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By LARRY VAUGHT
Before I head out to watch Kentucky fans stomp on Christian Laettner — remember it is all to benefit the V Foundation at a fundraiser hosted by Dick Vitale, Jeff Sheppard and Laettner — I thought I would share some of the many theories I’ve heard today on the UK football coaching search.
Kentucky Sports Radio’s Matt Jones says Louisiana Tech coach Sonny Dykes and Alabama defensive coordinator are UK’s top choices. No argument here against either. Dykes and his Tony Franklin-led offense have been terrific and could be on the verge of knocking Louisville out of a BCS bowl — and I know how sad that would make most UK fans — and I believe there has been contact at least with Dykes’ agent. Smart is a proven defensive mind from his time at LSU and Alabama.
However, remember the rumor about former Steelers coach Bill Cowher being high on the UK want list. Well, another source shared this information with me today:
“Kentucky wants a NFL coach and that seems to be the first choice right now. Mitch (Barnhart) has been spending a lot of time calling NFL teams and seeking permission to speak with various coaches. The smaller named guys such as Caragher, Brown, Kingsbury are definitely out. UK wants a big name splash from the NFL. Petrino is still in the mix and not tabled as of today, but now seems like an unlikely choice,” the source with close ties to UK said.
One former UK football player I talked to is frustrated more progress is not being made and wonders why “contact with prospective coach had not already been made” if Joker Phillips was going to be fired with two games left.
“The search has the organizational dynamics of a kindergarten Halloween party,” the player said. “If Petrino is not hired, and goes elsewhere in the SEC, I’m not sure UK can ever recover. UK football will not recover from a no to Petrino decision. Will financially and competitively ruin a Division 1 football program.”
That brings to mind a recent story by Chris Smith at Forbes.com about the value to Kentucky of hiring Petrino. He called hiring Petrino a n0-brainer for UK and wrote:
“Even leaving on-field performance aside, hiring Petrino would be a great financial move for Kentucky. Petrino’s marred reputation will help Kentucky get a top-tier coach at a bargain price, likely well below the $3.6 million he made each season at Arkansas. Kentucky is currently giving Phillips $1.7 million per season, and it’s doubtful that the school would have to pay much more for Petrino’s services. Moreover, Petrino was one of college football’s top CEOs while at Arkansas. From 2010 to 2012, the Razorbacks’ value rose a staggering 59% to $89 million. That increase was mainly the result of strong on-field play on the back of the coach’s cost-efficient spending. In fact, Petrino’s Razorbacks spent the third-least per win of any SEC team in the 2010 season en route to the Sugar Bowl.”
Here’s more: “Thanks in large part to such basketball success, Kentucky’s athletic department contributed $1.7 million to academics in 2010. Those contributions will only surge higher with a successful football team. Hiring Bobby Petrino, it would seem, is one of the best ways to build one both on the field and in the balance sheet.”