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November 3, 2012

Phillips, others comment on job status after UK loss

After Kentucky's 40-0 loss to Vanderbilt Saturday at Commonwealth Stadium, most of the postgame chatter centered on UK head coach Joker Phillips and his job status.

Mitch Barnhart, Kentucky's athletics director, was not available for comment, but here is a sampling of what some key figures had to say about the issue.

Joker Phillips, Kentucky head coach
On where his team stands - and where he stands - after the loss:
"There are some hurt young men in there right now. No doubt about that. They are definitely not proud of the way they've performed today. I shouldn't say they; I should say the way we performed. It was not a very good performance by us. What's kind of hurtful is how we played two weeks ago, and we haven't gotten to that level the last couple weeks.

"Where I'm at? I get it. I get this business. I get the criticism. Nobody in this program wants this place to have success more than me, but I understand. I understand this is a business that is based on results, and we haven't gotten the results right now."

On making it hard for athletic director Mitch Barnhart to retain him:
"Yeah, we are. No doubt about that. We're making it real tough for him. Again, I think it's a young football team. This place has won, and I've been a part of it. You look at it, and it's been some upperclassmen. We're depleted up top in our upper two classes. The last four years we've lost 49 percent of our signing class in the last four years. We have 88 percent of our last two classes that are a huge part of this program.

"Kentucky's going to win when you have veterans at the top. When you're doing it the other way, it's going to take a little bit longer. It's going to take a little bit longer. But it's just hard. I understand how hard it is to fight through what we're seeing today."

On if he believes he deserves another year:
"That's not for me to decide, but we've tried to do this thing the right way. We've got to come up with ways of keeping our kids in our program. We've put together some things that allowed us to do that. There's a lot that's helped us to do that.

"Again, we have a lot of young kids in this program, but that's not for me to decide. The other thing, our last 12 (SEC) games, we've played a true freshmen at quarterback. There's no excuse. These are facts. I'm not making excuses. I'm giving you facts. Playing a true freshman or wide receiver at quarterback other than the Florida game where Morgan went in and played the start of that game."

On wanting to be back:
"I'd love to. No doubt I would love to. It's not for me to decide. I understand Mitch's position and the things that go into it. We've got some good young kids here that are hurting worse than any guy that is associated with this program. I'm talking about fans also. Those kids are hurting. They're hurting badly by the way we performed today."

On if he has any reason to think Barnhart's stated timetable of evaluating the program after the season will change:
"No, I don't. But here's the thing: If there was a decision either way, I would think it would be important for me or Mitch to come out and make a decision, either way - (it would) help either way. Help get another guy or help us in recruiting. So we have not talked. Again, it will be evaluated at the end of the season, like you said. That's all I know about it."

On what his gut tells him about his status:
"My gut was that we'd win this game today, OK? That's where my gut was. You can't go on your gut."

Rick Minter, UK defensive coordinator
On Phillips' status:
"Our best friends are in that office over there. Just like our players, we say crowd out the noise. Because we try not to sit around and worry about things that we really don't have control over. If we sit around one day and talk about, 'what if they do this, what if they do that,' then we're not getting ready for the next game, we're not doing our kids a favor.

"You learn things the most through tough times. And I've been through exactly what coach Phillips is going through. And there was a time when it came to an end for me. I know and I feel what he's going through. Because he bears the weight of this program on his shoulders. He's certainly responsible. But he bears the weight. He wants to be the guy.

"That's where you hurt for him because you feel like as a team and a staff we let him down. We let him down. He feels like he failed us? No, we feel like we failed him. Coaches and players. He's our guy. We're playing for UK and BBN, we're playing for Joker Phillips. Because he's the head of this program, he's the guy we care for and love a lot."

Randy Sanders, Kentucky offensive coordinator
On Phillips' job status:
"We've been coaching long enough to know how it works. But still, our focus is these 18-, 19-, 20-year-old guys we've got, coaching them up, doing the best we can that way, and whatever happens happens."

Ashely Lowery, Kentucky safety
On Phillips' postgame message:
"He just told us he hasn't given up, keep fighting. We're going to fight for him and try to send the seniors out right with two wins."

On Phillips' job status:
"We don't have any control over that. All we can do is prepare and fight and do what they tell us or do what they ask each day. Everything else will come."

Jalen Whitlow, Kentucky quarterback
On Phillips' status:
"We ignore that. We can't control that. We just go out there and play football. We hear it, but we block it out. It goes in one ear and out the other. We just do what we can do."

Patrick Towles, Kentucky quarterback
On what the uncertainty about Phillips means:
"You've just got to take it day to day. As players, we really have no control over what goes on at the top of the hierarchy, but we have to take what we've got. We're going to do all we can to win with Coach Phillips, because he's our head coach now and we all came here to play for him. We all didn't anticipate that we would lose this many games, but we have to continue to prepare and continue to play hard and put some positive stuff on the scoreboard."

Avery Williamson, Kentucky linebacker
On Phillips' job status:
"I don't really like talking about it too much. I don't know what's going to happen. I just brush it off and worry about the game and worry about playing."

James Frankin, Vanderbilt head coach
"My focus is on Vanderbilt. I have a tremendous respect for Joker, I have tremendous respect for the athletic director here at Kentucky. My opinions and focus is on Vanderbilt, the black and gold and what we represent for our university and our great city of Nashville."

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