Could Utah State's Gary Anderson be the next UK football coach? - Tom Lynn

Kentucky Football Head Coach Search

Kentucky football has decided to go in a different direction, and Joker Phillips will be let go after the team's final game in 2012.

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Yet another name emerges in UK coaching search

According to this post over at KSR (Hat Tip: Wild Weasel), San Diego Torreros (FCS) coach Ron Caragher is another name making its way into Kentucky's head coaching search consciousness:

Enough recruiting, let’s switch over to what really has Big Blue Nation talking: the football coaching search. On Wednesday morning’s radio show, Matt introduced yet another name that Kentucky could be considering in that second tier of candidates below Sonny Dykes and Kirby Smart. It’s University of San Diego head coach Ron Caragher, a former UK running backs coach and recruiting coordinator at Kentucky from 2003 to 2006. He’s the guy who brought Stevie Johnson to Kentucky from way out there in California, and we all know how that turned out. Caragher isn’t high on the wish list, but he’s making his way into the conversation.

As a former Kentucky assistant, Caragher would seem to be a very logical person to include in the search. I should note, though that this is not the first time Caragher has been mentioned. A contributer to Larry Vaught's blog, Vaught's Views, wrote a fairly detailed post about Caragher back on November 7th. The post was written by Dan Burch, a former UK tennis player who worked in the athletics department. Here are the qualifications he lays out for Caragher:

** Played in PAC-10 and won 4 straight bowls as a player.
** As an assistant coach his teams played in 6 bowl games, including a team that had a 20 game win streak.
** Became an SEC Asst Coach and helped lead a turnaround on an underachieving team.
** In 2005, he became recruiting coordinator for that SEC team and 12 players went on to play in the NFL! 6 are still active as of 2012 – He can spot talent!
** Left to take Head Coaching position at San Diego when Jim Harbaugh was hired away by Stanford.
** Prolific offense which averaged 44 pts and 483 yards per game during first season.
** Won two conference championships (9-2 both seasons) and named Coach of the Year in the Pioneer League in 2007 & 2011.
** Charismatic and possesses a "winners" mentality.
** 45 years old, married with 3 boys. His wife was former athlete at UCLA & Tennessee (tennis).
That SEC Team was the Kentucky Wildcats….
That coach was Ron Caragher.

That's fairly persuasive, although as KSR suggested above, Caragher still doesn't seem to be running high on the UK wish list at the moment.

I'm sure more names will pop up in the next two weeks, and why not? Nothing is going to happen until the season ends, anyway.

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Fulmer for UK?

Utah State and former Tennessee coach are intriguing candidates as school tries to move on from Joker Phillips.

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Kentucky Football: Coaches, coaches, everywhere...

A tongue-in-cheek update on the Kentucky search for a head coach.

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Bob Petrino Sr: Bobby Petrino Interested in UK

Multiple outlets are reporting that former Arkansas head coach Bobby Petrino is interested in the now-vacant Kentucky Wildcats head coaching position. His father, Bob Petrino, has reportedly passed along Petrino's interest to the Louisville Courier-Journal:

"I know he wants a job; he needs a job," Petrino Sr. said by telephone Wednesday. "He told me, ‘I need a job, Dad.’ I said, ‘Well, you must still have some money. You made 31/2 million dollars.’ And he said, ‘Yeah, I do. It’s not the money.’ He just misses coaching so much."

...

"I just know this, that he’s interested in Kentucky," the father said. "He wants to stay in the SEC. That was his life’s goal was to go to the SEC."

Editor's note: Hoboat33 reported this earlier in a FanPost, but it definitely belongs in this storystream, and unfortunately, I can't put FanPosts up here.

I'm not surprised Petrino is expressing interest in Kentucky. There are two reasons for this:

  • A better job might not come open this year, and;
  • A bidding war for his services only means more $$ for him, and Kentucky is the perfect foil.

An Arkansas fan, I think it was one of the guys from Arkansas Expats, once described Petrino as a "beautiful whore," and while that particular choice of words is a touch unrefined, I think it's perfectly accurate in concept. Petrino has prostituted himself with utter disregard for anything other than his own best interests. While I agree that it's always important to look out for #1 first, the way Petrino has done it, with complete contempt for his employers, is the very definition of unethical.

Petrino didn't do it once, nor twice. Three times in three jobs he showed total disdain for his place of employment. There is no reason whatsoever to believe that he wouldn't do it again at Kentucky (or anywhere else, for that matter). His track record in this regard is an unblemished 3-3. To his credit, he hasn't had any NCAA issues anywhere, and as tempting as it is to be skeptical that such an ethics-challenged person hasn't just been lucky, that rings a bit hollow coming from someone who has consistently defended John Calipari, rightly or wrongly the most controversial college coach in America.

With all that said, Bobby Petrino is one of the best football coaches at the college level in America. He has won everywhere he's been, and won big. He isn't just talented, he's almost literally a savant, and as hard as it is to say, even if Petrino didn't have all the ethical problems that have been his stock-in-trade, Kentucky is not a good enough job for him. Whether we like it or not, Kentucky is not a place for a coach as good as Petrino, and any of us who were honest with ourselves know this is so. Usually (but by no means always), when employer and employee are mismatched, the relationship doesn't last, and unfortunately, given Petrino's track record, I wouldn't expect it to end well.

In my view, Petrino's interest in Kentucky is only that of a auctioneer at Sotheby's -- he needs an opening bid. I could be wrong, but again, you have to admit that given the aforementioned mismatch, this is the high probability. Some will insist that if Mitch Barnhart gets on him early, Kentucky can get him. Perhaps, but then you have the whole mismatch problem. Playing rent-a-coach, to me, should not be Barnhart's aim.

As to his father's claim that Petrino just wants to get back into coaching, I see no reason to challenge this -- I'm sure he does, and Petrino has good reason to believe that might not be easy. His reputation has become a scarlet letter emblazoned on his forehead, and although a lot of athletics directors are going to find him beautiful to the eye, they know that raw, untreated ethical sewage lies just below that lovely coaching exterior, and it always seems to burst forth upon his employer. That fact will give every interested party, including Barnhart, significant pause.

Mandatory disclaimer: Anyone who reads this space knows that I reserve a very special level of loathing for Bobby Petrino, so my commentary about him should not be seen as even nominally objective.

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Characteristics of the Next UK Football Coach

John Pennington at Mr. SEC has a pretty good list of characteristics that the next Kentucky coach should have. No doubt, John knows more about football than I do, but I would like to concur in part and dissent in part with the esteemed Mr. Pennington.

Let's take his check boxes in order:

  • The ability to recruit

    I completely concur. The next Kentucky coach must be a strong recruiter, and in my view, this is one of those things that is not negotiable. An average recruiter will quickly get behind the power curve in the SEC no matter how good he is at scheming and developing players.

    I also agree that we must continue to recruit Georgia strongly, must do better in Florida, and continue to make inroads in South Carolina.
  • Connections to Ohio and Pennsylvania

    John point out the fact that these two states produce prodigious amounts of NFL draft picks, and he's right about that. He also points out that with Penn St. being hammered by the NCAA, an opportunity exists for Kentucky to score in another rich state for NFL talent.

    I see this as an optional attribute. It would be nice, but the ability to recruit the speed-rich south, to me, is mandatory. We mostly agree, but I don't feel quite as strongly about it as John does.
  • An in-check ego

    Concur. The short answer is that basketball is always going to be the love of the Commonwealth, and if that hurts the head football coach's feelings, he should look elsewhere and not consider UK.
  • A track record of success

    Here, I think we part ways. I do prefer that we hire a head coach, but he doesn't have to be a BCS level head coach. What he needs to be is a winner. Contra John, we have had success with an up-and-comer -- Hal Mumme. Yes, Mumme messed up, but football was fun under Mumme and it really was hard not to enjoy it.

    But I think another coordinator might not be the right call, so we are in agreement there, at least to the extent that I would prefer a guy that has successful head coaching experience.
  • A flashy offense

    I think this is the most pithy of the three reasons John gives:

    Also, some pass-first masters are able to get more production out of lesser-ranked recruits. From Mike Leach to Bobby Petrino, some coaches can scheme their way to big points and big yards even without Top 10 recruiting classes. For that matter, how many successful NFL quarterbacks and receivers has Steve Spurrier produced during his career?
    I think this is right. Also, I think Kentucky fans are just attracted to a powerful offensive team, even if it doesn't have SEC-East competitive seasons.

Pennington thinks Petrino is they guy, but he's not coming here no matter what we offer him. He knows perfectly well that he's going to be high on the list of better schools looking for their next head coach. We need to ween ourselves off the absurd notion that even if we could hold our nose and offer Petrino a contract, he isn't going to sign it.

I would also add the following things:

  • A proven record of NCAA compliance. We need to make sure that we hire a guy who will not land us in hot water.
  • A non-job hopper. We can't be sure how long any coach will be here, but if the guy has a record of moving around, probably isn't a good fit. We need to try to find a fit that will last a few years, seven at least.

I'm sure some of you also have some suggestions in this area. What characteristics would you like to see added to this list?

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Jim Tressel? The NCAA Laughs At The Suggestion

You knew it was coming. I knew it. I have already had to deflect several, "Why not Jim Tressel?" questions, and as we go further down the line, they will become more frequent. So it's probably best that go ahead, address the question at length, and help the understandably desperate and long-suffering Kentucky football fans understand why former Ohio St. Buckeyes coach Jim Tressel is not going to be heading up the Kentucky Wildcats next year.

As luck would have it, a certain Michael Arace of the Columbus Dispatch helpfully penned an article today suggesting that Tressel is the cure for what ails Kentucky football. We will leave aside the theory that Tressel would never take this job, because frankly, that likelihood is irrelevant. If Tressel agreed to coach the Wildcats for $50,000 per year instead of $2 million, it would still be irrelevant. So let's get to what's relevant:

Tressel was hit with a five-year, show-cause penalty for covering up rules violations, using ineligible players and lying to the NCAA. Show-cause penalties are supposed to be poison. Why would Kentucky go anywhere near him?

Tressel’s penalty is not as severe as, say, former Tennessee basketball coach Bruce Pearl’s. Tressel is allowed to recruit. He is allowed to hire a staff. He is required to sit out five weeks of meetings, practices and games before he can coach, and he cannot coach a bowl game in his first year — but these are trifles for the likes of Kentucky.

See? It's easy, right? OSU got hit with the following penalties:

  • A one-year bowl ban;
  • Nine scholarships over 3 years lost;
  • Three years of probation;
  • Five games of suspension;
  • Some other things such as vacation of wins, disassociation of boosters and a player, forfeiture of money earned from bowls.

That's not so bad, right? It isn't if UK is going to a bowl anytime soon, or one of consequence, anyway. The author above assumes that some of these same penalties would be visited on UK, and that would be worth the pain to go ahead and hire Tressel anyway in defiance of their order. Tressel didn't get a recruiting ban, he wasn't prohibited from hiring staff. So what's the big deal?

Let's leave to the side the major hit Kentucky (and the NCAA) would take from the sports and local media for hiring (and allowing to be hired) a guy like Tressel. If we assume that Mitch Barnhart is willing to take the hit from the NCAA, it's a sure bet he'd be willing to take the heat from the media, right? Probably.

So that all sounds good, doesn't it? We can just hire Argyle Jim, slide him into Joker's spot and watch the wins pile up. In three or four years, we're South Carolina, and all is right with the world. The Wildcats are competing for the SEC East, were signing Alabama Crimson-quality recruiting classes, and the money is pouring in from heretofore unheard of alumni resources.

Except ... there's just one little thing.

The NCAA does not, as many erroneously suggest, have to live with the infractions it slapped on Tressel. When the NCAA places a show-cause order on a coach, it is the intention of the Committee on Infractions that he become unemployable at member institutions absent some compelling reason, which does not include insufficient success on the football field. Those that are selling Tressel's relatively benign slate of sanctions failed to do what would seemingly be obvious to most of us: Read the regulations.

The show-cause order is defined in the NCAA Bylaws under section 19.02.1:

19.02.1 Show-Cause Order. A show-cause order is one that requires a member institution to demonstrate to the satisfaction of the Committee on Infractions (or the Infractions Appeals Committee per Bylaw 19.2) why it should not be subject to a penalty (or additional penalty) for not taking appropriate disciplinary or corrective action against an institutional staff member or representative of the institution’s athletics interests identified by the committee as having been involved in a violation of NCAA regulations that has been found by the committee. (Revised: 1/10/95, 4/24/03)

What we see here is the real scope and intent of the show-cause order. If the NCAA is not satisfied by the institution's answer, it may penalize the institution as it deems necessary in order to ensure that it's intended punishment (i.e. temporary unemployment as a coach) is duly delivered. That's what the parenthetical "or additional penalty" means.

The NCAA could, with no problems whatever, slap recruiting restrictions, additional suspensions, financial penalties, even up to and including throwing UK out of the NCAA altogether. That last one is not going to happen, of course, but it could easily ban UK football from television, a situation that would surely be problematic for the SEC. And do you think Mike Slive is going to sit back and allow Kentucky to import a scofflaw like Tressel without taking a shot or two, especially if the NCAA decides to mess with their TV contract? I'm guessing he won't.

The reality is, the NCAA and/or the SEC will make Tressel's hiring under a show-cause order untenable for Kentucky. It will not happen. Those that are telling you it can are peddling snake oil, and you should gab your wallet and run away quickly.

The NCAA has the power to turn up the heat as high on Kentucky as necessary to make sure we don't put more money in the pocket of a man who violated NCAA rules as egregiously as Tressel. Add into the mix the fact that UK football is a serial NCAA violator over the years, and Barnhart cannot expect an iota of sympathy from the Committee on Infractions where Tressel is concerned. Not only that, can you imagine the media backlash against the NCAA if it demonstrated a toothless attitude toward Tressel? Two words: Penn State. Not. Going. To. Happen.

So forget about Jim Tressel, dear desperate Wildcats football fan. There is no Jim Tressel. He is dead to us.

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Phillips Speaks To The Media

Outgoing head football coach Joker Phillips met with the press today to discuss the end of his tenure at UK.

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Who will be Kentucky's next coach?

Mitch Barnhart did what he had to do. That was the easy part. Finding a new Head Coach, that is another matter.

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Joker Phillips: Saving the "Mouth"

Joker Phillips might not have succeeded as Kentucky's head football coach, but there are many reasons to be thankful for his 22 years of service to UK. One, in particular.

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Joker Phillips Fired: Failure, Catharsis, and Hope

Joker Phillips' firing at Kentucky came today, earlier than expected. Whether for good or ill, we must move forward.

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Official word came today

A letter from UK AD, Mitch Barnhart, to the Big Blue Nation makes it official.

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