[Moderated by Matt Jones]
This guy would be disappointed with some of the people that call themselves UK football fans.
I know everyone has their own opinions about what’s “wrong” with the football program here in Lexington, and I have mine. It’s easy to put all the blame on Joker, or all the blame on administration, but it’s a lot more rational to spread that blame around a little more evenly. Here are the issues that need to be fixed NOW, if Kentucky has any hope of competing in the SEC (in no particular order):
The athletic department made progress last season with the installment of the ribbon boards and video boards at Commonwealth Stadium, but there’s still work to be done. Rich Brooks asked for a multi-purpose recruiting room for years, but there still isn’t one on campus. He also wanted more of a renovation of the stadium, adding more skyboxes (and thus more revenue). That still hasn’t happened either, but plans are in the works now along with the construction of the new Rupp Arena. I find it ironic that the only plans for Commonwealth Stadium renovations are simply side-notes to a bigger plan for a basketball arena. Football has to stand alone from the other sports, and it has to be a focus of the administration’s. I don’t know the specific numbers, but I do know that in 2011, football earned over $13 million more revenue than the men’s basketball team did. Kentucky fans see UK basketball as being bigger than football, but football brings in a heck of a lot more money than the basketball team. That has a lot to do with the SEC revenue sharing system in football, but it’s also important to realize that football financing has got to be a focus.
I would venture to say that 75% of the people reading this would place all of the blame for Kentucky’s recent fall off the map squarely on Joker Phillips’ shoulders. And I think that only a part of that is justified. You can’t call out one person for the “downfall” of a football team – for a program as huge as an SEC school’s football program, any move that the team takes up or down the ladder is a combination of many, many factors. Having said that, Joker is obviously a part of that equation. A lot has been said about his play-calling, but please, if you consider yourself a UK fan, do your research first. Joker hasn’t been in charge of play-calling for quite a while. He did hire the guy who is in charge of that, but he DOES NOT CALL THE PLAYS. Remember Randy Sanders? He does. And I think a lot of the play-calling criticisms that are directed at Sanders are warranted.
Joker made a lot of moves with his assistant coaches recently as well, adding Pat Washington, Rick Minter, etc. I was one of those people that strongly disagreed with Steve Brown being our defensive coordinator. Minter took over that position, and I think that move will definitely help out in the long run.
The problem with Joker is this: He was a great recruiter as an assistant and was a good offensive coordinator under Brooks. But once he took over head coaching duties, the focus was taken off his strength (recruiting) and he seemed to struggle. I think that the administration has faith in Joker, and the players do too. It takes years for a coach to really build up a football program. With basketball, a guy like Calipari can come in and drastically change things within one year. That’s much more difficult to do with football. The least you can do as a “football fan” is to give the guy a chance for a few years to build something. If you’ll remember, Brooks’ first three years were all losing seasons and then the program had one of the most successful streaks in the history of UK football. Give it time. Which leads me to my next issue…
The negativity of the UK football fanbase is unlike anything I have ever seen from a fanbase that’s as passionate as Kentucky fans. The excuses I hear are as follows:
“Why should I cheer on a losing team?”
Answer: Because you call yourself a UK fan. You cheered for Kentucky when Gillispie was here and the team was AWFUL. You cheered for the basketball team after they went through probation and was again AWFUL. If you can’t give the same respect for the football program (and all the other sports), then don’t call yourself a UK fan. If you choose not to buy football tickets, so be it. Don’t come. But also don’t criticize the team, call into radio shows with your “JOKEr” comments, or actively go against the school that you profess to love.
“I don’t want to spend money on a team that isn’t good.”
Answer: Then don’t. Simple as that.
“I won’t support Kentucky football for as long as Joker is here.”
Answer: Then don’t support the next coach either. Unless the coach gives you a legitimate reason to not support him/her (for example, being an alcoholic psychopath), don’t be a jerk. Coaches go through a tremendous amount of stress and they don’t need their own fans being above-and-beyond negative.
“I’m waiting for basketball season.”
Answer: Then do so. Haunt the basketball recruiting sites and look at Nerlens Noel pictures. Don’t actively complain about the other teams on campus just because they’re not as ridiculously good as Kentucky basketball. The bar is set entirely too high for all the other teams to reach, so give everyone else a break.
If you don’t want to support football, then don’t. But also, don’t do either of these two things:
A) Support the team when/if they’re good. You don’t deserve it.
B) Constantly complain, lambast the coaches and players who give their heart and soul to UK, or ruin the experience for real UK football fans.
Follow me on Twitter @AshleyScobyKSR where you can, again, make fun of me for being the Eternal UK Football Optimist.
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