UK football

Joker Phillips dismisses rumors about his job status at Kentucky

'No need' to discuss next year further with Barnhart

jsmith3@herald-leader.comNovember 25, 2011 

UK head coach Joker Phillips shown during the University of Kentucky vs. University of Georgia football game on Saturday, Nov. 19, 2011 in Athens, Georgia. Photo by David Perry | Staff

DAVID PERRY | STAFF

There is speculation and swirling rumors about Coach Joker Phillips' future at Kentucky, but the coach said on Thursday that he doesn't listen to the chatter.

"All I hear is what I hear from you guys," he told reporters Thursday when asked whether he is planning to resign after the season ends. "I'm focusing on what the goal is, and the last goal is to send the seniors out the right way."

When asked whether he knows more about his future at UK than he knew on Monday when he said he had "no clue" about it, Phillips said: "Yes, I do. I know what everyone else knows, what Mitch has come out and talked about."

Phillips was referencing UK Athletics Director Mitch Barnhart's statements halfway through the season that Phillips would stay Kentucky's coach despite its struggles this season, which have led to a 4-7 record overall and a 1-6 record in the Southeastern Conference.

The Cats' season finale is Saturday against Tennessee at Commonwealth Stadium.

When Phillips was asked whether he had spoken to Barnhart this week, he noted that the athletics director was actually at Kentucky's practice on Thanksgiving morning.

When asked whether the two had discussed Phillips' job status, the coach said: "No. It's something we don't need to talk about."

Barnhart has declined to speak to the Herald-Leader this week on two occasions. UK spokesmen have said the athletics director was unavailable for interviews.

When asked whether the AD was available after practice, football spokesman Tony Neely said Barnhart was not.

Phillips said he hopes the chatter over the past week has not been a distraction for his players, who had their team Thanksgiving dinner on Wednesday night before practicing on Thursday morning.

"I hope they're not listening to it either," he said. "I don't listen to it. The (assistant) coaches don't listen to it, I hope. And I hope the players aren't."

Quarterbacks, other injuries

Both starter Maxwell Smith and backup quarterback Morgan Newton practiced on Thursday, but when asked whether Smith would be able to play on Saturday, Phillips replied: "Who knows? We'll take a look at him on Saturday, and a lot will be determined on how he is in 48 hours."

The coach said it would be a game-time decision, then added later that Smith "should be fine."

In other injury news, starting defenders Martavius Neloms and Ridge Wilson are still out.

Defensive tackle Mark Crawford was not a part of the injury report all week but was seen leaving the practice field in a walking boot on his left foot. The senior also was not wearing full practice gear.

Men in black?

On Twitter this week, a handful of UK football players have indicated their uniform of choice this weekend would be the new black ones they donned versus Mississippi State. When asked whether that was an option for the team, Phillips said: "Whatever they want to do. We'll decide here."

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