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November 24, 2012

Barnhart declines to talk specifics about coaching search

Kentucky has not extended an offer to a candidate for its football coaching job since firing Joker Phillips on Nov. 4, athletics director Mitch Barnhart said on Saturday.

Barnhart, who hasn't spoken to the media since dismissing Phillips with two games to go in a 2-10 season, said he's working through the process of evaluating prospective candidates for the job.

"We'll work our way through that process and we'll let you know when it gets done," Barnhart said. "It's a good job. People are excited about the opportunity to coach in our league, coach at the University of Kentucky. We'll continue to work at that. That's sort of where we are. That's about the update."

He declined to discuss most specifics about the coaching search. He declined to name any specific candidates or reveal who was involved in the search. He didn't give a timeline for when he'd like to announce a hire, but said he would prefer it be sooner rather than later.

He also declined to discuss if there were certain qualities he'd be looking for in the Wildcats' next football coach.

"I'm not going to get into specifics, really," Barnhart said. "We've talked about it. You'll know it when you see it and you'll know it when you feel it. We've talked about fit and we'll work our way through that. There's no blueprint for these things. I've seen them work a lot of different ways and a lot of different places. Places that have a lot more tradition and places that have a lot less tradition. Mid-majors, big-time places. We're looking for the right fit and we'll continue to work our way through that."

Things have been different than the last time Barnhart had to look outside the program for a football coach. Since hiring Rich Brooks after the 2002 season, the outlook for the job has changed, Barnhart said.

"People have been responsive to talking about the job," he said. "It's much different. Last time we were on probation, looking at losing 19 scholarships and there weren't a lot of folks who thought it was a really great opportunity. Coach Brooks came in here and took it by the horns and fought through some difficult times."

The next coach will inherit a team with young talent that struggled during 2012 as the Wildcats went winless in the Southeastern Conference for the first time since 2000. Barnhart said the next coach's challenge will be to develop those young players and help them finish what Phillips and his staff started.

"There are obviously some things that we have to get better at and we all know that," Barnhart said. "That's why we're in this position. We do have some young players in this locker room who care about the program and have a chance to move it forward and we'll just continue to work through it."

Barnhart also thanked Phillips for the grace with which he handled his exit.

"Joker has been as classy as classy can be," Barnhart said. "He's an amazing guy, which hasn't changed at all. It's exactly what you'd expect. You'd expect our players to conduct themselves in a certain way and he's made an absolute example of how to do that. I respect him very much."

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