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.

"Subscribe to The Presser"
"Join The Presser"
Every week a subscriber wins a NofB Tee-Shirt.

About the Author

Josh White
I'm a lifelong, die-hard Kentucky fan who loves UK sports as much as I hate UL and everything they stand for. I'd rather lose with the Boys in Blue than win with Cardinal red. That pretty much sums me up.
  • http://www.facebook.com/iamthe.reaper.7 Iamthe Reaper

    Ok, based on the scenarios you propose, the argument could be made for Willie Taggart. But, you also get what you pay for. Give Petrino an incentive laden contract and if he opts out before the contract is over, he gets nothing. Next argument, a team has to be tough to win in the SEC, this is where Bill Cowher fits perfectly. Cowher is in all likelihood going to NCST if Mitch doesn’t move FAST! For you Petrino detractors, Cal has been in NCAA hot water before,(UMASS,Memphis), He was hired, forgiven, and deemed the next Pope. So to you Petrino detractors, he who hath no sin amongst you….


    ok it seems to me petrino is out so I guess the best we can hope for is sunny dykes and make dam sure he has the best staff possible and make sure that he works with towles during the off season and find some recievers and develop an offensive and defensive line

    • http://www.facebook.com/ryan.sea.5 Ryan Sea

      petrino was never an option and im glad i dont want a win at all cost football team!!

    • J.Bird

      You give ANYBODY the best coaching staff, some receivers, an a off and def line, it wouldnt be hard to coach…smh… Sometimes what Ppl say is flat out goofy, but keep your head up, you’ll get it one day.

  • http://www.facebook.com/ryan.sea.5 Ryan Sea

    I like how all the fans know what is best for our football program!! Most fans know very little other then wins and losses. There is much more that goes into making a winning football program and we all should stand behind whoever is chosen and give them a chance!! All these coaches can win and play fun ( open ) football, maybe the can draw some better recruits that like that playing style and have a better chance and getting more playing time at UK verses other big name programs…. just saying

  • J.Bird

    Why is EVERYBODY dead set on Petrino? Yea, he can coach, but has he EVER been loyal? Don’t want no “stepping stone” coach. Its crazy how most UK fans would rather win right now for a couple years and then get left in the dust for another school, then to give another coach(who has great credentials) a chance to build a team and reputation for winning in the SEC. I’m not drinking the Petrino Kool Aid, the hype does not look that good to me. He’s not the fit for this team, and I’m glad he’s not in the mix, or at least I hope he’s not in the mix for this job.

  • Snatchmo

    My problem with a few of the names being mentioned as frontrunners are that, while they might be good coaches, I feel like we are jumping on them way early. They’ve had good seasons THIS year in the WAC, but that doesn’t mean that they will fare well in the SEC. Is one season of success (regardless of where the program started) indicative of their ability to coach in the SEC? I’m just not sold on their track record and abilities yet. Rebuilding a WAC team is far different than rebuilding an SEC team. We could end up hiring another coach in over their head.

    MacIntyre is 10-2 this year, but overall he’s 16-21 as a HC (8-13 in the WAC).

    Anderson is 10-2 this year, but overall he’s 25-24 as a HC (16-13 in the WAC). Also, he’s never coached at a big name program, unless you count Utah (where he was DC) a big name program.

    Dykes is better at 22-14 as a HC (14-6 in the WAC). Plus, he has connections to UK and a good coaching pedigree. However, it’s only a matter of time before he’d bolt for Texas Tech, I think.