Phillips to coach remaining two games

jsmith3@herald-leader.comNovember 5, 2012 

A day after firing him as its head football coach, the University of Kentucky announced in a release that Joker Phillips has decided to finish out the season on the sidelines.

The head coach will make his first public statements after practice on Tuesday afternoon. He will be made available with a select group of players, UK football spokesman Tony Neely confirmed on Monday.

Phillips, who has spent 20-plus years at Kentucky as a player, assistant coach, coordinator and head coach, will coach his final game at Commonwealth Stadium on Nov. 17 against Samford.

Kentucky will honor the program's seniors before the Samford game, which will be shown at 7:30 p.m. on Comcast/Charter Sports Southeast.

Phillips' final game as head coach will be in Knoxville against Tennessee on Nov. 24. Last season, the coach orchestrated a 10-7 victory over the Vols using a wide receiver at quarterback, breaking a 26-game losing streak to Tennessee.

The Cats, coming off a 40-0 drubbing from Vanderbilt at a quarter-full Commonwealth Stadium on Saturday, have a bye this week.

Per their contracts, Kentucky's assistant coaches and coordinators will stay on through the rest of the season as well.

On Sunday in an open letter to Kentucky fans, UK Athletics Director Mitch Barnhart announced the dismissal of Phillips, who has gone 12-23 in his three seasons as head coach.

When approached by a Herald-Leader reporter at the men's basketball game, Barnhart declined to discuss his coaching search plans. "Nope. Keep going," he said.

Athletics officials indicated that the university plans to honor the remainder of Phillips' five-year contract. The final figure, which UK didn't confirm on Monday, appears to be in the neighborhood of $2.5 million over the next two years.

At a university budget meeting on Monday, Kentucky President Eli Capilouto was asked about the search for a new football coach.

"I'll leave those decisions to our athletic director," he told the Herald-Leader. "But what we want is somebody who is successful on the field and that our students are successful in the classroom."

Herald-Leader staff writer Linda Blackford contributed to this report. Jennifer Smith: (859) 231-3241. Twitter: @jenheraldleader. Blog: ukfootball.bloginky.com

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