Urban Meyer’s no stranger to bringing in former head coaches with an undercurrent of controversy to bolster his staff.
After previously tapping ex-Rutgers/Tampa Bay Buccaneers head coach Greg Schiano, who was accused of verbal abuse by some former players and had a rash of MRSA infections imply a potential player safety issue, OSU is bringing in former Kentucky coach Joker Phillips.
Phillips, according to multiple reports, will join Meyer’s staff as an offensive quality control assistant. Phillips won't have any in-game duties, but aid in breaking down video, advance scouting, and as reported by Bucknuts ($), who first reported Phillips’ hiring, have some recruiting responsibilities as well.
If the name Joker Phillips rings a bell, it might be from his time as wide receivers coach for Will Muschamp at the University of Florida. Phillips gained social media notoriety for tweeting out some of the worst “edits” you’ve ever seen for recruiting purposes:
As everyone in GatorNation awoke. The Joker awaits everyone on the field to come out & play #comeplaywrforthejoker pic.twitter.com/udkcq7yszg— Joker Phillips (@jokerphillips) April 8, 2013
The message is CLEAR. It's now on YOU. #ComePlayWRforTheJoker @TreyBurton8 @QuintonDunbar1 @Pitt_2time @AndreDeBose4 pic.twitter.com/xkYPYgeosh— Joker Phillips (@jokerphillips) April 15, 2013
Calling on EVERYONE to join #GatorNation We want future Gator Greats not future Gator Bait #ComePlayWRForTheJoker pic.twitter.com/WT5siaQUaz— Joker Phillips (@jokerphillips) April 1, 2013
His time at Florida ended in just about the worst possible way a college coach’s time can, as he resigned in the wake of a potential NCAA violation.
Phillips’ apparent crime was about the NCAA equivalent of a speeding violation. Phillips evidently ran into a high school junior Florida was recruiting during a period when that was impermissible. Football Scoop’s Scott Roussel, a friend of Land-Grant Holy Land, felt Phillips got a raw deal at the time:
I've been on phone last hour or so re Joker stepping down. This is a bad deal for a good guy.— FootballScoop Staff (@FootballScoop) June 11, 2014
The sources I spoke w said the issue at hand is a "bump" w a HS junior. Very minor. Was turned in by another program in Florida.— FootballScoop Staff (@FootballScoop) June 11, 2014
A guy like Joker who is well liked and doesn't have a bad bone in his body shouldn't even consider stepping down over a "bump".— FootballScoop Staff (@FootballScoop) June 11, 2014
You may remember Urban Meyer’s Ohio State staff turning in Florida tight ends coach Brian White for a similar offense in what became a bit of a controversy in and of itself.
Florida was ultimately never charged with anything and Phillips, though found by the NCAA to have committed the violation, had no restrictions on his abilities to coach in college. After taking a year off, he resurfaced last year in the NFL as Mike Pettine’s wide receivers coach for the Cleveland Browns. When Pettine was dismissed after last season, Phillips was not retained.
According to Bucknuts ($) and other media reports, Ohio State’s also added former Ohio head coach and Indiana defensive coordinator Brian Knorr in a defensive analyst role.
Neither Phillips nor Knorr are likely to be noticed much by casual fans in their current roles, but there’s a decent recent history of analysts getting promoted to more full time coaching roles (or at least getting sniffs when those roles open). Both of last year’s national title game participants also benefitted from their respective army of analysts.
While neither of these new additions to the coaching staff are going to be impacting games the way we think of more traditional assistants doing so, it’s probable some of the work they do does wind up having a pronounced effect on the play between the trenches when everything’s said and done.