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By Lee Ann Herring-Olvedo
“If your enemy is secure at all points, be prepared for him. If he is in superior strength, evade him. If your opponent is temperamental, seek to irritate him. Pretend to be weak, that he may grow arrogant. If he is taking his ease, give him no rest. If his forces are united, separate them. If sovereign and subject are in accord, put division between them. Attack him where he is unprepared, appear where you are not expected.” Sun Tzu
The taste in battle for Kentucky has been far from victorious for the Cats this season. Just when it seems the program has learned from its mistakes, it finds its way back to digging a grave that they are barely able to come out of each time. The battle going into the 4th week seems to be enough to break them.
What seemed to be a promising start as the Cats opened conference play on the road in the Swamp once again proved to be a train wreck in the waiting. I am the last person to want this team not to succeed, because from day one I have seen the capabilities of the talent. But, even for this optimistic realist there comes a time when you have to say enough is and enough.
Saturday’s loss to Florida was nothing more than a loss in lopsided fashion for the Cats. Clearly on the offensive side the identity was shaken without Maxwell Smith taking the reins and left to Morgan Newton’s more than inability to provide any type of commanding game for the Cats. There was a great deal of lost opportunities that could have turned the Cats game around. As for the defense they weren’t perfect, but were able to play with a little bit more cohesion than previous games. I can go into stats and break it down, but that’s only going to tell half the story of what is going on with this Kentucky Football Program.
It is clear on several forefronts there are just pieces that are missing, and no one seems to be fixing and adjusting them effectively. What I see is a program that is being led astray and there are no signs of change, unless they start doing some spring cleaning this Fall. This team’s lack of success is not due in part to just players, coaches, or just the athletic program. It’s a team’s collective effort.
Plain and simple, it is time for Kentucky Football to clean some house. We need to recapture our identity, and that starts with getting better backing from the administration. A program can only grow stronger if the administration is devoted to providing a quality SEC football program. This folks, means a stronger financial backing so that we are not living in the shadows of a basketball centric athletic program. Don’t get me wrong, I think it’s important to thrive on the success of our basketball program. But, in all retrospect, when you are in a powerhouse like the SEC, why wouldn’t we want to have multiple powerhouse programs. I mean purely from a business perspective, the more successful programs we invest in, the more we can engage those programs to attract a stronger return. That can help not only the athletic but academic brand that is UK. If we want a program to fully succeed independently to contribute collectively, we have to build it and build it well. Right now it seems that the UK Football Program is barely hanging on when it comes to its brand, from not filling the stands, to price hikes, and the list goes on. There seems to be some internal logistics that just don’t seem to be adding up so this program can thrive.
Now for the million dollar question: Should Joker go or should Joker stay? The argument I keep hearing from Joker is to give him some more time because this team is so young and needs time. Wake up call the last two seasons. All we have had is time to develop young players because that is all our depth has been. It seems we find bits and pieces of success for a time, but then it seems to fade fast and things seem to be more in disarray and illusions rather than tangible success.
Only four weeks into the season Kentucky still struggles to find its identity on and off the field, which clearly has affected the mental and physical prowess of the coaches and players, whether they will blatantly choose to admit or not. How could the tug between the rumor mill and the poor play not affect the ability for a team to produce success, even the best of players living in these circumstances can’t drown out reality.
As I wrote earlier there is not one particular entity of the program to blame. However, in any team there is one person that has to command and have the authority to lead and lead well. In this case this goes back to your head coach. If there is even the slightest piece missing from that leadership that trickles down to your team, then it will always be lagging behind. This game was a perfect example of those little pieces that were missing by a head coach commanding and utilizing the team it brought with him. When a majority of your travel roster is young freshmen and sophomores, yet you say there are not enough plays and experience to get them in the game, there is something that bothers me about that coming from your head coach. Not to mention the reservation to make changes earlier rather than later against the Gators that could have not put the Cats in a complete shut out in the Swamp. These little things add up, and when a coach has the slightest hesitation in a game situation why are we paying him in the first place?
I have always said Joker to me is a good face of the program’s value and character, but in a place like the SEC: morals, values, and character are only a small part of the formula to be an effective head coach and take the reins of the team. For me I think Joker would thrive most in a coordinator or positions frame where he can specialize. His mind is more geared to one play at time rather than seeing multiple plays onward. This is easily seen in his play calling and his indecisiveness in making changes on the fly. We need a coach and program that is going to not just sell players and fans a false sense of hope, but rather something that will provide tangible winning results if given the right tools.
We have the bits and pieces to outsmart and out play, but right now the direction and leadership we have is having a tough time drowning in their own indecision that it takes a toll on the rest of this team. Time is money in the SEC and it’s been a wasting. I am a patient person but when I know and see we have talent there, and it’s not being used, that is a waste for me. Even more so, know that there is a head coach buying time on the same excuses over and over again.
As Frank Broyles would say, “Any coach can get things done right, but the great coaches get the right things done. Being prepared allows you to get the right thing done, not just doing things right.”
We need a coach who can get the right things done in the moment. If we want to continue to live with this delusion of patience as payoff, maybe we should not be playing football in the SEC.