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Joker Phillips says Kentucky football has unlimited recruiting budget

By LARRY VAUGHT

Kentucky’s abysmal football season doesn’t figure to get any better Saturday when Georgia, a 27-point favorite, comes to what likely will not be a hostile Commonwealth Stadium based on the low attendance even before UK was embarrassed 49-7 in last week’s weather-shortened game at Arkansas.

But don’t blame a lack of recruiting funds for the slide. Or at least that is what Kentucky coach Joker Phillips said.

Speculation about the UK football recruiting budget surfaced last week when there was a report that the $300,000 Kentucky spent on Big Blue Madness was close to the entire football recruiting budget. That’s why I asked Phillips on the Southeastern Conference teleconference how UK’s football recruiting budget was set and if it had enough money for him to do what was necessary to be competitive with other SEC teams.

“Each year what they go on (to set the budget) is what we have spent the past year,” Phillips said. “We have never even looked at it. We have never asked for something and not been able to get it.”

Never?

“We really have an unlimited budget in recruiting. We spent over $500,000 on airlines and official visits last year. That’s a lot of money. That is plenty for us,” Phillips said.

If that’s “plenty” for Kentucky, then why do other schools — Alabama, LSU, South Carolina, Florida, Georgia — spend more and land more four- and five-star players? Wouldn’t spending more money likely elevate UK’s recruiting and help the Cats bring even better players to campus? Or would it?

“The thing we don’t do … it is hard for us to go out and national recruit. You see teams spend more money than us in national recruiting flying back and forth across the country to places like California. We do go out there for junior college recruits, but going out there for high school recruiting defeats the purpose at Kentucky,” Phillips said.

Maybe Phillips is right. It’s hard enough for UK to recruit a four- or five-star player in the South. For that matter, the Cats have not been having great success even signing most highly-rated in-state players. This year alone out of the top 10 ranked in-state players, only one — Clay County lineman Jacob Hyde — has committed to Kentucky and the Cats are not the leader for any of the others.

But former UK center Dave Hopewell, who started on the 1977 team that went 10-1, isn’t buying all Phillips said. Hopewell was from Alabama. Two of his best teammates, Derek Ramsey and Art Still, were from New Jersey. He had teammates from numerous states because then coach Fran Curci was not afraid to recruit anywhere.

“I just think Joker is being politically correct,” Hopewell said. “I don’t believe all that. If that’s the case about an unlimited budget, they should be flying everywhere to recruit. Go wine and dine players to play here. Be like (UK basketball coach John) Calipari and get in a private plan and go see the nation’s best players and sell them on coming to play in the SEC, which is just a miniature NFL.”

Of course, UK is at the bottom of the SEC. The Cats have been so bad offensively that they have not had an offensive touchdown in the first quarter in the last 20 games. Phillips is 12-20 as a head coach and many fans have lost interest in the program.

“These guys are good coaches,” Hopewell said. “But something is just not clicking. I can’t put my finger on it, but something is just not right.”

Agreed. That also means the players could be sensing that same hopeless. Phillips says not, but we’ll see Saturday night againstGeorgia.

“We traveled to Arkansas with 68 players and 42 were freshmen and sophomores,” Phillips said. “They do not have any hopeless feelings. They are all excited to go out and play. They don’t think about (feeling hopeless) because they are getting an  opportunity to play. I don’t think they sense that hopelessness.”

Permanent link to this article: http://vaughtsviews.com/joker-phillips-says-kentucky-football-has-unlimited-recruiting-budget/

24 comments

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  1. RJ

    No vision, plain and simple…..

    A head coach lives or dies in the recruiting busness. If a head coach cannot articulate a recruiting plan that achieves his goals, he has no vision. I cannot imagine that we do not even try to recruit against other SEC schools, which is what his comments have the appearance of. To build a recruiting budget based on what “we did last year” rather that have a budgeting for a properly designed recruiting PLAN is ludicrous and borders on the imcompetent. If UK ran a business on this budgeting philosiphy, it would be broke in less than a year; which, may actually explain a lot.

    Lastly, if the state’s flagship university cannot land more than one top in-state athlete Mitch Barnhart has a bigger problem that just the head coaching situation. The fact that these kids are going to other universities speaks volumes about UK. Volumes……

    1. Love SEC F-Ball

      I agree 100%. You said it better than I.

    2. Juan4UK

      The plan or budget is NOT built on what they did last year. You are, I believe, reading this wrong. The $300k or $500k are just numbers. Financial reporting numbers are mixed up, and jumbled around too much to put an exact # on it. You guys are putting too much into that number.
      FB is not like basketball recruiting. It’s even nastier. HS coaches are a lot more involved w/ FB. AAU rules bball as a showcase. Can’t do that in FB. So now, instead of 1 central place to pick best of the best, you are stuck w/ 50,000 HS to recruit from. That’s a hell of a lot of ground. A low tier program has to have contacts in a district to identify talent and then they have to get in with a coach in order to get to players.
      It’s not as cut and dried as you guys are making it. And it is a much different recruiting world top to bottom than it was in the 70’s. Sorry.
      Can we do better, I am absolutely sure. But unwillingness and budget limits are not going to be the problem here.

      1. Love SEC F-Ball

        You are right – The plan or budget is not built on what they did last year – because they have no plan.

        And you may be right that the $300k or $500k are just numbers to Joker but they are very important to those that support the program hoping to see results.

        And you are right that the –
        “financial reporting numbers are mixed up, and jumbled around too much to put an exact # on it” for someone like Joker.

        And I agree that recruiting is “not cut & dried”. We all know that Football recruiting at U.K. is one of the toughest jobs in the nation. That is why we need to step it up – Step up the Dollars spent, the staff comitted and the effort by that staff.

        I agree that it is important to establish relationships with High School Coaches but you can’t just rely on them sending players to you. You have to go see the kids. The Coach that you have the relationship may not have the best players every year.

        You agreed with Joker that budget limits for recruiting are not the problem.
        He said that the budget is unlimited (BY the way that is not a budget!).
        If so why does he not triple the amount spent on recruiting?
        Spend $1,000,000 recruiting. But have a PLAN and a COMMITTMENT by the Administration!

        1. Juan4UK

          If he spends an extra $500k on recruiting, but the money isn’t well spent then it’s no different then the initial $500k. And none of what I said was “for a guy like Joker”. What I said is in reference to the accounting department that does the books in various ways. If a plane ticket costs Joker $500 and he offers to pay $1000 for it, then that won’t make that trip any more lucrative.
          The amount of money they spend is not the issue, it’s the available paths to spend it. I’m not defending the staff, I addressing the idea that Mitch doesn’t give them enough money, or Joker doesn’t try to recruit hard enough- and you can tell by how much he doesn’t spend.
          Now, as we have learned with Cal, the right connections are fairly important. Maybe the argument should be that Joker hasn’t made the best connections that are out there. So, there’s that.

          1. Love SEC F-Ball

            I am not sure why the accounting department would do the books in different ways but I agree with everything else that you said.
            Thanks for explaining – Your points are well taken.

  2. Love SEC F-Ball

    “We have never even looked at it”
    What – The head Coach has not even looked at the recruiting budget?

    Maybe they should take his salary & make that amount the recruiting budget
    and make the recruiting budget his salary. Think he would notice it then.

    1. RJ

      Unbelievable comments from Joker. I cannot believe he actually meant to convey the message that his statements portray. For his own sake, the man has to start thinking about the message that his statements carry, expecially with a verrrrrrry skeptical fan base. How did he rise to this level in coaching? He’s the face of the UK football program and he does not seem to understand the message his words send to not only the fan base but to potential recruits as well………..

      1. Love SEC F-Ball

        Another statement that jumps out-
        “……….but going out there for high school recruiting defeats the purpose at Kentucky”
        That statement tells me that he does not believe that he has a chance with those kids. He is defeated before he starts. Must be approaching the games the same way.

        Unbelievable it is.

      2. UKFAN197TONE

        I agree. UNBELIEVABLE comments.

    2. Juan4UK

      Jeez, the comment means, “it’s not a concern about how much is spent”. It’s a figure of speech.
      Just like “picking the fly out of the sh!^”

      1. Love SEC F-Ball

        You could be right – It may be a figure of speech. Your interpretation that “it’s not a concern about how much is spent” bothers me as well. I agree, Joker does not seem to be concerned about how much is spent — or how little is spent. He does not seem to have a clue!
        Donors and advertisers WILL be concerned.

        I believe that too little is being spent on this important part of our program and that we need a huge increase.
        However the budget should not be UNLIMITED!!!!!

        Again, swtich his salary to the recruiting budget & make the current recruiting budget his salary.

        I am not sure what flies in the sh!t have to do with anything but if you remove the sh!t your fly problem is reduced.

        1. Juan4UK

          that should fix it.

        2. Juan4UK

          that last part is funny, and technically the solution. The phrase kinda says that the flies aren’t the cause of the problem and shouldn’t be the focus.

  3. TrueBlueJohn

    Even in a state that doesn’t have a great recruiting base, the state university should have its pick of the in-state D-1 prospects. We shouldn’t lose a Lamar Dawson to USC or Shawn Alexander to Alabama. Louisville is out-recruiting us for in-state prospects. If we have an unlimited budget, we are misusing it.

  4. Terry Mason

    The headline alone speaks volumes about the abysmal coaching job that has Kentucky sitting at 1-6 and looking squarely at 2-10. If the budget is unlimited 1-6 is unjustifiable, SEC or no SEC. The even bigger question how this team got to the point of not being remotely competitive. I can’t see status quo for the rest of the season, all these players are Joker’s recruits and he and the rest of the staff are ultimately responsible for them not being able to compete. It does not matter if you recruit fifty five star players, if you can’t make the pieces work together, the team will not win and that’s coaching not getting the job done. The empty seats speak loudly to the administration that the program in its current state is unacceptable.

    1. larryvaught

      Knew recruiting budget comment would draw lot of responses. I tend to agree with terry. Just no way to justify all this going on

    2. Juan4UK

      Arkansas, pre UK game is perfect example for this point

  5. Gene

    The entire article raises all sorts of major questions. Chief among them would be: If your recruiting budget is not the problem then why are the results of your efforts so uninspiring ?
    Most of us believed you were a suprior recruiter, it was your “strong suit” so to speak. You state that you spent in excess of $500K for access to the recruiting trail. If this were true your entire program, not only it’s face is a failure.
    We can spin this any way we want but it comes back to the same conclusion.
    Coach Phillips, you have been much less than successful as head of the UK football program.
    Please step down gracefully and live to fight another day. Do the honorable thing, the kids and the fans may even thank you for that decesion.

  6. Deeeefense

    If in fact monetary resources are not the limiting factor on why our recruiting consistently ranks at the bottom of the SEC, then one must conclude by default that it’s the coaching staff’s inability to recruit at the same level as the competition.

    If Vanderbilt can land top 25 classes, and money is not the problem at UK, then it appears to me they are out of excuses.

    1. Ira

      Does make you wonder doesn’t it. We recruit like we are in C-USA

  7. Anonymous

    Go hot and heavy for Al Golden.
    The U led him astray about their upcoming problems – he could be had.
    He’s never interviewed for a job he didnt obtain.
    I love ole’ Joker, but……………….

    1. UKFAN197TONE

      HA. Good one.

  8. skevelious

    Joker isn’t doing well, the results don’t lie, next please!! This is like a bad relationship that you just want it to be over with and move on. I, as a longtime U of K football fan, am so OVER it. This is emberassing. It hurts to watch them play

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