Phillips is right pick to succeed Brooks as football coach

As UK football regains national prominence, Cats fans should be glad UK Athletics is taking no chances with the program’s legacy.

Athletics Director Mitch Barnhart announced Friday that offensive coordinator Joker Phillips will take over as head coach when Rich Brooks retires. And Brooks, who has spearheaded the program’s revival, isn’t going away yet — he signed a contract extension through 2011.

With rumors of Phillips interviewing and being considered for other jobs, the announcement of his future succession came at a perfect time. It has been obvious that over the last few years, the offense has led the resurgence of UK football.

Before Phillips became UK’s offensive coordinator in 2004, the offense only produced 15.7 points per game, according to the UK Athletics Web site ( After his first year, Phillips raised that to 21.7 and then to 26.7. And finally, in this past year, the offense averaged 36.5 points per game.

With numbers like that, Cats fans can expect to see even more Southeastern Conference wins and bowl game appearances under Phillips’ tutelage.

Phillips’ excellent performance as a coordinator is not the only reason UK did well in naming him as the future head coach — the decision also helps ensure continuity in the program. UK will not have to worry about players or recruits departing because of an unexpected coaching change.

“Continuity and consistency will be a competitive advantage for UK going forward, an advantage that our program has not enjoyed very often during its history,” Barnhart said Friday at the announcement of Phillips’ future position.

In addition, the naming of a black head coach is a positive move toward more diversity in UK’s top coaching positions. There are still far too few blacks as head coaches in college football nationwide.

There are only four black head coaches in NCAA Division I football, according to USA Today, and only 12 blacks serve as coordinators or assistant coaches in charge of offensive and defensive units in the 117 major college Division I-A programs. And as of now, there has been only one black head coach in SEC history.

With the announcement of Phillips as Brooks’ successor, we hope to see more doors opening for black coaches in the SEC and around the nation.

Clearly, UK fans have many reasons to cheer Phillips’ eventual ascendance to the top spot in the football program. It appears well-positioned to continue its rise in the rankings.