LEXINGTON, Ky. (AP) -- Kentucky has fired football coach Joker Phillips, a day after an embarrassing loss to Vanderbilt.
The Wildcats lost their eighth straight game on Saturday, a 40-0 home loss to Vanderbilt. It was their worst loss to the Commodores in 96 years.
In a statement issued Sunday, Kentucky Coach Joker Phillips said:
"We, as coaches, are measured on results. We didn’t get the results we had worked and hoped for, therefore change is needed. In my current 10-year stay at Kentucky, we’ve had some memorable moments as an assistant, coordinator and head coach. We’ve had the opportunity to coach some fine young men and I am grateful to have had the privilege of watching them grow as players, as students and as people.
"I am very appreciative of Mitch Barnhart and Rich Brooks for providing the opportunity to have been the head coach here. Mitch is the best athletic director I’ve ever been associated with. He’s fair and honest and he’s “all in” in terms of student-athletes’ well-being. Rich is the best mentor a young coach could ever have. I learned a lot from him in terms of plowing ahead. They are dear friends. Dr. Lee Todd and Dr. Eli Capilouto have both been very supportive. I appreciate the Big Blue Nation and encourage the fans to stay behind their team going forward."
"I love our players and am proud to be associated with them. I expect them to continue the behavior we have asked of them academically, socially and with football. I’m thankful for the staff’s hard work, dedication, and what they have done in coaching and mentoring the players. I’d like to thank my wife and family for all their support and for being behind me 100 percent."
The 49-year-old Phillips is 12-23 overall in three seasons at Kentucky. He will finish this season.
The Wildcats (1-9, 0-7 Southeastern Conference) went to a bowl game two years ago but have gotten worse each season since. Kentucky is off this week, and then closes the season with games against Samford and Tennessee.
In an open letter to the Big Blue Nation on Sunday afternoon, University of Kentucky Athletics Director Mitch Barnhart announced that the search for a new head coach will begin immediately.
"After much conversation, evaluation and prayer, I have determined that it is in the best interest of our athletics program to make a change in our football coaching staff at the conclusion of the season. I do so with a heavy heart for a man who has served his alma mater for almost 22 years as a player and a coach. Joker Phillips has carried the banner for the Blue and White with honor and pride. I have enjoyed working alongside him and am thankful for his friendship for the last decade. His concern for the entire program, his work and teaching of young people, his humanitarian work, and the friendship we all enjoy with him will long surpass the scoreboard. I want to thank him for all of those things on behalf of Kentucky.
The search for a new head coach will begin immediately and will be managed internally. I understand the challenge and significance of finding a new leader for our football program. It will be done with great concern for our student-athletes, students of the University of Kentucky, the Big Blue Nation and the citizens of the Commonwealth. Kentucky Football needs to be and will be a championship contender in the SEC."