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Joker Phillips fired: Sonny Dykes, Dirk Koetter among reported candidates

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Kentucky's gotten a head start on its search for its next football coach after announcing the impending exit of Joker Phillips. Who's next?

For more on Cats football, visit Kentucky blog A Sea Of Blue, plus SEC blog Team Speed Kills.


Joker Phillips is out as the head coach of the Kentucky Wildcats after his third losing season in three years. Phillips has been with the Cats since 2003, advancing from receivers coach to offensive coordinator to Rich Brooks' coach-in-waiting to the top gig in 2010. He went 6-7 in his first year, then fielded a 5-7 squad that broke the school record five-year bowl streak.

It had to happen || Joker's contract buyout || The case for firing Phillips

2012 offered very, very few signs of hope for the future, as one of the SEC's worst teams lost more games, one of them to the Sun Belt's Western Kentucky and another to Louisville, which has definitively claimed the title of the state's best football team and program. That UK had to deny just four games into the season a rumor that Phillips had resigned was not a good sign.

Speaking of WKU, Willie Taggart's name will surely emerge as a potential replacement. I recommend Willie Taggart for like every job, but to retool one of his players' description of UK, he's supposed to be SEC. Taggart coached under Jim Harbaugh at Stanford and has used an offense heavy on motions and power to compete (from 2-10 to 7-5, currently 6-3) despite having some of the country's thinnest resources.

Pat Forde has a list of reported candidates, including two former Boise State coaches, one whose NFL team is unbeaten at the moment:

Sources tell Yahoo! Sports that the candidate list includes Louisiana Tech coach Sonny Dykes and Atlanta Falcons offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter, plus several college offensive coordinators. Among those believed to be interested in the job are Florida's Brent Pease and Texas Tech's Neal Brown, both of whom have ties to UK - Pease as a former assistant and Brown as a player.

Our own Team Speed Kills adds Texas A&M offensive coordinator Kliff Kingsbury and Arkansas State coach Gus Malzahn to the list of potential options.

You'll also hear about Tommy Tuberville making his triumphant return to the conference, though I'm not so sure he has a better chance to win at Kentucky than he does at Texas Tech. Bobby Petrino's name will also be mentioned, though Forde says he's not a candidate. Petrino definitively has a better chance to win at Kentucky than he does at whatever he's doing right now, though.

During Phillips' time as the head man in Lexington, John Calipari's basketball team has made three Sweet Sixteens and won a national title -- Phillips used UK's omnipresent hoops program as a recruiting tool, but he's become yet another who was unable to sustain lasting football success at the SEC's basketball school.

Before coming aboard at his alma mater, Phillips bounced (not a basketball pun) around the country as a position coach, with stops at Cincinnati, Minnesota, Notre Dame and South Carolina.

For more on Cats football, visit Kentucky blog A Sea Of Blue, plus SEC blog Team Speed Kills.

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