better than the fans.

      1. Jim

        You are in the minority with your opinon on Mitch’s coaching choices. Nobody knew who Billy Clyde was, but Mitch told us he was a hot shot up and comer. He failed. Football was brought up to average to good with Brooks, not good or great. We all know how Joker worked out. I hope to be proven wrong and Mitch hits it out of the park. But, when you can judge performance by wins and losses, it is hard to have much faith.

        1. Rqa

          Nobody knew who Billy Clyde was??? You’re kidding, right?
          Fans wanted Brooks fired and were proven to be wrong. Mitch accepted Brooks recommendation to hire Joker.

          I could not care less if I am in the minority. I’m not reverting to falsehoods to support my case unlike others…

          1. Crestcat

            RQ pay Brady James

          2. Jim

            No sir, I am not kidding. I don’t get paid a truck load of money to over see a high profile athletic program. That being said, Calipari was my number one choice and Donovan was my number three. Nowhere was I thinking to go after Billy Clyde.

            I would love to be wrong about Mitch, because that would mean the football program will take off and win a bunch of games after his great hiring choice. But, I just don’t see it happening.

          3. Rqa

            Jim, I call BS. In 2007 nobody was calling for Cal. In 2007 Cal had taken Memphis to the NIT as much as the NCAA.
            Besides, had Cal come to UK in 2007 it would have been UK and not Memphis that vacated a season and Cal would have been fired.

      2. Chuck

        I know that Mitch refused to hold a press conference like UT did. UT feels like they owe the fans an explanation, we didnt get that from Mitch. He has left Joker out on his own like Larry explained in his article. Many of the former players have openly criticized the way Mitch is handling this search and have likened it to a kindergarten halloween party.

        This coaching search feels just like the last time Mitch held a search for a football coach.

        Also when Mitch hired the alcoholic as a Bball coach, he had a great coach that was pretty much begging to be called and called this job his dream job, but Mitch refused to call him. Sounds familiar right? We all know who that BBall coach was dont we?

  24. Walter

    Reading all of the complaining is wearing me out.

  25. Mr. Morals

    dang Larry, there you go again stirring S&%t. LoL… I have said all along that Mitch should have handled things differently, and I also think that he should reach out to the fan base and assure us he going to hire a great coach and that NO ONE will be overlooked. It aint gonna happen though, because like so many have said about Mitch, he is an arrogant A$$ and thinks he knows more than any one else about who to hire as our next coach. I would say this to Mitch, we as fans DESERVE the best coach that is available and that is willing to come here, whether it is Bobby Petrino or who ever, we deserve the best as fans, because we have pulled for our beloved Wildcats for along time before Mitch came here to Ky to be our AD and we will still be cheering for them when he has gone on to another job. Don’t let your EGO get in the way Mitch, hire the best man for the job regardless of if you like him personally or not.

  26. Theresa Crow

    After reading this article and the comments posted here, it sounds to me like most folks are upset with the way Mitch is handling this or perhaps the appearance of lack of handling it. While Dave Hart appeared straight forward and above board in his press conference, Barnhart appears secretive and shady because he did not have one. I have no idea why MB felt a press conference would not be in the best interest of UK, but for those of us who prefer plain, straight talk to words published on a website, it does appear to be a slap in the face. MB does not have to give us his list or talk about things that might give the other SEC schools who are looking for a coach an edge, but the fans and the team deserve to hear the words from MB’s mouth. If you want to be trusted, you have to be trustworthy. This subterfuge that MB has perpetuated does not make him trustworthy and that is what is making the fan base nervous. Fans are the folks who pay the prices for the games and fans deserve a bit of consideration–in this instance that consideration should be a press conference assuring fans that MB hears the pleas of the fans, understands the issues surrounding the hiring of the next football coach and is doing everything in his power to hit a home run with the next hire.

  27. Sarah White

    I’m going to agree to disagree. UT hit a double with their basketball hire; Mitch and UK hit a homerun. Let’s see how it plays out. Ironically enough, listening to my friends and talk radio in TN, they like what Hart is saying, but then there is another group saying: quit talking and get it done. I do agree with Larry that a timeline would be done. I don’t know if I would go as far as Hart has with UT and say it would be someone who has been a head coach, who has southern ties, high integrity (guess that leaves out our favorite Arkansas coach), and high academic standards. Hart is involving the chancellor. Guess that way if you win, you both win, and if you go down, you can go down together. Keep writing, Larry! Love your articles, and I love the different opinions.

  28. jerome west

    I have no sympathy for Joker Phillips. He was paid 1.7 million a year and is getting a 2.5 million dollar buyout to leave. UK made him a multi millionare, he made UK football an automatic win for thier opponents.

    1. Larry Pup

      Joker was not a winner as a HC for sure, but tell me a fb coach who has been at UK who has given more of themselves to this program as a player and a coach than Joker has. Sympathy? Yeah I feel for Joker and his family at this time, but more than that I respect him for the way he has handled this entire fiasco. Joker Phillips is one of us, Kentucky born and bred. I don’t think it is right to criticise him now. The choice to fire him has been made. Let’s move on by wishing him well. There have been many who have been paid well to produce a winner on the football field at UK to no avail. Perhaps we will obtain a great coach as far aa X and O’s, and if so I hope he has the same character qualities as Joker has.

      1. larryvaught

        Great post Larry Pup. Said it well about Joker

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