Immediately following the debacle that was the 2010 BBVA Compass Bowl game (virtually coachless Pitt 27-UK 10) I stated that not in my memory had I seen a team as unprepared, unmotivated and poorly coached as UK was that day. As a result I vowed not to be further flummoxed and bamboozled by rosy predictions, thus would not comment on UK FB until after 2011's 3rd game (UL) at the earliest. Team looked no better prepared in early games so I continued to neither watch, listen or read about UK FB other than a box score scan. I did relent for a one-word huzzah here after the streak-ending win over Vols but returned to my no-comment status (other than posting links) until now. However this will be a one-time event and any further comments will come only after the UK administration cleans house in the football office. In reaching this conclusion I did considerable research with videos, statistics, media coverage including blogs, but mostly it was just a coming to accept the obvious after posing to myself several questions: How many times could I say with honesty that UK played as a well-coached team? How many times over the seasons were the same discrepancies and deficiencies cited — poor tackling, failure to find the ball on defense, lining up in wrong position and formation, delay of game penalties due to poor communication, dropped passes and turnovers, missed assignments, penalties in crucial situations, overall poor player technique, and the list goes on. Some of those are always present even in well-coached teams but no team that hopes to be competitive, not to mention entertaining, can have them continually. One is tempted to lay blame for those shortcomings to being bested athletically but it just doesn't fly. Much of the athletic disparity can be countered with planning and execution and that comes from coaching.
Before addressing UK's coaching staff I think it is imperative to assess expectations. Surely we can all agree that UK is and will most likely remain a "basketball school" with all the consequences that that reality brings. Some might say and hope that it can be both but the facts say otherwise. Being both a football and basketball power is virtually impossible even for those schools with the sufficient resources, demographics, fan support, etc. Proof lies in the fact that since in the 15 years since the BCS came along in 1998 only 13 schools have managed to play in at least in one BCS bowl game and one basketball Elite Eight and 9 of those 13 have only done it once and you can credit conference tie-ins rather than worthiness for some of those (I cannot absolutely guarantee the numbers are exact but close enough to prove the point). 15 years and 240 opportunities yet only 13 qualify. So expecting UK to be a power in both endeavors, forget it. Thus don't envisage UK challenging perennial pigskin powers just as their fans shouldn't contemplate regularly challenging UK for championships on the hardwood. So what should be the Blue goal? Recruit the best athletes possible considering the program's place in the hierarchy, provide them with the best facilities that reasonably fits with the University's mission, but most of all provide them with the best teaching, motivation, innovation, leadership, i.e. coaching as possible.
Now for the coaches. It would be highly presumptuous of me to rate individual professionals in a field in which I know a minimal amount and men who I've never met or observed except on the sidelines. But there are some items that contribute to measurement and one is age. The average age of the 10 members of UK's staff (graduate assistants excluded) is 50 with 4 being in their mid-50's. Now as a septuagenarian I know that 50 isn't, especially in today's world, old but neither is it young in the football environment. When I reviewed the staff one of my first questions was, where are the up and coming, career-building 30-year olds? Shouldn't a SEC program with hopes for growth be a draw for bright young aspiring coaches to spend a couple years? From past experience I would surmise that one of the reasons is that those young men have heard and maybe know that they're not going to receive the training and leadership they deserve. Another thing that jumps off the page of staff resumes is that with a rare exception or two none have past experience with an elite program. People learn winning ways and understand striving for excellence by being exposed to it on a daily basis. Conversely folks also learn to accept mediocrity and tend to settle for it as time passes. Hence it appears to me from the data available and from the quality of team put on the field that UK's staff is filled with coaches on the down side of their careers and without the requisite backgrounds to provide players with the knowledge and enthusiasm to succeed in a sport where they're almost always going to be less physically talented. Addressing the situation will not be without pain, challenge, significant uncertainty and adventure but not addressing it will lead to more seasons of discontent and disappointment. I'm one fan who would applaud such a venture and I expect there many more.