Will Any UK Football Coaching Hire Satisfy the Masses?




It looks like the UK Football coach’s search could be drawing to a close. Ever since the rumors started swirling around about Joker’s job security after the Louisville loss, we’ve had our noses stuck in computer monitors (or iPhones or iPads, if you’re one of those hoity-toity types) looking through rumors and trying to get any kind of heads up on a coaching change that we can get our hands on.


Although this guy still thinks they’re hiring Howard Schnellenberger


As of this writing (and it seems to change almost hourly), the current big candidates for the job are Cincinnati’s Butch Jones, Louisiana Tech’s Sonny Dykes, Utah State’s Gary Andersen, San Jose St’s Mike MacIntyre, and Florida State defensive coordinator Mark Stoops. And a lot of people aren’t happy about it, as you can see. It seems that Kentucky fans are varied greatly by what they want out of a head coach. And I’ve learned something from this whole experience. Not that Joker probably wasn’t cut out to be a head coach in the SEC (we already kinda knew that coming in), but that there’s no single candidate for the job that will make every fan happy.

“No! I said I wanted a guy who only runs the option and plays Prevent defense! LISTEN TO ME!!!”

I first noticed this when I wrote a couple of columns about possible Joker replacements based on names thrown around by the fans. (You can read those HERE and HERE). The comments on the Facebook pages in particular were widely varied. You had people saying all those names on the list sucked. Then, you’d have some that said all were great and we’d be so lucky to have any of them. Then you had a few yahoos out there who were throwing around names that were next to impossible or just flat-out didn’t make any sense for any party involved.


If the program would just spend a little money on football, we could reanimate the body of Vince Lombardi! Spend some cash, guys!


What a lot of fans don’t realize is that this is nothing like the past Kentucky basketball coaching hires, where the athletic department writes their wishlist and takes the best coach available.  A lot of research needs to go into this hire, so we may not end up with the coach we’re all dreaming about. We need to get the guy who’s BEST for the program. And that’s not always the sexy hire that gets fans excited.


A lot of the problem comes from the position the program is in. Yes, it’s an attractive job despite its lack of winning tradition. It’s a program in the SEC, the best football conference in the game, with a surprisingly loyal fan base. Kentucky will play games on national television every year, and should a bowl game arise, the fans tend to travel well. Any coach looking to make a name for himself or to resurrect his career would be a fool NOT to be interested in the position. But therein lies the double-edged sword.


Let’s say Joe Sixpack leaves his job at Mid-Major U to take the Kentucky job. And let’s also say that after three seasons, Joe has built UK back to respectability, we’ll say a 8-4 record and a trip to a bowl game. (That may be a little pie in the sky, but stick with me here) And as it seems to be the case every year, one of your major programs in college football has an off-year (eg., Gene Chizik this season) and that team lets their coach go. And who do you think is going to be one of their top names for a replacement? Why, it’s our very own Joe Sixpack, who has shown he’s capable of rebuilding down teams by resurrecting the Cats. So now Big Program U hires our coach away, and we start all over again with the coaching search.


For whatever reason, this came up in a search for “Joe Sixpack”. Meh, I think the bull could outcoach Joker.


Conversely, let’s say Mitch goes out and hires John Q. Public, who after three seasons still has us stuck in the SEC basement. John Q. may have had some hype coming in, but it’s painfully obvious that he’s not the man for the job. Fans stop coming to the games and we’re getting beaten up by low-level teams. At that point, the athletic director has to make the call to fire John Q. and find another coach. Again.


So you see, we’re walking a fine line with this hire. The wrong hire sets us back further than we started if he’s not capable of winning, but a guy who’d jump ship at the first sniff of a major college program hurts us just as much.


If Mitch hires a coach tomorrow, you can almost guarantee that half the comments on our pages will be whining “If we weren’t going to get (insert coaching hire du jour here) , why didn’t we just keep Joker, because we’ll be second rate anyway?”


“Because who needs things like precise play-calling, game management and recruiting stroke?”


All I know is, either way, I don’t envy Mitch Barnhart one bit. Today, Mitch has the most thankless job in the country. And I’m glad I’m not the one making that call.

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