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Terry Barker remembers the first time his son, Conner quarterback Drew Barker, went to UK to see new coach Mark Stoops. They walked into the football facilities and Barker’s father said “every coach was standing at the door waiting to greet us.” He said he would never forget that.
“As the saying goes, you never get a second chance to make a first impression and that really made an impression on me and Drew, too,” Terry Barker said. “I really think there is no reason they can’t win. They’ve got everything behind them. They are putting money into facilties. It’s just a great place. I really believe they can turn it around.”
Of course, Tennessee coach Butch Jones, who was recruiting Barker when he was head coach at Cincinnati, believes he can turn that program around. Steve Spurrier already has South Carolina competing for Southeastern Conference titles.
“You build relationships with coaches and visit schools. It’s all been great,” Terry Barker said.
He rattled off Spurrier and quarterbacks coach G.A. Mangus at South Carolina along with Jones. He even noted how Louisville offensive coordinator Shawn Watson as having a “great relationship” with his son even though Louisville is not in his final three.
“Coach Watson is a great guy, great coach. He still calls to talk to him about life in general and is somebody Drew respects because he is just a nice human being,” Terry Barker said. “That’s the hard part of forming relationships.
“At the end of the day, you have to make decisions and disappoint some people. Drew doesn’t like to disappoint people. He takes pride in pleasing people and making people happy. It goes against his grain a little bit to disappoint some folks. He likes to please whether it is myself, his mother, his cousin, his coach or whoever. He really likes to meet expectations. It’s going to be hard for him (to tell coaches no) and it is weighing on him, but he’s ready to make a decision.”
Former UK fullback Andy Murray is ready for it to be Kentucky and continue the momentum Stoops has built for what Murray and other former Wildcats hope will eventually lead to a SEC championship.
“The only thing that I would tell you about Barker is … the guys that arrive home from Atlanta (from the SEC championship game) with the (SEC) crown some day will have a bigger parade than any of our eight NCAA (basketball) crowns combined,” Murray said.
Florida State’s defense led the country with 236.3 yards allowed per game before falling to Florida Saturday. He is a finalist for the national defensive coordinator of the year. He has no head coaching experience,
Stoops has never been a head coach, but he has held many jobs throughout college football. He has coached defensive backs at South Florida, Miami and Wyoming and been defensive coordinator at Houston. He was defensive coordinator at Arizona from 2004-09 before moving to Florida State.
Last season his Seminoles only allowed 15.1 per game (4th nationally), in 2010 they allowed 19.6 (20th), and in 2009 they surrendered 30.0 (94th).
He certainly has a strong coaching bloodline. One brother, Bob, is the head coach at Oklahoma. Another brother, Mike, is the former head coach at Arizona. A third brother, Ron Jr., is an assistant coach at Youngstown State.
— Conference realignment could be UK’s best friend in pursuing Cincinnati coach Butch Jones. He may or may not have said no to UK — Kentucky athletics director Mitch Barnhart said Saturday that no one has been offered the job — but with the Big East continuing to lose teams it appears Jones may now have interest in UK if enough money is involved.
— Several media members at Tennessee Saturday indicated that they did still believe Phil Fulmer was on UK’s radar. The former Tennessee coach has been out of coaching four years, but knows Barnhart well. I was also told that Fulmer and UK offensive coordinator Randy Sanders are still friends even though Fulmer fired Sanders at UT. Remember a few years ago Barnhart relied on Rich Brooks for guidance in a coaching search and ended up hiring him. Fulmer could well be a backup plan for Barnhart.
— Louisiana Tech Sonny Dykes seems to have dropped off the UK chart for some, but remember there has been contact with his agent. Don’t write him off yet?
— Bobby Petrino? The rumors continue, but several UK folks told me again Saturday that this is a move Barnhart will not make.
By LARRY VAUGHT
J.R. Greer of London knows numerous ex-Kentucky football players and often communicates with them as well as his former college roommate through Facebook.
That’s why Friday he thought he might have a little fun with them and posted a message that Bobby Petrino had agreed to become the next Kentucky football coach.
“If I could get any coach out there, I would get Petrino,” said Greer. “I go to every UK game and tailgate. I love Kentucky football. I just decided to post Petrino was getting the job and figured my friends would get all riled up and react. I never dreamed it would go outside my small network of friends.”
It did. And it did in a big way even before news broke Saturday that Cincinnati coach Butch Jones, who was considered UK’s primary target, had taken his name out of the Kentucky search.
Internet message boards spread the word about Petrino more so than any news about Jones. Radio talk shows spread the Petrino word.
Eventually Greer had to go on Facebook late Friday and post this message: “I want to apologize that earlier I wrote that Bobby Petrino would be our next coach. My post was in humor as most all my post are (if not pictures of family or friends). We support UK and the Big Blue Nation and trust Mitch Barnhart will make the best hire possible for UK.”
However, Greer admitted he “had hundreds of friend requests in a matter of minutes” with people hoping the news about Petrino was true. He even got a message from an assistant coach at a well-known program asking him to pass along his name to Petrino because he wanted to work on Petrino’s staff at Kentucky.
“That let me know fans not only deserved a quality football coach, but expected strong leadership from the UK administration and Mitch Barnhart,” Greer said. “I am just not sure Mitch Barnhart and the UK administration are doing enough to inform fans. Throw us a bone and let us know something.
“People were calling and sending me messages that they were praying for this (hiring Petrino). My little voice was not supposed to be heard this much. It just really steamrolled out of control. That’s why I had to apologize.”
Greer’s father is regarded as a major UK booster and his family has numerous season tickets to UK basketball and football.
“We have a close relationship with the athletics department at Kentucky. We want to stay friends and not raise a stink,” Greer said. “UK football is bigger than any fan or booster. We trust them to make the right hire.”
However, because Barnhart announced the firing of coach Joker Phillips three weeks ago via social media and with no press conference, Greer says that likely gave his comments about Petrino’s hiring more validity than they should have got.
“The thing is this hire could have a big impact on Mitch’s future. I would have thought he might want to get some people together and see what fans, boosters, ex-players want in a coach,” Greer said. “If he chooses the wrong coach, UK football could spiral downward more than ever. We don’t want that.
“I think my thing with Petrino was driven by hope and fear. Hope because a lot of fans want Petrino and were hoping it was true. Fear was driven by people scared that Mitch is not going to make the right choice and he will hire the wrong guy. It was like people thought if they helped steamroll this Petrino news it might actually come true. But trust me, I never imagined it would become the huge deal it was.”
By LARRY VAUGHT
By LARRY VAUGHT
Folks at Vanderbilt must be feeling really good today because in the last two weeks the Commodores have drilled Kentucky and Tennessee and forced both schools to fire their coaches the day after the loss.
However, there’s one big difference in what Tennessee did Sunday when it released Derek Dooley compared to how Kentucky fired Joker Phillips.
Tennessee athletics director Dave Hart didn’t post a letter to fans on a website. Instead, he held a press conference to talk about his decision and what direction the coaching search would go. Dooley issued a statement.
Kentucky athletics director Mitch Barnhart announced Phillips’ firing on the UK website and has yet to talk publicly about it as speculation continues to swirl about who the next coach might be. Phillips has met with media members five times since his firing and has been open, cordial and informative.
Dooley and Phillips have had about the same lack of success in their three years. Dooley was 15-21 at Tennessee and was 0-15 against top 25 teams. He lost 14 of his last 15 SEC games, including one at UK last year. The Vols must beat Kentucky on Saturday to avoid going winless in SEC play for the first time in school history. Offensive coordinator Jim Chaney will serve as Tennessee’s interim coach while Phillips will coach his final game after UK beat Samford last week and players carried Phillips off the field.
Tennessee will be looking for its fourth coach in six years. Phillip Fulmer was fired in 2008, Lane Kiffin coached one year and then Dooley came from Louisiana Tech where he had a losing record and is gone after three years.
Hart said he probably wouldn’t use a search firm in choosing his next coach. Is Barnhart? We don’t know. He won’t tell us.
Hart said he considers previous head coaching experience “critically important.” Does Barnhart? We don’t know. He won’t tell us.
For those who say the Tennessee program is more attractive, remember the Tennessee football program is on probation until August 2015. The university’s athletic department posted a $3.98 million budget deficit for the last fiscal year and is paying buyouts to Fulmer, former athletics director Mike Hamilton, former basketball coach Bruce Pearl and former baseball coach Todd Raleigh. Now add another $5 million buyout for Dooley. That makes about $2.5 million for Phillips look like nothing.
Rumors swirled again Saturday that UK was close to a deal with Fulmer. On Sunday, speculation was that Cincinnati coach Butch Jones — who turned down a lucrative offer from Illinois last year — was offered the job.
What sales pitch is Barnhart using considering UK has had three straight losing seasons, attendance has dropped dramatically and the 2013 schedule is more difficult than the one this year? We don’t know. Barnhart won’t tell us.
What about Hart? What’s he selling at Tennessee?
“This is the ultimate challenge, which competitors embrace,” Hart said. “This is the ultimate challenge, for a football coach to come into this league. If you’re a competitor and you want to prove your worth, come into the Southeastern Conference. Come to the University of Tennessee. You’ll get that opportunity.”
Sounds like a possible sales pitch to Bobby Petrino to me.
Hopefully, Barnhart is saying the same — and more — to possible coaches even if Petrino, the former Louisville and Arkansas coach, is obviously not on his list.
Time to Burn those Bridges Kentucky
Top Coaches We Could Bring To Kentucky
By Lee Ann Herring-Olvedo
Monday morning I finally crossed back over to the Kentucky state line after 10 days on the road covering SEC football at Ole Miss. After a couple weeks in Oxford I sure know how Ole Miss feels during football season when there seems to be no light of day to their team having a chance to win a few games each season. The Rebels are no longer the worst team in the SEC when it comes to football. I can safely say that accolade belongs to the University of Kentucky.
Well, most UK fans were ready for basketball season at the beginning of football season. After moments when it seemed that things were going to turn around with Joker or the players, we seem to be back to square one each time. It’s time to own up to the failures this program is enduring. The coaches are not clicking with their playbook or players. If we haven’t gotten to that by this point we have some serious blinders going on in this football program.
Kentucky at this point may not be the most desirable job in the SEC football, but I guarantee you if we are willing to shell out 2 million for our current Head Coach, then for this kind of money we could be making our program richer, not just an individual. So let’s burn the bridges and build new ones. That is the only logical thing I can see for this program to do to have a hope of salvaging what talent it has or can potentially have come the end of this season.
During my time away from Kentucky I have had plenty of time to play around with some prospects that we could use that 2 million to make actions speak louder than words here in the Bluegrass. Some may surprise you, and some won’t! So here’s who I see for the Wildcats in 2013
Pat Washington: Rarely, do programs want to recruit in house especially when a program is anything but success. However, this might not be so bad for the Cats to think of Washington for the HC job. Here is what I think on Washington for the Wildcats:
* Helped turn around the receiving core and shape the offense at UK.
* Experience as a player and coach in the SEC.
* Strong recruiting sense and ties to major markets in the South.
* He develops players on a fast turnaround both mentally and physically.
Bobby Petrino: Either you like him or you don’t for obvious reasons. All else aside, when it comes to football coaching alone you can’t help but admit Petrino knows the game like the back of his hand, and he wins.
* He’s going to win some games whether he’s in the big show or not that’s what he does.
* He was able to take programs like Louisville & Arkansas to the BCS, given the right circumstances he will be a hot commodity for the SEC. Hot seats up for grabs.
* Though Petrino may be flawed and have issues off the gridiron, You can never accuse him of NCAA issues, selling out stadiums , or winning games.
Chris Petersen: Probably won’t ever leave Boise State, would you if you were him?Peterson has proved to make something out of nothing, and every time a job opens up, especially in the SEC, he has to be at the top of most lists.
* He doesn’t settle on anything less than a perfect fits for his program.
* Will stick with the program until it is where it needs to be.
* Proves he can make something out of nothing.
Gary Patterson: He’s loyal, but even loyalty and success yearn for something more, something bigger. Though he has been with TCU horn frogs for some time, I am sure he can’t help but think what he could do with a bigger program, especially in the SEC.
* Since TCU is private, we can’t pin the exact figures it takes to keep Patterson there, but I guarantee you the SEC or even TEXAS are willing to throw it out there; Kentucky could be the perfect premiere for Patterson.
* Record at TCU: 114-31 in 11 full seasons.
* No slackers on his team! He is known for his hard-nosed style defense that fits right here in the SEC.
Dana Holgorsen: He is in the right hot seat. WVU even extended his contract before the season started. He creates a brand of football you want to play for, and want to come out and watch. The Cats could use that revival to the program.
* Plain and simple he knows how to score, and puts up points that make for some exciting football.
* He knows how to put players on the field and fans on the stands.
Dan Mullen: Turning water in to wine is what he has done down in Starkville. Even the Ole Miss Fans would take him if they didn’t have something magic in Hugh Freeze, even if they won’t admit it.
* Mississippi State has never won more than nine games in the regular season in the history of the program. So, if he wins ten games in the regular season this year, Mullen will have done something that no one has ever done before in State history.
* If he has done this at small SEC program like State, imagine what he could do to the other low level tier programs that paid him better like UK.
* Mullen is is a more aggressive coach with his staff and players and we need that at Kentucky.
Butch Jones: Sometimes you just have to think outside the box and outside the conference. Jones has done something at Cincy that we need to cross over into Kentucky to say the least.
* Cincinnati is undefeated and Jones is leading the way. What else do we need to say on that?
* Jones is ready to take the next big step into a bigger program and with Lexington being up the road and a fresh face, fresh conference could be the remedy we need.
Sonny Dykes: The Wildman is what comes to mind when I think of Dykes at LA Tech because he really can play head to head football with the big boys when it comes down to it. That is what we need a KY, someone who will translate that for 4 quarters of football in the SEC.
* Though he lost to Texas A&M in a heated game 59-57, he can keep fans on the edge of their seats and creates excitement within his players and staff. We could use some of that in the Wildcat den to play better.
* He has proved he can out coach an SEC football coach, after all he was Dooley’s replacement, and proves to have had better success at Tech, hell even at UT at this point with the way Dooley has been coaching.
* He’s the guy I think will end up at Kentucky. I think he is a good fit because he commands and is not afraid to get the job done, whether it be through the playbook or selling his team’s brand.