Kentucky coaching search update
Posted by: Pete Roussel on November 9, 2012
Athletic director Mitch Barnhart is only six days into his coaching search to find a new head football coach at the University of Kentucky.
Barnhart has stated that his search will be conducted internally. Certain athletic directors choose to hire a search firm to assist with the process, but evidently Barnhart will not follow that route.
While the coaching search is just beginning, don't be surprised if San Jose State head coach Mike MacIntyre, UL-Lafayette head coach Mark Hudspth, and Pittsburgh Steelers quarterbacks coach Randy Fichtner enter the mix.
Fichtner, who has two Super Bowl championships under his belt, had a ton of success as the offensive coordinator at Memphis at the same time John Calipari served as the Tigers' basketball coach.
Almost a year ago, Mike Tomlin and Fichtner spent a couple of days in Lexington with Joker Phillips and Cal. Not that Calipari would voice his support behind the scenes for anyone; he wouldn't push anyone, but it couldn't hurt Fichtner's chance to land an interview if Calipari briefly visited with Barnhart about their background.
Sources tell me that MacIntyre has a connection within some close to Barnhart in the athletic department. The third-year San Jose State head coach is 7-2 and still alive for the WAC championship. He's says it's because his players are enjoying practice. MacIntyre previously served as the defensive coordinator on David Cutcliffe's staff at Duke. He's has also coached with the Dallas Cowboys, NY Jets, and at Ole Miss under Cutcliffe.
Speaking of Cutcliffe, many people believe Barnhart may target Cut once again. He did so following the 2002 season, but Cutcliffe decided to remain at Ole Miss to coach Eli Manning during his senior season.
The entire 'health concern' issue with Cutcliffe is ridiculous if you ask me. Yes, he did have heart by-pass surgery which led him to resign as the quarterbacks coach under Charlie Weis at Notre Dame, but that was years ago. People have been talking about Cutcliffe's health since 1999. Just in the past month, he's stated that his health is phenomenal. It is not an issue.
With that being said, Cutcliffe just built a brand new house. He thoroughly enjoys coaching at Duke and unless he felt there is a total commitment in his eyes (and you can't fool him) like never before at Kentucky, he won't consider taking the job.
As mentioned several days ago, Cincinnati head coach Butch Jones and LSU defensive coordinator John Chavis could become targets.
While LA Tech head coach Sonny Dykes seems like he would fit well in Lexington, sources close to Dykes tell me they would be very surprised if Dykes pursues the Kentucky job.
People ask, "Is the Kentucky job a good job?"
It doesn't hurt that Joker stated publicly after being dismissed that his athletic director gave him everything he ever asked for.
But to be honest, it depends.
I've coached together with three different coaches that spent time at Kentucky in the last decade. All three coaches absolutely enjoyed their experience at UK in part because of the quality of life in Lexington.
At Kentucky, the pressure to win big is not as daunting as places like Auburn and LSU. If you win seven games, the UK fan base has seemed relatively at ease in the past.
More and more coaches have spoken publicly in the last five months about making sure you have fun while you're coaching. The demands of the profession are ruthless considering the time away from family. As much as you work, you better enjoy yourself.
One coach told me, "My wife enjoyed living in Lexington as much as anywhere we've ever lived."
You know, coaches' wives are important. And they are indeed involved in relocation decisions.
Of course, becoming a consistent upper-echelon SEC football team seems an almost impossible task. Some people don't want to hear that; some people want a guy who has enough audacity to think otherwise, which brings me to another possible candidate. UL-Lafayette head coach Mark Hudspeth clearly has that type of personality and mindset.
UL-Lafayette fans have enjoyed Hudsepth's approach and way in which he has rallied their fan base. A year ago, the Ragin Cajuns' flooded the city of New Orleans during bowl season.
Hudspeth has SEC experience, having coached at Mississippi State. He won as the head coach at North Alabama. Of course, it doesn't hurt that he has Mississippi State AD Scott Stricklin in his corner.
Stricklin and Kentucky AD Mitch Barnhart have worked together and have a terrific relationship.
In the end, is it a good job?
At the end of the day, if you have the right plan, you'll look up and say, "I've really enjoyed these last several years as the Kentucky head coach."
You may never win an SEC East championship, but you can enjoy life. You can enjoy the journey; you can enjoy the challenge. You can enjoy Lexington, Rupp Arena, the people in the Commonwealth. Along the way, you'll have some big wins, upset a #1 ranked LSU team, and probably own a horse.
At the least, you'll get tickets to the derby.
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