Kentucky Fires Joker Phillips

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Yesterday Joker Phillips’s Kentucky team lost 40-0 to Vanderbilt in front of a tiny crowd.

Today athletic director Mitch Barnhart bowed to the inevitability of a 1-9 football season, firing head coach Joker Phillips in the third year of his UK tenure.

There were just over 19,000 people actually in the stadium for the Vandy game.


That’s less than Rupp seats by about 5,000 fans.

The buyout will cost $2.55 million.

Penning an open letter to the Kentucky fan base, athletic director Mitch Barnhart announced his inevitable decision this afternoon on

After much conversation, evaluation and prayer, I have determined that it is in the best interest of our athletics program to make a change in our football coaching staff at the conclusion of the season. I do so with a heavy heart for a man who has served his alma mater for almost 22 years as a player and a coach. Joker Phillips has carried the banner for the Blue and White with honor and pride. I have enjoyed working alongside him and am thankful for his friendship for the last decade. His concern for the entire program, his work and teaching of young people, his humanitarian work, and the friendship we all enjoy with him will long surpass the scoreboard. I want to thank him for all of those things on behalf of Kentucky.

The search for a new head coach will begin immediately and will be managed internally. I understand the challenge and significance of finding a new leader for our football program. It will be done with great concern for our student-athletes, students of the University of Kentucky, the Big Blue Nation and the citizens of the Commonwealth. Kentucky Football needs to be and will be a championship contender in the SEC.”

Leaving aside the fact that Kentucky football never will be a championship contender in the SEC, early names that I’d put at the top of the Kentucky board are as follows:

1. Sonny Dykes, Louisiana Tech

2. David Cutcliffe, Duke

3. Gus Malzahn, Arkansas State

4. Willie Taggart, Western Kentucky

5. Kliff Kingsbury, Texas A&M offensive coordinator

I doubt that you could get Cutcliffe to accept the job, but would the other four guys on this list take the job?

We’ll see.

Of course the big fish remains, Bobby MF’ing Petrino.

You already hired one coach with a shady background who wins, why not hire Petrino too? Especially since unlike John Calipari the one flaw Petrino doesn’t have is systematic NCAA violations.

In the meantime, here’s my list of the top 16 head coaching candidates in college football.

But for now, Joker is the first to go.

How much longer will Derek Dooley and Gene Chizik last?

Probably not much longer.

The biggest takeaway here? Even at Kentucky a football coach doesn’t get three full years. Not even the coach who ended the 26 year losing streak to Tennessee.

Written by Clay Travis

Clay Travis is the founder of the fastest growing national multimedia platform, OutKick, that produces and distributes engaging content across sports and pop culture to millions of fans across the country. OutKick was created by Travis in 2011 and sold to the Fox Corporation in 2021.

One of the most electrifying and outspoken personalities in the industry, Travis hosts OutKick The Show where he provides his unfiltered opinion on the most compelling headlines throughout sports, culture, and politics. He also makes regular appearances on FOX News Media as a contributor providing analysis on a variety of subjects ranging from sports news to the cultural landscape. Throughout the college football season, Travis is on Big Noon Kickoff for Fox Sports breaking down the game and the latest storylines.

Additionally, Travis serves as a co-host of The Clay Travis and Buck Sexton Show, a three-hour conservative radio talk program syndicated across Premiere Networks radio stations nationwide.

Previously, he launched OutKick The Coverage on Fox Sports Radio that included interviews and listener interactions and was on Fox Sports Bet for four years. Additionally, Travis started an iHeartRadio Original Podcast called Wins & Losses that featured in-depth conversations with the biggest names in sports.

Travis is a graduate of George Washington University as well as Vanderbilt Law School. Based in Nashville, he is the author of Dixieland Delight, On Rocky Top, and Republicans Buy Sneakers Too.


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