Record-breaking crowd greets UK coach at luncheon

Kentucky head coach Joker Phillips addresses reporters during SEC Media Days last month. Phillips, who is in his first year as UK’s coach, is among the growing ranks of black FBS head coaches.

LEXINGTON, Ky. – University of Kentucky football head coach Joker Phillips entertained a record-breaking crowd of alumni and fans with his thoughts on the upcoming season, along with amusing stories from his first year as head coach of the Wildcats, at the Jefferson County UK Alumni Luncheon in Louisville on Wednesday.

“We want to have a huge presence here in the city of Louisville,” Phillips said. “For us to have a chance to come here and do a luncheon with the Louisville alumni is big for us. We have over 15 players from the city of Louisville and therefore we feel we are making a pretty good presence here.”

Phillips addressed the crowd of more than 800 at the Kentucky International Convention Center, reportedly the largest attendance ever for the event. The head coach spoke mostly about his “Operation: Win” initiative to win in the classroom, win in the community and win on the field.

The UK alum told his fellow alumni the improvements the team has made in the classroom, raising the team GPA. Phillips also talked about the several community service projects team has done, most recently helping the Eastern Kentucky flood victims through the Christian Appalachian Project. Finally, Phillips said they want to win on the field and not only win games but win championships.

“We are trying to sell our plan of ‘Operation: Win’ and let everybody know what has been going on since January, 6, when we took over this program,” said Phillips who met with the media before the luncheon. “We know the excitement is building out in the community but I want everybody to know that the excitement is building on our football team also.”

Phillips did break some news, naming several freshmen and a pair of junior-college transfers that he thinks will see playing time if, he said, “the season started today.” The list included freshman linebackers Jewell Ratliff and Avery Williamson, freshman kicker Joe Mansour, junior-college safeties Mychal Bailey and Josh Gibbs, freshman tight end Tyler Robinson, freshman defensive tackle Donte Rumph, freshman defensive end Nermin Delic, freshman cornerback Jerrell Priester and freshman running backs Raymond Sanders and Brandon Gainer.

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