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Guest post: Does Kentucky really have time to wait to make coaching change


Let’s get one thing clear. We love Joker Phillips as a person. Joker is a class act. He couldn’t have shed a better light upon the program while coaching here at UK. At the beginning of the season I was “all in” with Joker and his staff…but there’s been a lot of talk this weekend that Mitch Barnhart should come out and speak about the football program to give the fans direction on what their next steps should be. Both Larry Vaught of Vaught’s Views and the Kentucky Kernel have supported this stance. I tend to agree with both articles, because the leadership needs toshare what the next steps will be for the university. Kentucky does not have the luxury to sit back and to pick and choose who they want as their next head coach. Kentucky needs to be on the attack about what their next step will be.

What does that mean? In my opinion, come November 25th, Kentucky will be on the lookout for their next head coach. This means Kentucky will be battling: Arkansas, Auburn, Tennessee, Texas, Missouri, and potentially Louisville and Mississippi State (if their coach leaves for a better program). Which school on that list does Kentucky look more attractive to coach? In my opinion…zero. If I were an up and coming head coach, or the hot assistant would I want to go to Tennessee or Kentucky…or even Louisville or Kentucky? If Mitch plays his hand right he could do some damage with his next hire, but Mitch must make a decision now.

Who should Mitch hire? Who are the realistic candidates for the next head coach at Kentucky? Here are the different names that are popping up around the state…

The “Long Shot” Candidates

•  Kirby Smart- Why would a coach leave a successful program to come to Kentucky? Smart is “smart” enough to realize he could be the next head coach at Texas, Tennessee, or Auburn if he wants. It’s doubtful he ends up at Kentucky…

•  John Gruden- There is 0% chance that John Gruden would take this position as the next UK head coach…I don’t even see Gruden taking the Tennessee position if it’s open. He winds up back in the NFL.

The “Win At All Costs” Candidates

•  Bobby Petrino- See John Gruden…Mitch is a man who believes his coach should have moral integrity, and if you’re looking for that in a head coach, you’re looking the opposite way of Petrino. Petrino and his motorcycle are headed to Auburn anyway.

•  Jim Tressel- The real question is will the sweater vest invade Commonwealth? IfMitch were going to make a “sketchy” hire, it would be Tressel. Tressel must sit out 5 games due to his “lack of institutional control” at Ohio St, and the program must be willing to sit out one year from a bowl as well. Are UK fans willing to do this for success down the road? Is Barnhart, willing to make the risky hire?

The “Up and Coming” Candidates

•  Willie Taggart- The Western Kentucky coach who beat UK on a masterful trick play has Western sitting pretty at 6-2 and becoming bowl eligible for the second straight year. Could Taggard and Joker switch jobs next year? That would make for an interesting first game down in Nashville.

•  Sonny Dykes- The Louisiana Tech head coach had his team ranked #24 before losing to Texas A&M two weeks ago in what was a shootout. Dykes has been able to turn a losing program run by UT head coach Derek Dooley, and turn it into the class of the WAC. Sonny likes to throw the ball around. It would be interesting to see if Dykes could have the same success here in Lexington.

•  Gus Malzahn- The former high school head coach and former Auburn Offensive Coordinator, who runs an interesting style offense, would be an even more interesting hire here in Lexington. Malzahn turned down Vandy two years ago. Would he say yes to Kentucky if asked?

The “Been Around the Block” Candidates

•  Mike Leach- The Washington State head coach who is better known for taking TexasTech to their highest ranking in years with Michael Crabtree and company would jump at the chance to come back and coach in the bluegrass state. The question is, would he resurrect the program, or would UK be another Washington State?

• David Cutcliffe- The current Duke head coach, who has had success in the SEC would be an interesting hire for UK in my opinion. Cutcliffe has Duke….let me repeat that, Duke on track to play in the ACC championship game. Cutcliffe would be the safe pick for Barnhart, he has the proven track record in the SEC, while having the ability to win at yes…..Duke.

Personally, if I am Mitch you make the announcement today and at the same time you make the “smart” decision and hand Kirby Smart a blank check. At the same time we know that Smart will land the high profile job (Texas, Tennessee, or Auburn). After Smart, Barnhart must go after either Dykes (who has proven that he can win where he has coached), or Cutcliffe (who has proven you can win at Duke). There are so many unknowns with this coaching search, but one thing that is for certain…Mitch must be on the attack. Please, all I ask is that we don’t sit back and become the last program in line to go after a coach.

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See what Tyler along with other writers including former UK basketball player Perry Stevenson have to say at www.SportsHeartbeat.com  for up to the minute information on UK sports. You can also follow them on Twitter @Sportsheartbeat.

Permanent link to this article: http://vaughtsviews.com/guest-post-does-kentucky-really-have-time-to-wait-to-make-coaching-change/


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  1. WeRuk

    It’s not gonna matter when MB starts the coaching search. UK football is a known Coach killer, with the financial issues/bandwagon fan base/etc. why would a decent coach want to come here? IMO we need to hope the other schools get who they want and someone like Neal Brown or Dykes wants to come be our Coach. I’d keep my season tickets for Joker before I would Petrino and a Fulmer-Cutcliffe won’t excite the fans. Just my 2 cents

  2. RJ

    Smart or Cutcliff are the only two on that list who might even be interested in the job. And then, only because they can get into the high visibility SEC. And, probably the only two that has a chance at recruiting UK out if this mess.

  3. Mike Flannery

    I would love to see Gary Patterson from TCU in Lexington, chances are very slim, but, you never know, he may like the challenge of the SEC ( along with the $$$ it would take to get him here).

  4. Kyle

    So the answer to the question is yeah, they should wait. The author is exaggerating the number of teams looking for a new coach at the same time as UK. UL, TX, TCU, Mizzou, MS… all would be likely looking after or close to their bowl games.

    We would be looking – officially – on Nov 25th.

    1. Tyler

      I don’t want to argue. It sounds like you’re a passionate UK fan which is fantastic, but let’s think which schools will be looking for a new head coach after this season…not just in the SEC
      6-South Florida
      Objectively, Kentucky is better than which jobs? Maryland, USF, and Colorado might be…but my article suggests that UK needs to immediately search for their next head coach…If Kentucky is to succeed they have to think outside the box. They can’t have the same game plan as Alabama or even UK basketball for that matter. They can’t wait until every other school announces their job search to nab the coach they want. Of course, Mitch may be putting out feelers for the next coach…but my point is to think outside of the box. I appreciate your response though!

      1. larryvaught

        With you on that Tyler. This is not Kentucky basketball. Kentucky has to be aggressive and innovative to hit a home run here

  5. grant

    I really wish that we could find out what uk would or could spend at the highest. That would help immensely in the guessing game here. Larry do you have any inkling as to what uk could afford for football coach if they really wanted too?

    1. larryvaught

      can spend whatever they want

      1. Katdaddy

        Need to have the committment to FB from the administration also or all this is for naught.

  6. joe

    One name you left off is Pat Narduzzi, def. coordinator for Michigan State. As a Michigan fan I want him gone because MSU’s defense is consistently good right now. That is the same MSU that gets out-recruited every year by OSU and UM, yet the defensive product has been better than both the last few. I think he would be a wise under-the-radar decision as he probably isn’t like Kirby Smart who only looking for the most high-profile of jobs (he may end up being coach in waiting because will Saban get bored and jump to the NFL).

  7. Bill

    I’m ready to think outside of the box. Brett Favre would make a major impact across the board. He still has the competitive fire and loves the game. He knows how to pick a defense apart. He wouldn’t come for the money, but he just might for the love of the game. No, he hasn’t been a head coach. Hire him an administrative assistant. Saban, Spurrier, and the rest would face some real competition in recruiting and on game day for sure. Someone else has already suggested this and it’s worth repeating since names are being thrown out. I haven’t given up on this season yet, and nothing would please me more than beating Vanderbilt.

    1. larryvaught

      Bill, that’s the most outside the box thinking I have seen, but also think there’s nothing wrong with thinking like that

  8. Bob

    You know whom i would like to see there Andy Reed of the Eagles might not be as far fetched as it sounds .

  9. grant

    dom capers?

  10. DAVID B


  11. Seymour

    UK’s next coach is not listed in this article. UK is a retirement home or a graveyard for football coaches. Just think back to how we landed Rich Brooks.

    1. RJ

      Well…. At least Brooks won a few games…

  12. johnl

    Boy,some of you really have a low impressions on UK and the future of their football program.UK has to be in a better position to hire a top tier coach than some of you nedativist give them credit for.
    Tyler is right about now being the time to make a move,ot’s simply finding the guy who will work extremly hard to turn this program around.The pieces are in place for an outstanding offensive coach with Towels and Smith to return,and surely there is someome out there who can take the guys on the defensive side of the ball and make them more competitive than what we see now.
    If i had a pick,and could get him.i would go with Petrino.He is an excellent college football coach,and if his wife can forgive him for his indiscretions,i’m sure fans can.And he might be inclined to keep some of the current staff as they enjoyed great success working with him at UL.

  13. Jeff

    If Petrino would keep the O line coach and the Linebacker coach, I think I could stomach him. If the Dykes or Leach would do the same , that would be even better.

    1. larryvaught

      I would hope whoever is coaching at UK next year would keep Summers and Smith on staff. Both are well liked by players, well liked by state’s high school coaches and have produced all-SEC players

  14. John

    You know, I like the Brett Farve idea myself. What could he do with Toles? We hired Mumme for Couch…

  15. Kyle

    Do we have to announce we are looking? Geez.
    I’m sure we are looking now and announcing after the UT game.

    The big candidates will WAIT as well, for the same reasons the author stated… more competition for their services.

    1. Mike Flannery

      Do not be sure we are looking for a Coach, read what Mitch said at his meeting in Louisville, reading between the lines, it was not an indictment of this years results, obviously, he did not lay his cards on the table, I still think there is a strong possibility he will give Joker one more year, if he does, the athletic program will lose untold millions in revenue. He will loose another 15 to 20K season ticket holders. That will another reason to hold off on providing a decent football gameday recruiting room.

      1. larryvaught

        Saw the same comments Mike and if they are accurate, may not be a coaching change

  16. Pacman

    Larry, if you want outside the box thinking look at Lance Leipold, HC at Wisconsin Whitewater. Has won the NCAA title for his division 4 of the last 5 years. The year he didn’t win it he came in 2nd. His overall record for his 5 years at WW is 72-3. He knows how to play winning football. You can check them out at the Wisconsin Whitewater website. That’s the type of coach we can afford. He would come to an SEC school if he wants to move up and he would most likely work for $1.7 million that UK is willing to pay.

    1. larryvaught

      just checked Pacman. On paper, very impressive. Kind of out of box thinking UK has to consider I think

  17. KYWCAT

    I agree with Kyle. Looking for a head coach is something kept so quiet I’m not even sure Barnhart’s wife knows. He doesn’t owe the fans an announcement. Just support the guys on the field and leave the AD to do his job. That doesn’t require press announcements to the general public to update or appease the fans. It’s a football coach not a declaration of war. And in my opinion I’m not seeing success from any of the current coaching staff in any position or side of the ball. We’ve had a few good position players but I can’t agree that we have had an outstanding O line as a unit or linebacker core etc. We are failing on all levels and it’s only getting worse. People are taking a few minutes from each game and talking about bright moments when those should be the standard. It also became apparent this past weekend that Towels is not this All American QB everyone from KY goes on about. He needs loads of work and when he does get into trouble he can not escape. I did think the most apparent thing was the progress Whitlow has made in his short passing game. He is more comfortable and has added some touch to his passes.

  18. eddie

    i would love to see Frank Solich of ohio come maybe people will disagree with me but he would be a good hire

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