clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Making sense of reports that Joker Phillips was "forced to resign" over a "bump"

Some of Joker Phillips's sudden departure from Florida makes sense. Some of it makes none. We tried to make as much sense as we could.


Let's start from the beginning when trying to explain Joker Phillips's sudden resignation from Florida, with this Brett McMurphy tweet:

"Ohhh, man," College Football Twitter said collectively. "Florida's in trouuuublllle!" Even I tweeted this out to contextualize why even the appearance of wrongdoing is usually a big deal for Florida:

Because that sort of thing draws scoffs from people who think every SEC program is dirty — and, to be fair, every SEC team probably does plenty of straddling of the lines when recruiting football players — I tried to elaborate:

Put simply: Doing things "the right way" — or, at least, keeping "Florida" and "NCAA violations" as far from each other as possible — matters a great deal to Florida, and especially to Jeremy Foley. There aren't many other schools getting written up in the Wall Street Journal for doing things cleanly and having athletic success; there aren't many other schools that would quietly add a vision statement that begins with "Be the model collegiate athletics program" to their website.

This draws scoffs because openly claiming to take the high road always will. But I've been around, paying attention to, and reporting on Florida's programs for years now, and I have come to believe that this is a genuine vision.

Sure, it sounds holier than thou for various reasons, most notably the scofflaws who played football for Florida under Urban Meyer. Unbelieveable as it may seem, though, there are people and institutions who sound holier than thou because they want to be holier than thou, too. Florida has certainly staked its claim to this high road, and tries to walk its talk.

And Florida putting its integrity up for judgment, regardless of whether or not it fully lives up to its own standards, requires the Gators to be assiduous when protecting a nearly spotless record with the NCAA since the football program went on probation in the 1980s. Keeping up appearances matters: Even if Aubrey Hill gets hired as the wide receivers coach, Aubrey Hill's going to eventually have to resign from his position as NCAA scrutiny intensifies.

Now, how could this all relate to Joker Phillips, you ask? Well...

...because the working theory is now that he is being made to suddenly resign over a "bump," and a "bump" is among the more benign secondary NCAA violations a coach can commit, we're probably going to learn whether a "bump" alone is enough to get shown the door at Florida.

It's quite possibly more complicated than we know. I called Phillips's resignation "jarring" earlier, and that seems deserved: It truly may have come out of the blue.

And that McMurphy report about Phillips being forced to resign? He's had to recant some of it.

Given that the story McMurphy filed to ESPN still indicates that Phillips was forced to resign, and his tweet only indicates that Muschamp didn't force Joker to resign, I think it's fair to wonder if the logical conclusion is that it wasn't Muschamp, but his boss — Foley — who made this call.

Update, 9:38 p.m.: ESPN has edited that story to remove McMurphy's reporting that Phillips was "forced to" resign, which certainly dilutes the story, and makes the "It was Foley's call" theory implausible at best.

And if you want to believe a conspiracy theory or two: The idea that a "bump" — an impermissible in-person contact with a recruit, basically, much like the in-person contact that got Florida running backs coach Brian White reported last year — is not enough to get a coach effectively fired may lead you to believe there's more to this story, and the reports that Phillips was, indeed, turned in by another school suggest that there may be an ax to grind related to something predating this alleged violation.

This is a complicated and confusing story. It is possible, and maybe likely, that we will not get the full story for a while, if ever. What I do know, that Florida cares about its reputation as a clean school, influences how I think about what we don't know. But that doesn't mean what I do know explains what we don't know.

I'm prepared to be right. I'm prepared to be wrong. I'm prepared for anything.

You might want to be prepared for anything, too.