John Clay: Debunking five myths about Kentucky's football coaching search

Herald-Leader Sports ColumnistNovember 7, 2012 

Five myths about the UK football coaching search:

1. A truckload of money will get a big-name coach here.

The long-suffering Kentucky football fan is clamoring for the school to quit fooling around and reach for the stars. Load up a Brinks truck and hire a marquee name who provides instant credibility.

Here's the thing UK fans don't necessarily want to hear: This is not a good job.

It's not a good job right now, anyway. There is a 60-year history of nothing approaching sustained football success. There is no apparent recruiting base. There are plenty of legitimate questions about whether the school is providing the program the necessary monetary support.

As my colleague Mark Story pointed out: Joker Phillips is the ninth straight coach to leave UK with a losing record.

Maybe big bucks could persuade a big-name coach to accept the challenge, but that is a rare occurrence in college athletics. Coaches like money. They also like to win.

2. The new coach has to be an offensive-minded coach.

It could be an offensive-minded coach, but it doesn't have to be an offensive-minded coach. Many with backgrounds on the defensive side of the ball have been wildly successful as head coaches.

Look at the current BCS rankings. Nick Saban, who made his name as an NFL defensive coordinator, coaches No. 1-ranked Alabama and has three BCS titles in his trophy case. Ex-Texas defensive coordinator Will Muschamp has Florida at No. 7. Former Florida defensive coordinator Bob Stoops has Oklahoma at No. 12 and has a national title on his résumé.

Just look up I-64. Charlie Strong was a longtime defensive coordinator before Louisville AD Tom Jurich gave Strong his first head coaching job. In his third season, Strong's team is 9-0 and ranked No. 9 in the BCS.

Besides, when was the last time Kentucky had a dominant defense?

That would be 1977, the last year UK had a winning record in the SEC.

3. The new head coach must have previous head coaching experience.

Helpful, but not necessary. Two of the SEC's better recent hires prove the point.

Dan Mullen had never been a head coach before Mississippi State hired the former Florida offensive coordinator. Mullen is 28-19 in Starkville with two bowl wins to his credit. His current team is 7-2. He is 4-0 against UK.

James Franklin had never been a head coach before Vanderbilt hired the former Maryland offensive coordinator. Franklin is 11-11 in Nashville and has Vandy 3-3 in the SEC this season. He is 2-0 against Kentucky, by a combined count of 78-8.

4. The head coach has to energize the fan base.

Though media and fans care about this, it often ends up meaning little in the grand scheme of things, as two examples illustrate.

In 1990, C.M. Newton lured Alabama Coach Bill Curry to Lexington in what was considered a home run hire. Curry had a terrific background, was an eloquent speaker and had the fans believing UK could reach the next level.

Seven seasons later, his record 26-52, Curry was fired.

When North Carolina State hired Mark Gottfried as basketball coach two years ago, Athletic Director Debbie Yow spent most of the news conference defending what Wolfpack fans believed was an uninspired hire.

Now North Carolina State is No. 6 in the AP pre-season poll and the ACC favorite.

You know what energizes a fan base? Winning.

5. The actual coaching search matters.

The last time Mitch Barnhart hired a football coach, his search process was roundly criticized for being all over the place. It also ended up with Rich Brooks, a choice that turned out to be pretty darn good.

As my friend John Adams of the Knoxville News-Sentinel once wrote, "A coaching search only matters if you get the wrong guy."

John Clay: 859-231-3226. Email: jclay@herald-leader.com.Blog: johnclay.bloginky.com. Twitter: @johnclayiv.

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