Kentucky fires Joker Phillips; welcome to silly season

Mitch Barnhart's serious about Kentucky football. So serious that the Wildcats' athletic director acted quickly and decisively Sunday in firing Joker Phillips -- in the ninth paragraph of an open letter to fans. Really.

It's almost as if Barnhart wanted to knock off his coach slowly with an intravenous drip rather than with a shovel to the head.

It's always good to slow-play a firing. Doesn't hurt anyone's feelings. Unless, of course, it looks silly. Barnhart didn't just bury the lead; he got a backhoe and dug a shallow grave just beyond a clearing back by the woods. Who was he trying to protect? Eight days ago, Phillips had been referred to as “Joke” Phillips on the flip card given to media at Missouri.

Now with Phillips' firing, we have officially entered that silly season of coaching changes. Perhaps a bit later than other years, but we're here.

Arkansas and Kentucky are first off the starting line. More will follow with the SEC being the center of activity. The world awaits a verdict on Gene Chizik at Auburn. Meanwhile, Barnhart and Arkansas counterpart Jeff Long are likely to get into slap fights at rental car counters around the country.

“No, I saw him first.”

John L. Smith and his 10-month contract are so gone that Long is talking openly about hiring a new coach by early December. And look who just became hotter than an administrative assistant on the back of motorcycle? Bobby Petrino has to be considered a candidate at Auburn, at least.

As the coaching carousel starts spinning, here are some Kentucky coaching candidates for Barnhart to include in his next open letter to fans …

Sonny Dykes, head coach, Louisiana Tech: Hottest coach with the least baggage. Kentucky reportedly won't consider Petrino.

Dirk Koetter, offensive coordinator, Atlanta Falcons: Apparently the former Arizona State coach still is interested in colleges. That's good news for a guy who is at the height of his NFL career calling plays for the streaking Falcons. Extensive college experience, good offensive mind.

Tim DeRuyter, head coach, Fresno State: The 49-year-old has the Bulldogs tied for the Mountain West lead in his first full season as a head coach. DeRuyter came to Fresno from Texas A&M, where he was defensive coordinator.

Ben McAdoo, quarterbacks coach, Green Bay Packers: Maybe a bit young at 35, but McAdoo is an up-and-comer. After six years as the Packers' tight ends coach, he is Aaron Rodgers' position coach this season.

Kliff Kingsbury, offensive coordinator, Texas A&M: The brains behind Johnny Manziel's breakout season.

Willie Taggart, head coach, Western Kentucky: Let's hope Barnhart doesn't look down his nose at the innovative Taggart. Kentucky hiring in-state Western's head coach? It could do a lot worse.

 
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