Exactly two weeks after Joker Phillips was fired by Kentucky last November, a Cincinnati Bearcats-oriented website said that UK had offered its head coaching position to then-UC Coach Butch Jones.
Kentucky officials denied it, but in the murky world of major-college coaching searches, it seems possible Jones could be the Kentucky coach right now if he had wanted to be.
This Saturday evening, Jones will be in Lexington but fronting the Tennessee Volunteers as the Rocky Toppers seek to snap their one-game losing streak in contests played in Commonwealth Stadium.
With first-year Kentucky head man Mark Stoops set to face a coach whose name was so prominently associated with the UK opening last year, it seems an appropriate time to check in on how the coaches who were most linked with the Wildcats vacancy have fared in 2013.
Gary AndersenWhat got him in Kentucky rumor mill in 2012: Built traditional also-ran Utah State into an 11-2 team.
What he’s done since he didn’t come to Kentucky: After Bret Bielema’s surprise exit at Wisconsin, Andersen took over a program that had played in three straight Rose Bowls. This season may not yield another trip to Pasadena, but Andersen’s first year has the Badgers at 9-2. The only defeats were by two at Arizona State (where UW was hosed by horrible end-of-game officiating) and by seven at Ohio State.
Sonny DykesWhat got him in Kentucky rumor mill in 2012: The Mumme-era UK graduate assistant built an offensive juggernaut as Louisiana Tech head man, averaging 51.5 points a game while going 9-3 in 2012.
What he’s done since he didn’t come to Kentucky: Dykes and former UK assistant Tony Franklin took their version of the Air Raid to California. In year one, Dykes and the Golden Bears have endured a brutal season. Decimated by injuries on defense, Cal finished 1-11 and lost by 63-13 (Stanford), 62-28 (USC) and 55-16 (Oregon).
The good news is that, unlike what has happened this season at UK, Dykes and Franklin appear to have found a quarterback to build around. True freshman Jared Goff threw for 3,508 yards with 18 touchdowns.
Phillip FulmerWhat got him in Kentucky rumor mill in 2012: National championship-winning former Tennessee coach was a co-worker of UK AD Mitch Barnhart when both were employed in the UT athletics department.
What he’s done since he didn’t come to Kentucky: Has a $166,965 a year consulting job at East Tennessee State, which is relaunching its dormant football program in 2015.
Mike MacIntyreWhat got him in Kentucky rumor mill in 2012: The son of former Vanderbilt Coach George MacIntyre built historically football-challenged San Jose State into an 11-2 team.
What he’s done since he didn’t come to Kentucky: Became head man at Colorado after the Buffaloes let Jon Embree and his 4-21 record go after two years.
Going into their 2013 season finale at Utah, the Buffs are 4-7 and the consensus is that MacIntyre has gotten them to play with far more vigor.
Bobby PetrinoWhat got him in Kentucky rumor mill in 2012: Prior work experience in the commonwealth (41-9 at Louisville from 2003-06) and being unemployed after a sex scandal led Arkansas to firing him.
What he’s done since he didn’t come to Kentucky: Inherited a Western Kentucky team that went 7-5 in the 2012 regular season and led it to a 7-4 record (with Arkansas State left to be played). Lest we forget, Petrino pinned a 35-26 loss on UK and Stoops to open this season.
Willie TaggartWhat got him in Kentucky rumor mill in 2012: Leading WKU to its first bowl berth as an FBS member and beating UK in Commonwealth Stadium.
What he’s done since he didn’t come to Kentucky: Suffered through a miserable first season as South Florida head man. The Bulls (2-8) have produced a stunning five games so far this season in which they failed to score an offensive touchdown.
Tommy TubervilleWhat got him in Kentucky rumor mill in 2012: Prior SEC head coaching stints (Mississippi, Auburn) and perception he was desperate to leave Texas Tech.
What he’s done since he didn’t come to Kentucky: Inherited the 10-3 Cincinnati team that Butch Jones left behind and guided the Bearcats to a 9-2 mark (pending the Dec. 5 season finale with Louisville). That 9-2 is less than it appears. UC’s losses are to Illinois (4-7) and USF. Its best win is over Houston.
Butch JonesWhat got him in Kentucky rumor mill in 2012: The disintegration of the old Big East, which left Cincinnati outside of a major conference. The perception that, at $1.575 million a year, Jones was “underpaid” at UC.
What he’s done since he didn’t come to Kentucky: Like Stoops at UK, the new UT head man has energized a frustrated fan base with high-level recruiting. Like Stoops, Jones got his first Vols team (4-7, 1-6 SEC) to play with passion before its season sagged beneath a rugged schedule.
Unlike Stoops, Jones has produced a signature victory in 2013, a 23-21 upset of then-No. 11 South Carolina.
For Stoops and UK (2-9, 0-7 SEC), a win Saturday night over a coach who may have spurned the Kentucky job and over a team UK fans yearn to beat would pass for a milestone win.