Coming off of successful seasons prior to Phillips taking over as head coach, there were high expectations for the future of the Wildcat program. Phillips has elevated Kentucky's recruiting the last few seasons. With the infusion of new talent to the program, Kentucky seemed poised to begin its trip to the middle tier of the SEC.
Unfortunately Kentucky has faltered during Joker's first two years on the job. They reached the BBVA Compass Bowl in Birmingham during his first season, where they lost to Pittsburgh and finished 6-7. Last season, they slipped further, finishing 5-7 with no bowl.
The low point of the Phillips era may be the loss to Pittsburgh in the BBVA Compass Bowl. The Panthers had no head coach and were a program in shambles at the time, but they had virtually no problem defeating the Wildcats that day.
Coming off that loss, Kentucky also lost to archrival Louisville last season in a close game that seemed to tip the scales of in-state recruiting back to Charlie Strong's Cardinals.
Beatings at the hands of an average Florida team and excellent LSU and South Carolina teams punctuated the problems that Kentucky's fans have been groaning about over the last couple of years. It appears that the team comes out flat and is rarely ready to play at The Opening whistle.
With the talent on hand, the expectation is that Kentucky needs to close the gap on the middle of the conference. But Joker's regime hasn't been able to do that on the field. And because Phillips is considered a continuation of Rich Brooks's staff, the learning curve isn't quite as friendly.
Kentucky fans have expressed their displeasure by not attending games as they had in previous seasons. They have been vocal about personnel decisions. And they have been very skeptical about anything positive reported about the team over the last two years.
Expressing this displeasure is a right of any fan and it's obvious that the program has some work to do to earn back the trust of their loyal fan base. But fans have to be careful not to allow their frustration with the coaching staff and administration to spill over to the players.
Each year, the players talk about their expectations. They talk about their goals. They see it as a new start, a blank canvas, a reset button – if you will.
Social media has given fans an opportunity to interact with players and see their thoughts in real-time.
While these young men may be confident in their abilities, constant negative responses to their enthusiasm and hope does nothing positive for the football program that the Wildcat fans love. It only hurts.
It also doesn't help the recruiting aspect as many prospects site the fans of the school they choose as a factor in where they go. Recruits don't want to be bombarded with belittling comments from the fans of the schools recruiting them.
Ultimately, Wildcat fans need to direct their discontentment at the people in charge. Maybe they'll get what they want, maybe they won't. What won't get them what they want is attacking the young men who proudly wear Kentucky blue, win or lose.
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