Coach Joker Phillips

Georgetown, KY – University of Kentucky football coach Joker Phillips, whose Wildcats ended 26 years of losing frustration to the Tennessee Volunteers on November 26, will kick-off Billy Reed’s second semester line-up of “Conversations with Champions” guests on Wednesday (Feb. 22). A native Kentuckian and former UK football player himself, Phillips should have a lot to say about character and integrity is collegiate sports – which is what Reed’s series at Georgetown College is based upon.

Reed’s fireside chat with Coach Phillips is free and open to the public at 7:30 p.m. in John L. Hill Chapel.

The UK coach is no stranger to the Georgetown campus, incidentally. He’s been known to accompany his wife, Leslie (a GC assistant professor of Kinesiology) to the occasional Thursday night game involving our Tigers at Toyota Stadium.

Leslie Phillips indicated that her husband will enjoy talking about that memorable 10-7 victory over UT that ended the longest losing streak in college football to one team. He’ll especially enjoy talking about the character of his players.

Of course, anyone who follows Kentucky football knows the legend of Matt Roark – the wide receiver who was converted to quarterback because of injuries to normal starter Morgan Newton and Maxwell Smith and led the Cats to victory. Roark showed much character and toughness in rushing 24 times for 124 yards in the season finale. But, Wednesday night you are likely to hear more about the character of Newton.

Coach Phillips wrote in an email:  “Morgan Newton injured his shoulder and knew he needed surgery but, he elected to wait until after the season to help the team knowing that all he could do was hand the ball off.” 

Although she will be in the audience and not the stage for the “conversation,” Leslie Phillips could tell you a thing or two about character. Standing by her man during a tough (5-7) season beset by injuries and rebuilding, Leslie can see the positives. She said, “I remember a time while on one of the away game trips last season when a UK senior athletics administrator said to me that he was enjoying watching Joker stand in there and show strength in the face of adversity.”

A Georgetown College Executive Scholar-in-Residence, Reed said, “I’ve known and followed Joker Phillips since he played at UK for Jerry Claiborne in the 1980s. He’s a tough competitor, but also a gentlemen who handles success and failure with class and dignity.” He added what many Kentuckians would like to say in person, “I’m looking forward to seeing him at Georgetown College so I can thank him for beating Tennessee.”

Reed, a former Louisville Courier-Journal sports editor and columnist and Sports Illustrated contributor, continues to bring esteemed guests to campus in Year 2 of his “Conversations with Champions” series and build interest in an Academy for Character in Sport.

On March 7 at 7:30 p.m., Reed will converse with Tori Murden-McClure, the first woman to sail the Atlantic and now president of Louisville’s Spalding University. The Richard & Karen Ward Room of the Ensor Learning Resource Center will be the venue for that fireside chat. Then on April 11, Reed will have the final “conversation” of the semester with University of Louisville Athletic Director Tom Jurich in Hill Chapel.

All “Conversations” are filmed for later showing on Kentucky Educational Television.