Joker Phillips accepts position at Florida

jsmith3@herald-leader.comDecember 3, 2012 

Kentucky Coach Joker Phillips jogged onto the field with his players as Kentucky played Tennessee in its last game of the season. When searching for his replacement, Athletic Director Mitch Barnhart said character matters.

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It was a lasting image: ousted coach Joker Phillips being carried off the Commonwealth Stadium field on the shoulders of his players.

But it turns out it won't be the last image of him at the stadium where he both played and coached. He'll be back, but on the other sideline Sept. 28.

The former UK coach will even be wearing blue, but it will be paired with orange as Phillips was announced Monday as Florida's new wide receivers coach and recruiting coordinator.

A day after Kentucky presented its new coach, Mark Stoops, from Florida State, its old coach's hire was announced on the Gators' official athletics website. Phillips, 49, confirmed his new job via text message, and he will start working at Florida officially on Friday. Florida faces Louisville on Jan. 2 in the Sugar Bowl.

"We are excited to have Joker join our staff," Florida Coach Will Muschamp said. "His background as a head coach and the number of years he has coached wide receivers will be a tremendous asset to our coaching staff and players. Joker is obviously very familiar with the Southeastern Conference and has always done a great job in recruiting."

Phillips, who will still receive a reported $2.5 million buyout from UK as a part of his contract, said in the release that he was "thrilled to become part of the Gator family.

"I'm looking forward to the opportunity to compete and win at the highest level. I believe in Coach Muschamp's philosophy and what he has done in his short time here at Florida is phenomenal."

New, gainful employment doesn't eliminate or change his final buyout total in any way, according to his contract with the university, which runs through Dec. 31, 2014.

Phillips has had success as a wide receivers coach, coaching the position at UK on two separate occasions as well as at Cincinnati, Minnesota, Notre Dame and South Carolina.

At Kentucky, the former wide receiver coached some of the Cats' biggest names in Keenan Burton, Stevie Johnson, Dicky Lyons and Derek Abney.

While at South Carolina in 2002, Phillips coached Troy Williamson, who went on to become the No. 7 pick in the 2005 NFL Draft. At Minnesota and Notre Dame, he coached receivers that went on to play in the NFL.

After he was fired from Kentucky after going 13-24 in three seasons as head coach, Phillips indicated that he would take some time to explore his options.

"I think it's healthier to let the jets cool off, and that's what we'll do," he said three days after his dismissal. "We'll take some time, relax, try not to jump into anything too quick."

That relaxation period lasted one day short of a month.

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