By: Ira D. CombsTri State Sports Services
November 26, 2012
Even for a program that has had its fair share of losing over the past 50 years, you could honestly say the 2012 UK football season was its ugliest and most disappointing in many years.
With that being said, there is no sense in replaying how the Tennessee game was lost or anything else about how the bad breaks fell one after the other for this young 2012 team and its coaching staff. The only good thing to say today is, thank God it’s finally behind us. I’m thinking Joker Phillips told his team that there will be better days ahead, and to just hang in there.
But right behind that thought, you must stare in the mirror if you’re Mitch Barnhart, and say where do we go from here? This is what scares the living daylights out of me at this juncture of UK football.
In my mind, no matter who Barnhart brings in it, will only be one of many problems that needs to be addressed with the UK football program. And even if he hits a home run in the hiring process, will that coach be given the time and support needed to assemble the necessary ingredients to win in the SEC?
To be painfully honest, is it realistic to even expect it in today’s college football scenario in the mega-talented SEC?
Now, just hours after the UK-UT game concluded, several other BCS schools (two more in the SEC in Arkansas and Auburn) have cleared out their football coaching staffs’ offices and are on the prowl for new leadership, which will make it even more difficult for Barnhart to get his hire complete. But evidently there is a process which takes time he must go through, according to his statements made on the Big Blue Radio Network Saturday in Knoxville.
Better hurry up, Mitch, because now Auburn, Tennessee, Arkansas, Purdue, N.C. State, and California are all looking for coaches, and in my humble opinion they all are better jobs than the one you’re trying to fill. As a matter of fact, I’m not so sure Southern Miss is a better job, but they’re looking as well, so be quick but be good at what you do.
There has been a lot of talk about who will get the UK job the last three weeks. Some say Sonny Dykes from La. Tech, some predict Butch Jones from Cincinnati, and the most recent flavor of the day is Mark Stoops, the DC down at Florida State. I’m not going down this road any longer, but I do expect it to come sometime this week, maybe before this column reaches its destination across the Commonwealth in its various papers and posted on various websites.
Actually, some think that BBN is in a pretty good situation if you look at this hire from a certain angle, and I’m kind of in this corner myself. Either the much maligned Mitch Barnhart is going to finally swing and connect on a good football coaching hire, or he is going to miserably fail, and with a new president and only one academic-oriented and athletically challenged Board of Trustees to answer to this time around, there won’t be any new secret 11th hour contracts cut between Barnhart and one other person who was as fond of him as Lee Todd was.
This one’s completely on you Mitch, so you’d better make it a good one, and then you and the school administration and the politicians over in Frankfort need to provide him the financial support that you all lied to Rich Brooks about, which pushed him out the door and created this mess called UK football.
Then, at the end of the day, if all these things come to fruition the new coach has got to go get an average of 15 four-star recruits annually to win in the SEC, and how does a Kentucky coach do that?
Only one way, and Fran Curci said it best when asked this question several years ago in a visit to the Commonwealth Stadium press box as a radio announcer.
With a real sly wink of his left eye, Curci said “You just got to go get ‘em,” which usually in turn ends with another different type mess, so I’m about as excited about the future of UK football as I am the national debt and this country’s moral state.
None of the three looks very rosy to me.
But Barnhart has been successful in hiring good soccer, softball, and volleyball coaches plus upgrade their facilities. How much excitement has that created across the Commonwealth?
Two more big tests for Cal’s Cats this week
One of the best ways to distinguish if a young college basketball team is improving and learning from game competition scars is to go battle a tough opponent in a true away game environment.
That opportunity will come for Cal’s Cats this Thursday night as UK will invade football crazy South Bend, Indiana to do battle with the Notre Dame Fighting Irish. While it will get top billing from ESPN2 for a weeknight college basketball game, don’t expect it to have the emotional effect the old series had from the 70’s and 80’s when Richard “Digger” Phelps roamed the sidelines. That’s mainly because those lovable and starved to death for success Fighting Irish fans finally have stumbled upon a good football season.
There’ll be more talk about SEC football in the stands Thursday night at Notre Dame than the basketball kingpin of the SEC on the court in front of their eyes, and that ain’t all bad if you’re in Kentucky’s corner.
The most important topic for UK fans when Thursday night rolls around will be the return of point guard Ryan Harrow from his mysterious illness and home visit recently. Will he return Thursday night, and if so, in what roll? One thing is for sure, this team needs his physical talents, but only if his head and emotions are in check.
We shall see, but if this team is to make a deep run in March it must rebound the ball better and have solid point guard play.
The Baylor game on Saturday may be a better starting point for Harrow to return since it will be in the friendly confines of Rupp Arena.
Two Cat records still alive as we enter December
No. 1 - John Calipari’s Rupp Arena winning streak is into its fourth season and stands at 55 as we enter December this coming Saturday, with a big nationally televised game against talented Baylor.
No. 2 - The three-point consecutive game streak is alive and well as UK works its way out of November and into December, but it got real dicey late in the MSU game before Julius Mays knocked one down.