A letter to AD Mitch Barnhart

Mitch Barnhart and Joker Phillips talked before Big Blue U on Saturday, August 20, 2011 in Lexington, Kentucky. Photo by Latara Appleby | Staff

By Cody Porter | @KernelPorter

Dear Athletic Director Mitch Barnhart:

Fresh off of a disconcerting loss to SEC newcomer Missouri, for its first ever conference victory, it’s time to come out of the woodwork and speak.

The Kernel, as well as other local media, recently has been denied comment from you regarding the state of the football program.

Currently sitting 1-8, its state is well known. But, the questions that need answering deal with your thoughts on how this season has come to be.

Yes, injuries have played a factor in what the Cats have been able to do, but all teams must play the cards they’re dealt when bit by the injury bug.

UK football head coach Joker Phillips, now in his third season, has had opportunities to turn the Cats into his mainstay.

However, the progression of the Cats’ best recruiting classes hasn’t translated to the on-field collegiate product. In recent seasons, teams such as Vanderbilt, Ole Miss and Missis­sippi State have gone from UK’s bottom-of-the-rung companions to elevating their stature beyond that of the Cats’.

The additions of Missouri and Texas A&M should be taking your level of concern beyond where it seems to be with the lack of communication between public and administration.

Although the Tigers appear to be somewhat behind the SEC talent pool compared with the Aggies, they both enter already prepared to contend.

That’s something UK isn’t capable of doing, as the loss to Western Kentucky showed.

Comments in past weeks by Phillips have made what the public already assumed known, which is that the relationship of him and you stretches beyond the business side, to that a of normal friendship. Is anything wrong with that? No.

Nothing is wrong with that, as long as it doesn’t hamper decision-making abilities.

Fans like Phillips, media like Phillips, I like Phillips. It’s been said countless times — he is a nice guy. But, being a nice guy doesn’t necessarily mean someone should be granted a pass when he clearly isn’t getting the job done on the gridiron.

Give Phillips the courtesy of getting fans’ respect by coming to an agreement that allows him to walk away from his coaching title, finish the season, and then move on with a coaching search.

Additionally, during your time as athletic director, the university has seen its athletic programs soar. The men’s basketball team is among the best — if not the best — in the nation in the past five seasons.
The UK Hoops team has gone from a non-factor in women’s basketball to one of the premier teams in the country. The baseball program has competed throughout the years. The softball team has hit new heights with the addition of head coach Rachel Lawson, including hosting a Super Regional. UK track and field obtained one of the nation’s best coaches in Edrick Floreal, formerly of Stanford. Both men’s and women’s soccer have become contenders, far from an afterthought as they were years ago.

All of those strides aren’t to be lost under the fact that the facilities of those programs have been vastly improved, shifting them into discussions of being among the nation’s best.

But what about football? It’s the SEC — the Donald Trump of NCAA conferences. Outside of Kentucky, basketball is an afterthought in what is considered football country.

Yet the football team doesn’t reap the rewards of being one of the highest grossing programs in the NCAA.

As was approved by the Board of Trustees in June, the 2012 athletics department’s budget planned for $29.6 million in football revenue and $27.6 million in 2013.

Albeit declining, that ranks in the top quarter of collegiate budgets.

Vanderbilt’s making use of its funds to upgrade facilities, while fans in the Athens of the West are watching their stadium deteriorate like Parthenon. That’s not to mention the circulating image of a recruiting room reminiscent of what families reserve at a restaurant for a reunion.

When that previously mentioned budget was released, you said, “We’ve tried to be smart about how we’ve budgeted. Regardless of where football is, I don’t think we would ever — in terms of revenue — not prepare well.”

If that’s the case, then why spend $300,000 on a spectacle of lights for Big Blue Madness? While it’s pennies on the dollar, a mere $50,000 of that could be helpful in electrifying Commonwealth Stadium on game day. Give the team flashy uniforms. Create a memorable intro. I’m just giving suggestions for where that money can be allotted.

The time to reward the university’s breadwinner is now. Years of unstable mediocrity are needlessly occurring.

Take your turn, step up to the podium and make the move.

Cody Porter, Kentucky Kernel sports editor

You want a coach who knows the nuances of a sport, right? I want a university educated writer who knows the nuances of the English language.

who cares about grammar and word choice. Is it to hard for you to understand? I can read it perfectly.

Not to be overly critical, but this isn’t that well written. I understand the sentiment of the article, but the grammar and word choice in some places is bad. The analogies are flimsy and sometimes plain fallacious. As a former English teacher I’m sad this is in a university newspaper and no one caught any of these mistakes before this went to press. All that being said, Joker should be let go as soon as possible in an effort to afford him an as dignified as possible exit from the UK football family.

I just find it funny that everybody gives a damn right now. It’s not like this is the first time UK’s had a bad season of football. Once basketball kicks in, nobody will care how bad football is. And it’s only a matter of time before we round up the rest of the greatest recruiting class in history for 2013 basketball. How many top 10 recruits have even shown interest in L’ville for 2013? Just hold on tight to Anton Gill.

Jealousy can be an ugly thing. But in this particular case of the Blue-Eyed Monster, I think it may actually help you guys get a decent football coach for once. Oh wait, my bad. I forgot who your AD and President were for a second there.

Good luck the rest of the year. Surely you guys can get through this meatgrinder of Missouri, Vandy, Samford, and Tennessee with at least one win.

Seriously though, take those four turds and add them to Kent State, WKU, and Arkansas and that schedule isn’t much to brag about. Only five good teams on it.

How horrifically immature and bigoted of you. “Women’s Tiddlewinks.” Our you talking about women’s basketball, women’s soccer, women’s volleyball, softball, or the women who compete in cross country and track? Because all of those programs are amongst the best in the nation and deserve great facilities.

And Louisville is the flagship institution because of their football team? Really? Hahaha that’s a good one. Do you remember when a bunch of 18 yr old boys beat your basketball team in the Final Four last year? That was awesome. And I was unaware that your medical was all of a sudden #1 in the state? I thought that distinction belonged to UK. Oh, wait…it does. How about your book endowment? Because ours is only second to Harvard. How about when both our men’s and women’s soccer teams beat you in your own back yard this season? Besides football, UK bests UofL in so many ways. And it wasn’t but a season or two ago when we kicked your ass in football for a few seasons in a row. Flagship institution? Please.

The University of Louisville is now the flagship school in this state. They are the only reason people care about UK football now.

Barney ain’t goin’ no-where! He’s got the sweetest buy-out golden parachute Lee Todd could give him. You wanna’ jump on someone, there are worse targets than Todd.(Todd’s little presents to himself are pretty effin’ sweet too. You guys got no idea).

Barney can run his little fiefdom as he sees fit because there is no way to hold him accountable because of Todd screwing the pooch. As such Barney can hire/fire/retain any Goober he wants, and you guys can just suck it. If you don’t believe me, read the letter from after the UT game.

So Barney steals money from football to fund his little self aggrandizing goal of winning the “I’m the Bestest AD in the World” Cup. Again, what’re you gonna’ do about it? Nothing! That’s right! Suck it up, and keep paying for the Women’s Tiddlewinks team to get a new arena. Thanx football! I heard the Hopscotch team upgraded to that chalk that washes off the driveway with water! Thanx football! You guys that pay for football? Shut up, ya’ haters!

If Barney, Todd, and the BoT dropped dead tomorrow we’d be better off as a school, a sports franchise, and a country.

Joker absolutely (MUST GO) and if Mitch cannot see this…..then MITCH needs to go!- However- I like them both. Just get the job done on teh Gridiron Mitch. Keep Joker around and make him an assistant of sorts etc etc…But make a coaching change. This head coaching gig is way over Jokers head

Thanks for writing this letter. Larry Vaught just wrote an article on his website calling out the AD as well on October 27th. I wish even more in the media would put the pressure on Mitch Barnhart. The experiement with Joker Phillips sadly did not work out. Those two may be friends, but in the long run it is costing this program and in particular the football program millions of dollars by keeping Joker. Why does the AD stand for this?

Auburn, UT all will be looking to hire coaches at the end of the season. That does not include programs that are outside of the SEC. Why doesn’t our AD become proactive and get ahead of the rest of the herd and make a move now. Maybe quitely he has, but by doing so publically, it will calm down his fanbase and reassure them.

Bringing in the right hire early, we can save the current recruiting class, and maybe just maybe increase it as well. Hope you are listening Mitch. So far your hearing aid has been very very turned off. Shameful!

We have to have a winning football program. There will be off-years, but less than this record should not be tolerated. Even though the basketball program is #1 in the country, the football program actually generates more revenue at a higher profit margin.

The coaches have made great decision??? Whitlow just drove 60 yards for a TD against Mizzou and you put in Towles taking away the fluid from Whitlow and more important wasting an extra year of eligibility for Towles as a 5th year senior. How is that good coaching? The stage is too big as the playcalling, substitutions, and game management have been more than poor.

Hey I am all for keeping Joker as it makes it easierfor me at UL in all areas. It’s time for a new coach and we need a Home Run or the revenue will decline even further than you can imagine.

To the poster who claimed Football paid for madness. That is false. Basketball is completely self funded. The author used that as an example of how we go above and beyond for basketball and neglect football. He leaves out that much of that $300,000 is made up in concession and merchandise however.

Yeah, Madness is such a waste of time that tickets sold out in the blink of an eye. Oh wait…

Madness obviously means a lot to UK fans, and basketball is our signature sport. It has always and will always be #1 priority for our athletics dept, and 98% of UK fans would have it no other way.

And to Maddie, there are no funds to divert. UK Athletics are completely self-funded. It pays for itself and does a phenomenal amount for the school. Never underestimate the social, political, economic power of sports.

And really? Those are the horrific mistakes that you’ve found? This is an article, not a novel. In fact, it’s a more casual opinions piece, and requires even less form than usual. Get over yourself. If you’re not sure about the Kernel, go to their office and check the plaques on the wall. It’s a very, very good college paper. And they paper, as well as the department, compares well nationally. So really, please, get over yourself.

Did no one watch the Georgia game? Or the South Carolina game? Or the Missouri game even? Those games were very well-coached. I was so impressed. In all of those games, though, our offensive and defensive lines fell apart in the second halves because, as has been for years, they’re smaller than everyone else’s lines. No O-line means no running game, which means no passing game in the SEC. If you can’t run in this league, you’ll have a hard time winning. When we establish the run, as we did in the better halves of each of those games I mentioned, we compete very, very well. I give credit to Joker for coaching very solidly through those games, but it’s hard to win when your lines can’t hold up.

Should I also point out that many of our players that have performed very well in the face of adversity (especially injuries) are underclassmen? I’ve been impressed with Whitlow, several of the freshmen defensive backs, and even short glimpses of Towles. These recruits could mean a bright future for UK. I wouldn’t be surprised if we pulled out 4 or 5 wins next season and continue to improve from there.

And I understand the whole “coach in waiting should mean continuity of recruiting” thing, but UK hasn’t had that in many, many years. Even our slightly-above-average 7-win years with Rich Brooks saw most of our talent coming from developed upperclassmen. We usually have strong upperclassmen and iffy underclassmen, with exceptions from time to time. Now we have some exciting youth, and I’d personally like to see Joker have one more year with them and a healthier team. Do you realize how big of a difference CoShik and JC would make in the back field for our offense? Obviously no more CoShik, but we’ll have JC next season. I think we could actually be strong next year!

As for facilities, I agree they could use some TLC. Especially at a time when other athletics facilities are getting a boost.

I like Barnhart. I think he’s done a lot for almost every program, but it does seem like football’s been a little neglected. Of course, I’d rather a great athletics dept and a bad FB team than a great team and bad dept, but I’d rather (as I’m sure we all can agree) have both.

Guess who paid for madness you idiot? Football. Thats the point he was trying to make. Basketball needs to pay for basketball and football pays for itself and every other athletic program at UK. The money to football has to be took from somewhere. Im fairly sure at 200k, Big Blue Madness would have still been the best in the nation and no other school is dumb enough to spend something like that on a 3 hour practice/waste of peoples time.

Why would you want our Big Blue Madness to suffer and become like other schools. Our madness is the best in the country for a reason. I agree Joker needs to go, but this argument and article makes me dumber for reading it.

“the relationship of him and you” “getting fans’ respect”

Just two examples. If this is the best UK’s journalism school can produce, maybe the athletic programs should be dissolved and all funds diverted to academics.

Very well written! I like Joker, as you pointed out, he is a great guy. He’s just not getting it done. The whole point of a coach in waiting is to keep momentum in recruiting. Well, I think it’s safe to say we lost any kind of momentum we may have had. In the 3 seasons Joker has had the reigns of our Wildcats, he has compiled a less than impressive record of 12-22 going 4-8 in conference play. This is a business and this his job. If you’re not doing your job, you get fired. That’s how it is in any employment.

I was with you until the “Donald Trump of the SEC.” Really? I think you might want to rethink that, because that is certainly not a compliment.

I do agree with you, otherwise.