Kentucky Wildcat Football: Risk Management

Chris Graythen - Getty Images

If Joker Phillips leaves the UK football program, surely Kentucky athletic director Mitch Barnhart wouldn't put the program at risk by even considering Bobby Petrino as its next coach.

Unfortunate as it may be, instead of the Big Blue Nation discussing the Wildcats' chances of pulling an upset in their home game against the No. 6 South Carolina Gamecocks on Saturday, the talk among the UK football faithful has been on who will replace current Wildcat football coach Joker Phillips. And after a 1-3 start, including an inexcusable loss to in-state rival WKU, even the most ardent Phillips supporters can at least understand the clamor for fresh leadership.

Some UK football fans are so desperate for a winner, though, that in some corners, caution and common sense have been tossed into a gale force wind. For anytime anyone -- a Wildcat football fan, anyone -- brings to the forefront Bobby Petrino as a possible replacement for Phillips, one has to wonder if some fans' thirst to win has overcome the desire to have a coach with some semblance of honesty and integrity.

In a pathetic attempt to rationalize hiring someone of Petrino's low character, some Kentucky football fans pontificate that Mitch Barnhart took a chance on hiring John Calipari as basketball coach, so why not take a chance on hiring Petrino? Even though the former Arkansas and UofL head coach has demonstrated at every one of his coaching stops an inability to be honest, or display even a modicum of strength of character as it pertains to how he conducts himself, and leads his football program.

First at Louisville, where Petrino experienced wildly successful seasons, he went behind the backs of his boss, Tom Jurich, his players and his fan base to meet surreptitiously with Auburn officials about becoming the head coach of the Tigers, drawing the ire of Card fans everywhere. Then at Arkansas, (the longtime married) Petrino carried on an affair with a former Razorback student-athlete, and hired his one-woman harem to a $56,000 a year position within the UA athletic department.

Petrino has continuously behaved in a less than forthright fashion, all the while winning football games, thus causing many to ignore his deceit. It's the Bobby Knight syndrome at work. A syndrome most easily described this way -- As long the coach wins, quickly look the other way as he wreaks havoc on his program, and sometimes his family.

Concisely put, comparing the risk of hiring Petrino as UK's new football coach IF Phillips is fired or resigns at the end of the season, with the "risk" UK took in hiring John Calipari, is facile at best.

Those who care to do 10 minutes of research -- which many sportswriters and fans refuse to do -- will find that the NCAA went out of its way to clear Calipari, Calipari's staff, and the UMass athletic department in the Marcus Camby affair (an affair in which Camby accepted money from a runner while still playing at UMass), while also finding Cal and staff innocent in the Derrick Rose/fake SAT score conundrum at Memphis (Rose of course is accused of having someone else take his pre-college entry exam while still in high school in Chicago).

In fact, probably the most "egregious" act Calipari has committed as head basketball coach is allowing Rose's brother, Reggie, to hitch a ride on the plane with the Memphis team as it traveled to road games. According the NCAA, Rose's brother failed to pay his way on a few of those trips (of many trips he took), which resulted in the NCAA placing Memphis on probation for one year.

Comparing Petrino's dishonesty and willingness to deceive, to Calipari's record, is laughable, and something no serious-minded Kentucky football fan would even consider.

If Phillips leaves, is it reasonable to expect the overlords of Kentucky football to scour the earth for a coach capable of rejuvenating the Wildcat football program (a program, by-the-way, whose best players are underclassmen)? Why certainly. But is it reasonable for Barnhart to even consider someone with a demonstrated willingness to be dishonest with his boss, players and fan base?

I don't think so. Winning just isn't worth it.

Furthermore, have Bruce Pearl, Kelvin Sampson, Tim Floyd, Butch Davis, Jim Harrick and Jim Tressel not taught us anything about taking chances on those who have before misled or cheated? I believe in giving second, sometimes even third chances, but the risk associated with hiring someone with Petrino's rap sheet is simply not worth the potential reward, especially with the UK football program teetering dangerously close to falling even further down the cliff of irrelevance.

In fact, this UK football fan would rather the Wildcats post a 4-8 record every year than hire someone of Petrino's ilk. There are simply too many football minds in the country talented and driven enough to bring Kentucky football back to relevance. There is no need for Barnhart to dip into the waste basket of corrupt and/or dishonest coaches and roll the dice, wagering that said coach's bad boy behavior is a thing of the past.

Kentucky football deserves better, and Kentucky football fans deserve more.

Thanks for reading and Go 'Cats!

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