The University of Kentucky’s football team will elevate one of its own after head coach Rich Brooks announced his retirement Monday. Offensive head coach Joseph “Joker” Phillips — designated the head coach in waiting in January 2008 — will succeed Brooks, who ends his seven-year tenure at the Lexington, Ky.-based institution with a 39-47 record.
Phillips starred at wide receiver for the Wildcats from 1981 to 1984. The Franklin, Ky., native ranks fifth on the school’s career receiving list with 75 catches for 935 yards and nine touchdowns. He played a combined three professional seasons for the Washington Redskins (1985, 1987) and the Toronto Argonauts (1986) of the Canadian Football League. Phillips initially returned to his alma mater as an assistant coach in 1988 and was there until 1996.
After coaching at four other universities between 1997 and 2002, Phillips returned to Kentucky as a wide receivers coach and recruiting coordinator in 2003. He was promoted to offensive coordinator in 2005 and offensive head coach in 2009.
Phillips will be the first African-American head football coach at Kentucky and the second African-American head football coach in the Southeastern Conference (SEC). During the SEC’s 75-year history, Sylvester Croom became the first African-American head football coach, presiding at Mississippi State from 2004 to 2008. The SEC has won five Bowl Championship Series national championships since 1998.