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November 4, 2012
Phillips will not return for fourth season, UK announces
Joker Phillips will not return as football coach next season, UK athletic director Mitch Barnhart announced in an open letter on UKathletics.com on Sunday.
"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," Barnhart said in the letter. "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."
Phillips' status for the remainder of the season is to be determined, UK spokesman DeWayne Peevy said in a text message.
"We, as coaches, are measured on results," Phillips said in a released statement. "We didn't get the results we had worked and hoped for, therefore change is needed."
UK does not have plans for a news conference to discuss the firing, Peevy said via text message, and Barnhart is unavailable for comment. Because Kentucky is off on Saturday, Phillips is not scheduled to hold his standard Monday news conference.
"Mitch is the best athletic director I've ever been associated with," Phillips said. "He's fair and honest and he's 'all in' in terms of student-athletes' well-being."
As head coach of the Wildcats, Phillips is 12-23. Kentucky fell to 1-9 this season after a 40-0 loss to Vanderbilt on Saturday. The Wildcats are winless in the Southeastern Conference and currently in an eight-game losing streak, the worst for the program since 2000.
As on-field success declined, off-field support waned. There had never been a sub-50,000 attendance at Commonwealth Stadium since it expanded in 1999 until this year. Four of the six home games fell below that mark.
Barnhart said the search for a replacement will begin immediately and be managed internally.
"I understand the challenge and significance of finding a new leader for our football program," he said. "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."
Asked if a buyout had been reached, Peevy texted that "his contract will be honored."
The status of the current coaching staff would be determined by the new head coach, Peevy said via text message.
"I love our players and am proud to be associated with them," Phillips said. "I expect them to continue the behavior we have asked of them academically, socially and with football. I'm thankful for the staff's hard work, dedication, and what they have done in coaching and mentoring the players. I'd like to thank my wife and family for all their support and for being behind me 100 percent."