TheTimesTribune.com, Corbin, KY

Sports Editorials

September 19, 2012

How long will UK football be the punchline?

CORBIN — So, here we are again coming off what some are calling one of the most disappointing losses in Kentucky football’s recent history.

The first thing that comes to mind for me is the 2007 loss to Gardner-Webb by the UK basketball team coached by that one guy (I still refuse to use his name).

For me though, this past weekend’s 32-31 loss to Western Kentucky University is worse because the Wildcats play in ‘the best conference in the nation,' the SEC.

I know many will argue, but in reality, I never expected much out of that particular basketball coach or the teams he coached. Don’t get me wrong, I still cheered as loud as the next fan at that time, I just wasn’t setting my sights on the stars.

Now, in no way have I set my sights high for this year’s Wildcat football team, but I’d like to see an honest poll asking fans if they really expected WKU to win that game. I’m sure some would fudge and say it wasn’t a surprise, but even three days removed from the game I still find it hard to swallow.

There are those who will and already have pulled out the old ‘we got beat on a fluke play’ line, but you can save that one for someone else. The reality of the situation is that WKU should have never been in that game after the opening kick.

The University of Kentucky, Mitch Barnhart in particular, needs to sit down and take a long hard look at this game. I feel like this game describes the state that the football program is in under the current leadership. The Wildcats are always oh-so-close, but that seems like it’s good enough.

I understand that Joker Phillips was a standout player for the Wildcats. I understand that he was patient under Rich Brooks after being named ‘coach-in-waiting.’ I understand that the university feels the need to show some loyalty to Phillips for the time he has spent with the program.

What I do not understand is how Barnhart and the powers that be can sleep at night thinking that they are doing their absolute best, which is their job, to produce the best football product it can produce.

What it comes down to is when you have a program that has failed as Kentucky has under Phillips, the only remedy is to completely overhaul the system. In order to get the kind of players that will turn the Wildcats around, this must be done because kids don’t want to play for a team that is the laughing stock of the state it resides in.

The only way to win is to get those top recruits. Kentucky is unable to get the top recruits year in and year out because those kids know what happens when you come to Kentucky.

I love the Wildcats as much as the next guy, which is probably why losing that game was so upsetting. I’ll most likely get over it eventually, but I’m not sure I can do that until the university makes a move that shows fans they care about the direction of the program.         When you look into the stands at the Wildcats’ next home game, I’m sure you’ll see just how many fans share my opinion.

Make no mistake about it, basketball will always be king at UK and I think most of the world knows that. The question we all have to ask is when will the football program stop being the court jester, making us all laugh out loud.

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