Barnhart tells group UK football ‘not where we want it to be just yet’

At a speaking engagement in Louisville on Tuesday, Kentucky Athletics Director Mitch Barnhart made his first public comments on the state of the football program in weeks.

While speaking to the City Salesman’s Club, Barnhart said UK has some things to figure out with football, which is “not where we want it to be just yet.”

Barnhart’s address was captured and reported on first by Kentucky Sports Television on CN2.

“We made some progress and climbed up the hill a little bit and were doing some good things in a really tough league but we’ve found that we’ve stubbed our toes a little bit,” Barnhart said. “We’ve got to figure that out and we’ll get that figured out.”

He also talked about his relationship with head coach Joker Phillips, whose job status has been the source of much speculation with UK’s 1-8 start and winless Southeastern Conference record this season. Kentucky has lost seven straight games and will face Vanderbilt on Saturday at Commonwealth Stadium.

On Phillips, Barnhart said: “Joker is one of my dearest friends. I think the world of him. We’ve been together nine years in some way, shape or form as an assistant coach, coordinator and now as a head coach.  … I think the world of him as a man and as a coach and as a leader of our young men and what he’s done. We just have to figure out the football piece and how we get that going in the right direction.”

Through a Kentucky spokesman, Barnhart has denied several media requests to discuss the future of the football program.

The athletic director said he will evaluate the program at the end of the season, as he does all UK programs.

About Jennifer Smith

Jen Smith has been a sports writer at the Herald-Leader since 2000, covering everything from high school sports to auto racing to various University of Kentucky sports. A native of Louisville and a graduate of the University of Kentucky (much to the dismay of her Louisville graduate mother and Indiana graduate father), Jen now resides in downtown Lexington with her husband and two young sons. You can follow her on Twitter @jenheraldleader or send her an email at
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12 Responses to Barnhart tells group UK football ‘not where we want it to be just yet’

  1. Taylor Graham says:

    Sounds like a few more years of the JOKE!!!

  2. ripsnortinroy says:

    it’s not that U K’s AD admitted something was wrong with U K football; it’s that it took so long for someone at this school to actually say it openly.
    in other word’s “Gee, Mitchell, when did you come to that conclusion?!?”

  3. 1981 grad says:

    Barnhart tells group UK football ‘not where we want it to be just yet’
    I’m glad to hear that.

  4. kurofmi says:

    I would like to take exception to that. It seems to me that UK Football is EXACTLY where Mitch wants it. Mitch is the architect and his minion is the Construction Manager. When a building has design flaws, foundation issues and poor construction management the inevitable happens. Regardless of the men in the trenches efforts. It really isn’t rocket surgery. The Socratic Law of Causality plainly states that we get (got) what we deserve(d). Thanks Mitch. (AIA). But you needn’t apologize for the plan that you conceived & executed. Frankly I understand your trepidation for firing Joker….you threw the keys to the Cadillac to a kid who’s only real-world experience was Driver’s Ed. It probably is difficult to pull the trigger on that move.

  5. Jock says:

    Business 101: don’t hire ’em if u aren’t willing to fire ’em!
    Business 102: UK Pres should tell Mitch he has to fire Joker, Mitch will quit and UK will get rid of two for the price of one!

  6. John Hardin says:

    How long did it take for him to figure that one out? As long as Joker is the coach it will never be anything and Barnhart all but said Joker will be back so look for lots of empty seats next year.

  7. glen porter says:

    I’m tired of hearing about how close Joker and Mitch are. Their personal relationship is irrelevant to the proper evaluation of Joker’s job performance as head coach, which has been poor. If Mitch can’t do what is required relative to Joker, then he needs to go out the door with Joker.

  8. Tom says:

    Mitch, I figure another ten million to minor sports ought to get football back on track.
    Isn’t that the plan?


    Not where we need to be just yet?!!!!!!
    That’s like Pol Pot saying “We still have some room for human rights improvement.”

  10. The biggest issue the football program faces is not who the next coach might be, but what are we going to do to get UK football to the level of its competition regarding facilities and things like that. I don’t believe Mitch is going to pull the rug out from under what football program has been established here. There is still a lot of young talent on the team that will succeed once they gain experience.

    With just a win over Samford, Jokers’ 3 year record is going to be 13-24. That is 4 more wins than Curry’s last 3 years and just 5 wins less than Mumme’s 3 years. And with a healthier team this year (or QB), this team wouldve been able to add 2-3 more wins to their final total. That HAS to be considered when making this decision.

    In the end I believe Mitch will keep Joker and let him continue building this program back to the way it was in ’07.

  11. YOUNG says:


  12. ripsnortinroy says:

    Losing football games has been a tradition at the University of Kentucky. We have come to expect it. The teams have even been quite creative when finding ways to lose; giving up touchdown passes with less than 10 seconds, for example. Florida and LSU know what we mean.
    Even when U K is supposed to win, we can find novel ways to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. I seem to recall a game against South Carolina. This was when Steve Spurrier was still sort of new there. U K had a lead and was knocking on the door just before half when a hand-off was fumbled by U K’s offense. The Gamecock’s dee scooped up the ball and ran the thing 98 yards the other way for a TD.
    That shock proved too much for the Cats and they lost it.
    Oh, and no winning coach has ever been tolerated here, either (cough, curse of the Bear). So pay no attention to the AD; if we’d wanted a winning team, we’d have had one by now; we’ve had over 120 to produce one, after all.