Thanks to Kentucky’s Open Records Act, the Louisville Courier-Journal has obtained more than 250 emails sent last fall regarding the football program at Kentucky. The emails sent to A.D. Mitch Barnhart reveal that several people wanted Bobby Petrino to replace Joker Phillips in Lexington.
According to the paper, Barnhart received more than 60 emails about Petrino with the vast majority of them supporting the hire. About a dozen opposed the move. Here’s one mail from a Petrino supporter:
“I am praying night and day that you hire Bobby Petrino. He has made mistakes in the past, but who hasn’t? The Bible says that we are ALL sinners in need of forgiveness. … We are not trying to hire a minister or a social worker. We are hiring a FOOTBALL COACH. … PLEASE Mitch. Be our hero!”
The first email supporting the hire of Mark Stoops showed up in Barnhart’s inbox in October – weeks before Phillips was fired. A 13-year old fan was the first of two emails backing Stoops.
“I have been to 78 straight UK home games,” wrote the teen, whose name and contact information were redacted by the school. “Please don’t right (sic) me off, I know my stuff.”
Former Kentucky governor John Y. Brown Jr. also got in the act, originally supporting former North Carolina coach Butch Davis. In one email, he even went so far as to attach Davis’ coaching credentials and references.
“Your selection is a great opportunity to have a new start after nine straight losing coaches and fifty years of losing. You got a chance to be a hero again so go get the best and give our fans something to be proud of.”
Brown sent another email to UK Board of Trustees Chairman Britt Brockman who forwarded the message to the university president.
“No disrespect to coach (former UK coach Rich) Brooks. He brought a lot of pride to the program, but second-class bowls are not the agenda for my school. … Confidence and attitude and self-esteem are so important for a state, and sports has a lot to do with that. You see what Calipari has done with basketball. It’s just lifted the whole state.
“I think having a great role model as coach and a winning program has more effect than who the governor is.”
Later, Brown appeared to back off his support for Davis, saying the coach’s troubles at North Carolina were “more serious than I was aware.”
A list of minority candidates suggested to Barnhart by the Black Coaches and Administrators included former Oakland Raiders coach Hue Jackson, former Indianapolis Colts head coach Jim Caldwell and former Western Kentucky coach Willie Taggert.
Barnhart replied to few of the emails sent his way but one name that did catch his eye was former Texas A&M offensive coordinator Kliff Kingsbury, who’s now the head coach at Texas Tech. It’s clear that Barnhart liked what he read.
“Impressive. Just getting started. Your letter gives me some insight into Kliff. May reach out to you to get a number for him.”
The emails cover the period from October 1 through mid-November. Kentucky made the hire of Mark Stoops official on November 27th.