Joker Phillips was informed on Sunday he would no longer be Kentucky’s head football coach next season.
In other news, the sky is blue.
Phillips became the first SEC lame duck coach to receive his paper’s this fall during a tumultuous third season in Lexington. Saturday’s home shutout loss to Vanderbilt made things clear to UK athletic director Mitch Barnhart that the program’s spiral would continue unless a change was made. Effective at the end of the season, Phillips is out and new blood will be in (Here’s a list of candidates).
Phillips isn’t the only coach, however, who will be gone at the end of the season. John L. Smith is a dead man walking, and both Gene Chizik and Derek Dooley could be out, too. In a league where wins come at a premium, losses can build quickly if a quality product isn’t put on the field. Phillips has lost 23 of 35 games for the Wildcats in three seasons while Vanderbilt, the SEC East’s other perennial bottom-dweller seems to be headed in a different direction. James Franklin is considered one of college football’s best young coaches, has his team thinking bowl game and has been competitive against the big boys during his stint in Nashville.
The same can not be said for Phillips whose in a similar situation in terms of recruiting challenges and limited funds dedicated to football compared to other schools. In Fayetteville, things have been embarrassing for a team that were penciled in as a BCS sleeper in August. Smith’s been a disaster at Arkansas coming in for preseason hiccup Bobby Petrino. Petrino’s name is swirling around several soon-to-be vacant jobs in the country while Smith plays out the string for the Razorbacks. The overtime loss to Louisiana-Monroe started a rip current of defeats that included lopsided loss to Alabama and Texas A&M with a setback to Rutgers sandwiched in between.
At least Smith’s team hasn’t given up like what has appeared to happen at Kentucky and Auburn. We’ve all heard of Chizik’s post-Newton numbers, but the Tigers have been downright disastrous this season. Auburn needs a win over Georgia or Alabama over these next three weeks to avoid a winless conference season. Of the four lame duck coaches in the SEC, Chizik’s job is most safe since he does have a recent national title.
Dooley and the Volunteers have been the biggest disappointment. Tennessee has better players than Kentucky and one could argue Auburn. Tyler Bray and the Vols’ offense is statistically one of the conference’s best, but a grueling schedule and hole-filled defense as led to five SEC losses — the third straight season under Dooley that the Vols have started 0-5. A program with a rich history, Tennessee’s 15 consecutive losses to ranked teams under Dooley has turned his seat from hot to scorching. A loss to Troy Saturday night could have sealed Mr. Orange Pants’ fate. A team that entered Neyland Stadium 4-4 overall, nearly pulled the unthinkable with a season-high 721 yards of offense and 34 first downs. However, there are some rumblings that if Dooley does win seven games, he could return, but it would be a terrible mistake.
Soon, more heads will roll in the SEC.
Photo Credit: Beth Hall-US PRESSWIRE