LEXINGTON, Ky. – University of Kentucky head football coach Rich Brooks has been named to the Northern California Sports Association Hall of Fame.
Brooks will be inducted at the organization’s annual Hall of Fame Dinner on March 28 in Yuba City, Calif.
Born in Forest, Calif., Brooks’ distinguished career in athletics began at Nevada Union High School in Grass Valley, Calif., where he competed in football, basketball, track and boxing.
Brooks went on to Oregon State University, where he was a part-time starting defensive back as a sophomore, then a full-time regular as a junior and senior. As a senior, he nabbed five interceptions for a team that went 9-2 and won the Liberty Bowl. He also was a reserve quarterback behind Heisman Trophy winner Terry Baker.
Brooks began his coaching career immediately after graduation. He was an assistant coach at Norte Del Rio High School, Oregon State, UCLA and with the Los Angeles Rams and San Francisco 49ers of the National Football League.
Brooks got his first head coaching job at the University of Oregon from 1977-94 and gradually rebuilt a downtrodden program. He took the Ducks to bowl games in four of his last six seasons. In 1994, Oregon won the Pacific-10 Conference championship and played in the Rose Bowl, earning Brooks National Coach of the Year honors from the Football Writers Association of America (Bear Bryant Award), The Sporting News, and ESPN. He also served in the dual role of athletic director and head football coach in his last two years at Oregon.
Brooks returned to the NFL as head coach of the St. Louis Rams in 1995-96, where he compiled the team’s best two-year record in nearly a decade. He then spent the next four seasons as assistant head coach/defensive coordinator for the Atlanta Falcons, helping guide the team to the only Super Bowl appearance in the franchise’s history.
Brooks took over at Kentucky on Dec. 30, 2002, inheriting a team burdened by the effects of a severe NCAA probation. After three years of patient coaching and tireless recruiting, Brooks’ squad had a breakout season in 2006. The 8-5 record included a win over Georgia and a Gaylord Hotels Music City Bowl triumph over heavily favored Clemson, UK’s first bowl victory in 22 years.
The 2007 season produced another 8-5 mark and a Music City Bowl win over Florida State. The ’07 campaign also featured upsets of No. 9 Louisville and No. 1 LSU, which went on to win the national championship.
Despite heavy graduation losses, the 2008 squad fought its way to another postseason appearance. The Wildcats went 7-6, capped by a victory over East Carolina in the AutoZone Liberty Bowl. In the process, Brooks joined Paul “Bear” Bryant as the only two coaches in school history to go to postseason action in three straight years, and marked the first time that UK won bowl games in three consecutive seasons.
This is Brooks’ second hall of fame award. In 1995, he was inducted into the Independence Bowl Hall of Fame, in which two of his Oregon teams played.
Impact of Kentucky Fans is Clear at Music City Bowl: The effect of the Big Blue Nation has been delineated clearly by the annual economic impact report released by the Gaylord Hotels Music City Bowl.
Kentucky played in the Music City Bowl following the 2006 and 2007 seasons, posting wins over Clemson and Florida State, respectively. UK also won the battle of the fans, as overwhelming numbers of Wildcat faithful swarmed into LP Field in Nashville, posting successive record sellout crowds of 68,024 and 68,661.
Sparked by the Big Blue Nation, the Nashville area received an economic impact of more than $20.6 million in 2006 and $27 million in 2007. By comparison, the economic impact immediately prior to and after UK’s appearances generated $7.7 million in 2005 and $9.9 million in 2008.