As I'm sure many of you noticed, I basically quit posting at about the ninth week of the season, with little more than SEC bowl related posts through the end of the year. There are were several reasons for this; increased use of Twitter/Facebook to post shorter updates, plans to close the site down after the season anyway and a general lack of hits and links. But the most compelling reason is that I've lost faith in the staff and the administration and their ability to give us a product worth writing about in the short and long term. This year's team was incredibly frustrating to watch. The problems I observe seem to be systematic rather than simply relating to individual players.
This weekend didn't do anything to make me feel better. As everyone reading this now knows, fifth year senior Mike Hartline pissed the last game of his career away in a fit of drunken belligerence. Joker's swift justice would indicate that he lent some credence to the allegations involving violence. I feel terrible for Hartline, whose star crossed career deserves its own post. Right now however, I feel worse for Joker, who is losing his grip on the reins of the Wildcat sled.
This week Joker let two assistants go and announced that he'd be bringing in a co-defensive coordinator to work alongside Steve Brown. The latter sounded like a way of pushing Brown out the door politely. I certainly hope so. If UK really told candidates it wanted someone to work alongside someone whose unit completely failed this year, they cut themselves off right at the knees.
Saturday hit, and word came via Twitter that Rick Minter and Steve Pardue (we'll get to them in a minute) were at practice in UK gear. We had apparently filled our two vacancies. At the same time Chip Cosby, Matt May and Brett Dawson were tweeting about the Minter/Pardue sightings, Larry Vaught (who was not at practice) was reporting that recently fired but highly respected former Miami Head Coach would come to UK as the DC. Though Shannon was reportedly contacted early in the week, it sounded to me like fan base appeasement. Truth is, Shannon was likely to land on his feet with a near million dollar gig and clearly UK isn't going to pay that for a coordinator. That this was actually going to happen was huge, and a sign that Joker had more juice than perhaps we realized.
This being Kentucky, Vaught later tweeted that his sources were wrong and that Minter (who is currently the linebacker's coach at Indiana State) would indeed become the DC. This news was bad enough, but it was only the tip of the bitter cold iceberg.
Urban Favre's mid-week decision to quit at Florida for the second year in a row provided good theatre for Cats fans. I was thrilled to have that evil bastard out of the SEC East, don't get me wrong. But I was giddy about the prospect Meyer would be replaced by the coach of one of UK perennial opponents. Louisville's Charlie Strong seemed like a possibility. Mississippi State's Dan Mullen, however, seemed like the logical choice. Louavull and MSU aren't just perennial opponents, they are swing opponents. Along with Vanderbilt (we'll get to them in a minute) and South Carolina, they form the set of schools we need to beat consistently if we ever want to get to "the next level". I'd love for Mississippi State or Louisville to lose their coach and have to start over.
On Saturday, the Gators got their man in Texas Defensive Coordinator and former Coach-in-waiting Will Muschamp. Many are questioning the hire. Not me. Muschamp is young, incredibly passionate and has an impeccable coaching pedigree. He is likely to bring in Major Applewhite as his OC. They'll outwork everyone on the field, own every living room and Florida will continue to be Florida. Mullen and Strong, evidently, will stay put. I'd guess that Mullen was induced to stay by more money and promises from MSU to continue to invest in their program. Not good news for the Cats, whose administration would not have done the same thing if Joker had been the hot commodity. Maybe I'm wrong about that, but we don't know because no one has tried to steal UK's Head Coach for a better job since Christ was a corporal.
Remember now, this all went down in one day. Rumor has it now that Shannon will replace Muschamp as the DC at Texas. Whether that happens remains to be seen. Right now all I see is speculation. But here is some more speculation. It is entirely possible that Shannon was ready to come to Kentucky as its coordinator but backed out when it became clear that Texas had the same vacancy. One could hardly blame Shannon, it is a much better job. Still, the thought that it might have gone down that way stings. How much better off would we be if Mullen bolted Mississippi State for Florida, and we had a DC who could recruit Florida like almost nobody else in college football?
Today added further insult to injury as some outlets are reporting that Vandy has hired Auburn Offensive Coordinator Gus Malzahn as its head guy (reports conflict as some say it isn't a done deal). I'm not as worried about Malzahn as I am what his hire represents. (After all, coaching genius and having Cam Newton running your offense can be easily confused). Vandy supposedly broke the bank and will pay Gus $3million per. If it is willing to pay that, and Malzahn is willing to come, it obviously intends to upgrade its program substantially. Keep in mind this is high tier SEC money, almost twice Joker's salary. Today ESPN's David Pollock observed via Twitter that while Malzahn will "succeed", success at Vandy is 2-3 SEC wins a year and a bowl trip. Great point. Here is another one: if Vandy can consistently win 2-3 SEC games a year, many of those wins are going to be against you know who.
All of which leads me to one conclusion. While the rest of the SEC is moving forward, we are standing still, at best. Rick Minter was indeed the linebacker coach at Indiana State this year. In fairness, has has also been a defensive coordinator at Notre Dame and South Carolina, as well as the head guy at Cincinnati for several years. He is I'm sure a fine coach. He is also a retread who is being rescued from the downside of a career. I know nothing about Pardue, other than that he was the head coach of UK feeder high school LaGrange (Ga.) for a number of years. He was probably due this shot with us.
Perhaps I'm making too big a deal out of a series of things that were almost completely outside of UK's control. But the truth is that this weekend leaves me feeling the way I often feel about UK Football. Even though we seem only inches away at times, they are inches we are destined never to get.
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