Declining attendance, declining performance on the field and declining reputation. Three issues the UK football program are facing and three issues the University of Kentucky administration have to address sooner rather than later. Whether the decision makers in Lexington do that in the spotlight or behind closed doors remains to be seen, but something has to change, right?
OK, this article has been written about 19,837 times over the past few decades, from Fran Curci to Rich Brooks and now, Joker Phillips. Sometimes, the coaches proved the naysayers wrong while others solidified those opinions Saturday after Saturday.
The latest sad Saturday featured a UK team that played it close with 6th-ranked South Carolina for a half and then disintegrated. President Eli Capilouto’s decision to ban alcohol at some tailgating spots around Commonwealth Stadium this past weekend reminded me of the Don Marquis quote “prohibition makes you want to cry into your beer and denies you the beer to cry into.” There are plenty of reasons for the UK faithful to cry after a 1-4 start and little evidence that the 2012 season will get much better.
The administration is not without its reasons to break out the handkerchief. Fewer than 50,000 people showed up for UK’s home games against Kent State and South Carolina. UK hosts Mississippi State this Saturday…on Keeneland’s opening weekend. Take the under on the attendance that day.
Phillips was handed the keys to the bus by Rich Brooks (and with the blessing of the athletic administration) before Brooks left town. The cupboard was far from bare. Phillips had a good core of a football team. The future Phillips envisioned never materialized. Now, UK athletic director Mitch Barnhart has a tough decision to make. Too many people were calling for Brooks’ head and he fought through the outside adversity to get his teams to do things UK teams had never done before. Will Barnhart use that lesson to teach the dissenters a lesson of their own? Or will a search for Phillips successor get underway? Maybe it already is.
Let’s face it: as long as Kentucky is in the SEC, the Wildcats BCS hopes are slim to none. Even when the SEC has seen its “down” years, Kentucky was still unable to reach the kind of heights the players and coaches have aimed toward.
7 wins and a decent bowl game will satisfy UK football fans until another Calipari unveils itself on the hardwood. Right now, it appears Big Blue Nation’s eyes are collectively focused on Rupp Arena before the first frost has fallen on the grass at Commonwealth Stadium.
The football train has pretty much derailed, so Barnhart will probably keep to his mantra of “we’ll evaluate everything at the end of the season” but it’s pretty obvious from the empty seats that UK fans have already evaluated the immediate future…and it’s not working.
Photo courtesy: Southeastern Conference