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By LARRY VAUGHT

It’s about time to face the obvious with Kentucky football when it comes to the UK fan base.

The fans were upset with Joker Phillips and his team’s play, but there’s no doubt in my mind that they are more upset with the Kentucky administration and its perceived lack of commitment to the football program. It is everything from the game day experience at Commonwealth Stadium to lack of promotion for the Blue-White Game to lack of funding for things like a  new recruiting room.

Football fans watch coach John Calipari demand that basketball be the “gold standard” for the sport and see fantastic fundraising efforts to make sure that happens. When it comes to basketball, there are never the same hurdling blocks for funding.

Now the coaching search is infuriating fans even more because no UK official will talk. Instead, Phillips has had to answer all the questions and face the media and fans by himself. He’s done it with no bitterness and more class than anyone I’ve ever been around in the same situation, but talk about leaving a coach on an  island by himself. That just is unfair and UK officials should be ashamed of doing that.

Tell us a timetable for a new coach. Tell us what is being looked at in the new coach. Tell us what financial restraints there will be or not be. Tell us what kind of commitment there will be to football facility-wise.

I also believe that if UK officials suddenly think Commonwealth Stadium is going to be full of fans next year they are in for a big surprise. The fans are not going to pack the stadium unless UK does make a home run hire because they are so upset with the commitment to football.

63 Responses to Kentucky football fans more upset with administration than coaching

  • eddie says:

    they won;t be happy cause reports are they are offering the job to butch jones of cincy bearcats who has lost to two top 25 teams one them being louisville i hope this what mitch wants cause if sot empty seats means mitch may be looking for a new job but of course it’s just a rumor and i got a feeling it may be true.

  • bradyjames says:

    Mitch better make a hire the fans can get excited or the place will be empty again next year.

  • oldblackhightops says:

    I’m no writer, but your last sentence probably needs to state:
    “upset with the LACK of commitment to football.” (Just kidding!)

  • eddie says:

    rumor not true he is not comming to kentucky

  • TheProfessor says:

    I have written many times, and spoken with my friends so often they tire of the tirade, but I am convinced that no coach can get the results that the fans want to have unless and until the UK administration begins to support the program in a way that is clearly designed to achieve and maintain SEC competitiveness. It has not been there for decades, too many for this old man to even remember or count these days. The Administration in the 1950s decided that UK football should only recruit Kentucky kids. Bear Bryant left, and Blanton Collier struggled to a winning record despite having those shackles applied, and as he left our fair neck of the woods for the NFL where he would gain great acclaim, he spoke of those shackles and the foolishness of it all.

    Can you imagine if the basketball program had been told it could only recruit Kentucky boys? Not only would the coach not stood still with such a demand, neither would the fan base, and rightfully so on both counts. But, for football, there was no grass roots uprising, no marching in the street, no reaction at all. Why? I don’t think many Kentuckians really ever paid that much attention to what happens with UK football, other than to laugh at its futility.

    Then along came Fran Curci, and he showed Kentucky how exciting a serious football team is, but then he cheated and it was all but forgotten again. Claiborne labored through his attempts to bring his alma mater some football respect, but retired with a losing record amid unending criticism that he could not coach, when in fact he put some of the best defensive teams Kentucky has seen since the Bear left for A&M. Rich Brooks gave us another glimpse of how exciting it is to have a respectable football team, but he too retired with a losing record amid criticism of his aging ways.

    This program is bankrupt because the UK Administration uses it only for the money it generates by virtue of the SEC membership, and diverts those funds to other more important things. However, a reinvestment in the cash cow would produce even greater revenues for all concerned, but the UK Administration is satisfied to be the SEC door mat, and cash that annual check.

    I think that Larry may be right about the fans this time around. I reached that point with my football support by buying tickets, parking passes, and traveling to away games about a decade ago. I suspect that there will not be a rush to fill those parking lots until there is a proven commitment to the program that the football component of the Big Blue Nation can recognize as real.

    • Bryan says:

      Completely agree, Professor. Unfortunately, the apathy a large part of the population of this state feels towards the football program seems to be shared by the private donors who can contribute significantly to athletics. I get the feeling that the Cormans and Crafts give a lot more to bball than fball. This to me is the culture change that Scnellenberger talked about.

      With this in mind, The AD must use whatever funding available to boost the revenue producing football program, THEN start to improve other areas of UK athletics. I understand that the olympic sports were in need of upgrades, but I feel that Barnhart sort of put the cart before the horse by improving track, softball, soccer, etc. facilities instead of devoting a higher portion of funding to fball. Even with the 100 million in bonding capability that seems to be coming soon, only 85 is going to football. The other 15 is going to baseball. With the state of the football program as it is today, why not take all 100 million and concentrate on football, then worry about baseball.

      Sadly, I too feel Larry is correct about the fanbase. I’ll still go to games, but I live close to the stadium. I really can’t blame people for giving up. This coaching search has been a PR disaster, and Mitch isn’t helping it by keeping quiet. UT fired Dooley today and the AD had a press conf. Mitch writes a letter. He won’t interact with the fanbase or release any updates, which only leads to rumors, speculation, frustration, and apathy. Now unless a great hire happens (which I doubt), or the introductory press conference is an OVERWHELMING success (which is unlikely), all of this negativity will no doubt carry over to the next season.

    • Larry Pup says:

      Been this way for years. In to many places in this state, people could care less about winning football. The admin. has gotten a pass year in year out. Just look, took us 26 years to beat UT, look at the series against Florida. God help us! We have become such a doormat, no successful coach wants the job. I’m serious! Maybe that is the reason for the silence. To have the opportunity to hire a great fb coach like Petrino, and let it slip out of their fingers, to not even interview him tells us all we need to know. Right now silence is deafening! Mitch could do himself a big favor by just letting the fans know a little something. Just something!

  • Terry says:

    Larry you hit the nail right on the head. UK administration lacks any feeling towards the average fan. Just go in a coset and leave Joker dangling outside. Mitch my just think he can put someone in there that will settle for mediocracy and then Mitch will move on to the “other” things he wants to do in life and not have to deal with UK football again. I would think any coach thinking about this job would want to talk with people such as Morris, Brooks, and even Mumme in confidence to hear what really goes on in the AD’s office.

    a

  • Jared_S says:

    I have had season tickets for 13 years & I am only 33 years old. If they do not get a good hire I will not renew my season tickets. It makes no sense to purchase season tickets anymore, especially if we are not getting a good hire. I can still go to games & get in much cheaper, half the time you can get free tickets outside the stadium anyway, & you can always get them under face value.

  • zcats says:

    Larry this is absolutely true. Great comments by Professor and others. The true issue is the University’s commitment to the sport.

    • ” I don’t care if his name is Vince Lombardi or Derek Dooley. We have an obligation as an administration to give our coaches the resources they need, the support they need, intrinsically and extrinsically to back to where we want to be. This will be a collective effort from a lot of people to have us take our rightful place in the Southeastern Conference and beyond.” AD, Hart @ UT….Zcats, University Commitment, at least they talk to their Fans…Come on Mitch, don’t look sophmoric to Univ. Of Tenn., Mitch, Professionalism, dictates, that you speak on this Issue.

  • Sarah White says:

    If Vandy can become respectable, so can we.

  • R.S. says:

    I’m nearing 50 years of age and at this point I just can’t justify investing any more time or money on UK fball. When I have grandkids I’d always thought I’d take them to Commonwealth and teach them to love fball the way I do. I can’t even see doing that now, why would I want them to suffer through all the losing and bad football I’ve had to?

    It seems the fans care more about fielding a winning fball team than the administration does. If UK doesn’t care why should I?

  • Cam Jacobs says:

    Boards have said that UK has offered Butch Jones of UC. I hope not. winning 9 or 10 games in Big Least aint the same as SEC. Petrino or bust. Fulmer a close second.

  • Cam Jacobs says:

    Sorry, didn’t read the first post. My news is late.

    • Twice says:

      I would say the offer did happen, leaked to gauge fan support, and then immediately denied due to the overwhelmingly negative reaction. On several boards I’ve seen people post the same thought only to have it promptly removed.

      • Reality says:

        This is tinfoil hat thinking. Athletic Departments to not “leak” a name via a poster on a message board to gauge interest. Hires are made on the merits of the candidate, not the opinions of message board posters or twitter users.

        • the truth says:

          say what you want but in less than thirty minutes the AD had a spokesman issuing a statement that it wasn’t true, given the speed things operate in the UK athletic department do you really believe they would react that quickly to a post on a message board unless they already had a statement prepared?

          • Reality says:

            What statement? Some people called Peevy and he denied it. It’s that simple. There was no prepared statement issued.

            It’s not strange that UK would respond when asked, but it is exceedingly strange to think that UK would “float” a name via an anonymous poster on a Cincinnati message board to see what the reaction of the fanbase would be. It’s even stranger to think that UK would make a hiring decision based on fanbase feedback from an unsubstantiated rumor.

    • No its not, ” Petrino Or Bust is right on time”….

  • KYReignMaker says:

    Good write up and I agree. I have been saying for some time, exactly when is the UK admin going to act like they even care enough about the fans (which buy the seats at Commonwealth) to listen to what they would like to see as a coach. Our admin could of wratpped up this Petrino thing in the last 2 weeks. Now with the openings in the SEC we will drop to 4th option by coaches seeking a H/C position. No excuse in the last 2 years to have unemployed proven coaches with FBS wins and both would have looked at our program but now we are on the outside looking in.

    Since typing this a statement above, a HUGE ‘unconfirmed’ rumor is UT is set to offer Bobby Petrino $33 million 5 years – just the messenger and unconfirmed

  • Larry V., You would think ,that with your support and knowledge for and of The University Of Kentucky and BBN, the University Administration would embrace your Feedback….After this delay and non-response, only a Petrino Hire, could make Mitch look good.

  • Larry Pup says:

    I personally would take Jones over Fulmer. I think he is a better hands on coach, and has more ” fire in the Belly.” I would not be surprised if the hire is coach Fulmer however. I think it would be a mistake. I’m still lobbying for Bobby P warts and all. He’ll make UK a winner about as quick as he did Lousyville.

    • Reality says:

      I’d be cautious about declaring Bobby Petrino the master of turning around anything quickly. Please keep in mind that Louisville was 11-2 and won the Liberty Bowl in 2001, one season removed from the hiring of Petrino.

      Arkansas won the SEC West and went 10-4 (7-1) in 2006, one season removed from hiring Petrino. Nutt’s conference winning percentage was marginally better than Petrino’s.

  • Reality says:

    UK’s lack of demonstrated commitment over a prolonged period of time is causing more than just apathy or anger within the fanbase.

    The lack of capital spending on football project is not a new problem, but it has become glaringly obvious that a program like UK has to change the perception that permeates the program if it ever wants to move forward and progress. Ole Miss has demonstrated that commitment and a fiery, innovative coach can combine to improve recruiting and competitiveness. Vanderbilt has proven exactly the same thing.

    Butch Jones, to use a name for example, has the coaching ability, fiery personality, and salemanship that would make him a good fit for UK. However, the capital spending must happen for football. Spending $14M in the same decade that your conference mates average something like $150M each is simply leaving too much of a gap for any coach to overcome.

    • grant says:

      really ? the lack of spending is not a new problem for football. thats a revelation of epic proportions. good observation. you know what reality , you spend so much time trying to show up people on here, what you have just wrote has been basically been said over and over on here. duh.

  • tomstac says:

    Larry you got it right. I was a ticket holder since 1977. Then time went on. Then they hired a guy named Mumme, and I held out then after 3 games I was back. Mumme fielded a team that was EXCITING and I felt we was in every game. That came to an end as we all know. Then time went on. The last game I was at last year louisville game. I made a personal commitment I would not return until there was a change. Now I reinforce that by saying it better get EXCITING REAL FAST or we all can stay home.

  • Jeff says:

    The only thing Joker did wrong was listen to much to Randy Sanders,, but oh i’m not aloud to say that because he came from Tenn. Pardon me Mitch

    • John says:

      Did anyone really see a difference in the play calling?
      The play calling with Joker as OC and HC were the same.
      1st and 10, try to run a 170# half back up the middle.
      2nd and 8, screen pass.
      3rd and 9, draw up the middle.
      Nothing changed. Fans just want to make Sanders the scapegoat.

  • UK 24 7 says:

    Everyone take a deep breath (10 actually). UK has their next head football coach. They can’t blast it all over the airways who it is. He/they have a season to finish. It’s a business people! All will be forgotten/forgiven when you find out who he is. I guarantee it. Let’s focus all that negativity toward that nasty orange team down the road. If we beat them in Neyland this year, the earth will surely crack open and swallow the Vol faithful. I hate tn. I can’t stress that enough. GO CATS!!!

    • Bryan says:

      UK 24 7- care to drop any hints?

      • JD says:

        He is probably insinuating the Dykes rumor with Neil Brown as OC, since Dykes current OC Franklin is no linger welcome on campus. This combo has been floating around for weeks and unless they have Wade Phillips lined up as DC I have zero interests in this canoe club. Tennessee just racked the last LaTech today. We will be right back here in 3 years with this combo. Mark it down.

        • Bryan says:

          I’d heard that rumor as well. Ok hire, I guess. Whatever. Doesn’t really blow me away, especially with how Tex. Tech is performing down the stretch and La. Tech getting 55 dropped on them by Texas St. and losing to Utah St. I wouldn’t guarantee that all will be forgiven/forgotten by the fan base, either. Your right JD, they better bring in a top notch DC or this won’t turn out well. I think I heard La Tech is giving up over 500 yds/gm.

    • Larry Pup says:

      UK 24 7…Spill the beans.

    • Bobby Petrino, wrapped up 10-14 days ago…my opinion. my past post,stated this also.

  • john4uk says:

    Great post Larry,and right on the money.

    Right now,UK football is a disaster,and much of that blame can be laid at the feet of the athletic directors feet.He has shown no leadership in his handling of the dismissal of Joker and his staff,and appears in no hurry to name a head coach.However,one might wonder if the failure to name a coach is due to the fact that the type of coach UK is looking for is simply not interested in taking the job as we were led to believe when Rich Brooks took the job.It’s really going to be interesting when the hire is made,hopefully before Spring practice.

    • Anonymous says:

      I think most of us now are taking a wait and see attitude. When a coach is hired we will act accordingly.

  • Ira says:

    This is what I’m hoping. That Mitch Barnhart does have the hiring process done. That the coach that he has is still coaching with a team right now and they are in Bowl contention and that is why we aren’t getting any rumors.

    Now will a mid-major head coach reignite the fanbase I don’t think those. Yes I think some will renew, but I don’t think it will get them the return they are looking for. To many will take the wait and see approach. That 27% from this year should really warn the AD, but in my heart of hearts, I don’t think he is taking it seriously.

    The fire may be stoked, if after the UT game, say a week and the AD doesn’t announce a hire, then the fans are going to either be ballistic, or they will be totally disinterested by then. My guess, is this, some few will be mad, but by then most will have lost interest in the hire. When the AD could have made the most in the hire after the announcement of the firing of Joker Phillips he has dallied.

    When he makes the hiring of the next HC of UK football, the national press won’t pick it up, Bowl games will be going on. Our fans will be at the point who really cares. If it isn’t Bobby Petrino we aren’t going to win anyway. The national media will be covering who UT, Auburn, Arkansas is hiring. Who the BCS championship will be. So instead of garning media attention for UK, it will all fizzle like usual for UK. We could have made a media stunt out of it for a couple of weeks. Got great mileage out of it. But like usual, we handle it like we always do. We handle everything poorly at UK.

  • Texascat says:

    I agree with Larry on this one. What would we be saying about the AD had he not finally grown a pair to hire Calipari (on his 2nd chance after the Billy Clyde debacle). He obviously didn’t do his homework there (worrying about Cal being dirty and not looking deeper into Billy’s background; it was common knowledge here in Texas that BCG had issues with alcohol and even rumors of issues with coeds at A&M and UTEP).

    Well here is Mitch’s 2nd chance to hire a football coach (if he doesn’t have another coach-in-waiting). I think he better hit a homerun if he likes being an AD. Well he could always become a weatherman if this gig doesn’t work out. They’re wrong all the time and still keep a job.

  • KEITH says:

    NORV TURNER IS GOING TO BE THE NEXT HEAD FOOTBALL COACH AT KENTUCKY

  • JackG says:

    The arrogance of Mitch Barnhart continues to sour the BBN. I, for one, feels that he thinks he can continue with business as usual (not connecting with the fan base and feeling like he owes them anything). An update here and there would be much appreciated. This silence leads me to believe that he owes nothing to anyone except his self-serving self. This administration better tell him to s**t or get off the pot. This self-serving arrogance gains no respect and continues to divide the fan base as well (what’s left of it). He thought at the beginning of the year that no matter what product was put on the field, fans would just pack the stands, as in the past. I can only hope he realized that thos days are over. If this is not a home run hire, nest year, I am afraid it will be more of the same. It is time for this AD and administration to realize less is not more. I could only hope that someone from the University reads all the posts and comments that have been made over the past few months, then again they probably haven’t because if they did that would mean that they cared. Too much to hope for. If they do not go for the home run hire, then just bring Joker back. This is a very crucial hire. If they do not go for a proven coach that can recruit and turn this around, we will be on these blogs 2 to 3 years from now talking about the same old tired thing.

  • Wes says:

    Yep. This will be a damn shame and commonwealth stadium will become a deserted wasteland. This decision should be easy!

  • Wes says:

    Ok, a new one. Bob stoopes in the mix?

  • Tom R says:

    24-7, do you expect an announcement next week?

  • Andy P says:

    We’re trying to compete in the Kentucky Derby and our entry is a mule named Mitch Barnhart. Anyone have any doubt how this race is going to end?

  • floyd alan adams says:

    thanks Larry for your post I hope Mitch reads your article I and several others are very doubtfull as to renewing our tickets that is a total of 8 tickets and 3 blue lot passes my wife and i have never been to the kentucky derby she said yesterday ” we can buy two of the best tickets churchill has for the price of uk football” alan adams

  • Wes says:

    Larry, check out a poster on cats illustrated. The poster is known as Widcat9698. He says he is friends with a teacher at trinity and the teacher says petrino and Barnhart have made contact and petrino is the fallback if his first three choices say no. Barnie is afraid of things with Bobby but could be persuaded to make the move. Interesting reading.

  • Kokamo Joe says:

    I think that UK has traded football failure for basketball success. It is plain to me that the SEC is a football conference and that playing basketball in this conference is a great advantage to UK basketball. So UK can be the basketball big dog and hope that the fans buy beating cup cakes and hope to beat UL and a couple of the SEC weak sisters and go to a minor bown game. The sad thing is that many UK fans though that playing another mediocre football team in a nothing bowl game in Nashville was success while they would storm the president’s office if the basketball team had one 50-50 won lost record while the football team has not had a coach who has won half of his game in well over 50 years. It is my hope that this is over. Let us watch Barnhart closely and see if he simply hires another football coach or if he PUBLICALLY COMMITS TO EXCELLENCE IN FOOTBALL AND DEMONSTRATS THAT BY OPENING THE PURSE.

  • Law1127 says:

    If they don’t commit to having a sucessful football program,you can forget attendance needing to be counted,there won’t be any!

  • David says:

    Thanks Larry, great article.

    “If I am to meet with a disappointment, the sooner I know it, the more of life I shall have to wear it off.”
    ― Thomas Jefferson

    This time I vow to stay in Louisville and not donate or buy tickets if he does not hire a big name. Petrino was my #1 or maybe someone with NFL head coaching experience all these other guys will not make the difference, I do not like the rumors I have read.

  • Warren says:

    No doubt the secrecy of the search process has fanned the flames of distrust in the fan base. If there were a change in culture in the administration respecting the football program, it would be prudent to reassure the fan base of it.

    Larry, could you follow up with Coach Schnellenberger and find out if he has been contacted as a resource yet? He has indicated an interest and a willingness to help. If the administration isn’t taking advantage of such an offer, I would consider that a sign that it is business as usual at UK…and football will once again pay the price.

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