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By RICHARD CHEEKS
On the football front, I am so pleased that the team could put it together for Joker’s last game, and for themselves. An effort like that Saturday could be enough to get the Vols because they are reeling now. Wouldn’t it be a great finish for Joker to get Tennessee two times in a row?
When the Tubby Smith situation came to a head, I learned that Mitch Barnhart does not respect the fan base, and prefers to ignore the fans that point out the problem areas, and discount them as raving, unreasonable, etc. I know because I got the direct assault from him and his lieutenants. On Sunday morning on WLAP Larry Vaught, Mark Buerger and Anthony White seemed focused on Barnhart’s inexplicable conduct surrounding this football coaching situation.
From my perspective, it is precisely the same conduct relative to the fans I saw from him back then. The fall from the top of the mountain to the mediocrity of the Tubby years for basketball was as dramatic a fall as the fall of the football program into oblivion that we have just witnessed. The only differences are the beginning and ending points for basketball are higher than for football, but the fall was as dramatic for each program, and both have occurred on his watch.
With respect to the football program, I am pleased that more and more people are beginning to talk about the absence of institutional commitment and support, because this demise is predictable within that understanding. Rich Brooks lifted this program on his own back and carried it to new heights despite that absence of commitment. Joker, like so many of the others before him, could not sustain the weight of that world. It is so sad to me, because Joker loves UK football more than anyone I have seen in that chair in my lifetime as a fan.
We should all give thanks today for Mitch Barnhart’s contribution to soccer, tennis, and tidily-winks.