LEXINGTON, Ky. (AP) - Kentucky football coach Rich Brooks often
gets asked about the doubters - the fans who point out that while
the Wildcats have won a record three straight bowls, none were of
the high-profile nature they had targeted.
On Friday, speaking first to the media and then at the annual UK
kickoff luncheon attended by hundreds of supporters, Brooks said he
won't be content either until Kentucky takes its place alongside
the Southeastern Conference elites.
"It's not good enough that we only win three straight bowl
games," Brooks said. "What we want to do is climb the SEC ladder,
and if people haven't heard me say that, then they'd better take
their ear plugs out."
Even the great Bear Bryant didn't finish three straight seasons
at Kentucky with a bowl victory, but his bowls were higher profile
than two Music Citys and one Liberty, Kentucky's recent postseason
Still, getting back to the postseason - let alone enhancing the
destination - won't be easy. Kentucky faces one of the most brutal
home schedules in the country, including dates with two BCS schools
from last year - national champion Florida and Alabama, as well as
an up-and-coming Mississippi State team and two rivals, Louisville
The offseason has already been marred by defensive lineman
Jeremy Jarmon, one of the team's most vocal leaders, being declared
ineligible for his senior season after testing positive for a
banned substance. Still, Brooks says he isn't worried about finding
leaders, noting there were plenty last year, even after the
departure of such standouts as quarterback Andre Woodson, receiver
Keenan Burton and tight end Jacob Tamme.
"We have better players than we've had in a long time," Brooks
said. "We have better depth than we've had in a long time. Now we
have to go out on the field and prove it."
Even if the fans aren't content with where Kentucky has finished
its recent seasons, most seem to be content with the direction of
the program. The school has already sold out its season ticket
allotment, more than 55,000 tickets including the student section,
and athletics director Mitch Barnhart says that is a huge feat
considering even some of the most successful teams in the
conference have seen declines due to the economy.
"This fan base is remarkable," Barnhart said. "We really
Considering the home schedule, Brooks says it's essential to
fill the seats at Commonwealth Stadium with as many blue-clad fans
"Let's make a lot of noise and make it miserable for those
teams when they come onto the field," he said.
Brooks hasn't had the opportunity to watch many of his new
recruits in full practice situations, so he has declined to say
much about lineups or schemes.
Nor is he revealing much about how long he'll remain the coach.
Offensive coordinator Joker Phillips has been named to replace the
67-year-old Brooks when he steps down. Brooks jokes that Phillips
was a play-calling genius until last year, when the offense took a
step backward and the fans started to become restless.
"When you invest a lot of time and energy into trying to make
something better than it was when you inherited it, you never know
when is the time and is it right," Brooks said. "For an official
announcement, this will be the last time I comment about it, rather
than at the appropriate time at the end of the season rather than
the start of the season."
(Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)