With Rich Brooks’ announcement on Thursday, via Twitter, that he and wife Karen had sold their old Kentucky home and are moving back to the west coast, an era in UK football officially comes to an end, even though Brooks hasn’t coached the Cats since 2009.
Brooks’ arrival in Lexington revived a football program.
His seven-year run at UK yielded a modest 39-47 record, but Brooks enjoyed winning seasons the last four, including four consecutive bowl appearances, a first for the school. The Cats won three of four bowls, including wins over perennial powers Clemson and Florida State.
Under Brooks, Kentucky football had become routinely competitive in the best league in America, and more importantly, respected.
His players hardly ran afoul of the law and were some of the more wildly popular Wildcats in recent memory. Brooks’ Cats won on the road in the SEC, something few Kentucky teams prior had done, and they found ways to win the close ones.
Despite nearly being fired midway through the 2005 season, when the Cats began the season 1-5, the coach stayed true to his core values: recruiting quality people and building a solid football foundation based upon old school beliefs.
That season, Mitch Barnhart stayed with his man, and after the Cats won at Mississippi State in 2005, Brooks’ teams won 32 of 57 games.
Highlights of the Brooks Era have to include Kentucky’s triple-overtime win over top-ranked LSU in 2007. That same year, Andre’ Woodson and Co. knocked off Louisville, then a Top 10 team.
With Brooks, what you saw was what you got. He never blinked when peppered with criticism and was the consummate professional when dealing with the media. No “coach speak” from Brooks.
Brooks stepped aside following a 21-13 loss to Clemson in the 2009 Music City Bowl, saying it was time to turn things over to a younger Joker Phillips.
Recently, Brooks was approached about returning to the Pac 12. A source says just last month, Arizona called to see if the 70-year-old was interested in becoming the interim coach there, following the firing of Mike Stoops. Arizona AD Greg Byrne got his start at UK, during Brooks’ run with the Cats. Byrne is a known admirer of Brooks.
Brooks politely declined, but the source says Brooks still has a burning desire to coach.
My one wish would be that UK fans could know Brooks on a more personal level. They saw the fiery, sometimes stoic man patrolling the sidelines. Fans missed out on his quick wit and sense of humor that he often displayed away from the games.
We wish him and Karen well as they make the move back to Oregon. Sadly, this chapter of UK football history comes to a close. Here's hoping the coach has many more to write.
Those are the highlights... Stay tuned.