Happy Birthday, Rich!

By: Steve Moss
By: Steve Moss

There aren't many sexagenarians working the sidelines in college football these days. There are even fewer septagenarians and octogenerians coaching these days, as well. UK's Rich Brooks turns 67 on Wednesday. He celebrates his birthday by putting his team through another afternoon practice. I'd say there's not another place he'd rather be.

There aren't many sexagenarians working the sidelines in college football these days.  There are even fewer septagenarians and octogenerians coaching these days, as well.

UK's Rich Brooks turns 67 on Wednesday.  He celebrates his birthday by putting his team through another afternoon practice.  I'd say there's not another place he'd rather be.

The ladies in the football offices will have a birthday cake for him when the coaches convene for their daily staff meeting.  I'm sure he'll enjoy the gesture, but Brooks wants nothing to do with birthdays.  He's not counting.

For Wildcat fans, there's been nary a peep, out of a vocal minority, who several years ago complained about Brooks' hiring.  You remember the comments: "he's too old;" "his best football days are behind him;"  "Brooks can't relate to the players."

Well, it looks like he's doing pretty well for himself. 

After leading the Cats to back-to-back bowl wins, Brooks has to be mentioned in the same sentence with UK's greatest coach: Bear Bryant.  Bryant, too, coached as a sexagenarian, retiring from Alabama just short of his 70th birthday.

Even in death, Bryant, still, is one of college football's biggest coaching icons.  To endure, and coach into your 80s, like Joe Paterno, you have to be an icon.  So too, is Bobby Bowden, who will turn 79 in November.  Both are THE icons among current college coaches.

Which makes what Rich Brooks is doing all the more remarkable.  In a sense, Brooks is still searching for respectability among fans and pundits across the country.  Brooks enters his 45th season as a football coach, but hasn't achieved the status of a Paterno or Bowden.

"They've won a lot more games than I have," Brooks joked, following practice on Tuesday.  "I didn't think I'd be around at this age, so every day is a good day, from here on out."

But Brooks is finding success with what he says will be his last job.  For the first time in over 30 years, the Cats have strung back-to-back 8-win seasons together.  For the first time in 30 years, the Cats cracked college football's top-10 rankings.  The win over top-ranked LSU last year was the school's first over a No. 1-ranked team in 43 years.

I'd say the old guy is doing quite well.

Certainly, Brooks will be judged not by what his teams have done the past couple of years, but by what this year's version of the Wildcats do on the field.  But Cat fans shouldn't be complaining any more about the direction of the program.

It's being led by a man who's nearly 70 years-old, who has no quit in him.

UK's ad campaign this season includes a billboard with Brooks' image on it and the words "Toughness Matters."   I'd say he's one tough ol' bird.  Er, Cat.  Happy Birthday, Rich.

Those are the highlights... Stay tuned.

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