Brooks reflects on journey from ‘Ditch Rich’ to UK’s Hall of Fame

UK Hall of Famer Brooks recalls Ditch Rich sentiment

Ex-UK football coach reflects on calls for his firing. Now he is in UK Hall of Fame.
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Ex-UK football coach reflects on calls for his firing. Now he is in UK Hall of Fame.

Minutes before being formally inducted into the University of Kentucky Athletics Hall of Fame Friday, members of the Class of 2016 resisted an invitation to take a bow. None more vividly than former UK football coach Rich Brooks.

When asked if he could empathize with the current UK football coach, Mark Stoops, Brooks said, “I totally know what he’s experiencing here right now.

“And,” Brooks added, “remember they sold ‘Ditch Rich’ T-shirts in the parking lot here.”

Brooks spoke to reporters in the Woodford Reserve Club at Commonwealth Stadium. That’s where he and other members of the class of 2016 were inducted into UK’s Hall of Fame.

Brooks credited “some special players” and the job done by his coaching staff for his induction. The staff did a good job evaluating prospects, teaching football fundamentals and were able to “develop two or three stars into four and five stars.”

Not that Brooks found little value in the rating system for football prospects. “Obviously, it means something,” he said. “Otherwise, the Alabamas in the world wouldn’t be No. 1 and winning the SEC as often as they do. Because they get a lot of five stars.”

Brooks expressed gratitude for being joined in this year’s class by former UK football star Wesley Woodyard.

Because he "lifted teammates," ex-Cat rises to top of UK athletics achievement.

Woodyard, who left the Tennessee Titans practice field three hours earlier to get to Lexington for the ceremony, explained the reason for his induction this way: “Because I was a great teammate. I lifted everybody else’s level of play, and I loved the University of Kentucky. When I got on the field, you could see it. You could feel it, and my other teammates fed off of that.”

Former UK basketball standout Chuck Hayes was another member of UK’s class of 2016.

Ex-Cat Chuck Hayes said Tubby Smith told him good things would happen if he did the right things.

When asked why he made the Hall, Hayes quipped, “Because I stuck around for four years.”

After assuring reporters he was joking, Hayes said, “I did the right things. I did everything my coach told me (and) my counselors told me.”

In doing so, Hayes followed then UK Coach Tubby Smith’s advice.

“Tubby always said, ‘Do things the right way; good things will happen,’” Hayes said. “I’ve been blessed. I’ve been grateful. And I’m just trying to stay humble because I know it could be anyone.”

Other inductees in this year’s UK class were wrestler James Johnson, softball player Molly (Johnson) Belcher and cross country/track star Bernadette Madigan-Dugan.

For ex-Wildcat Chuck Hayes, doing the "little things" took him to a fruitful NBA career and induction in UK Athletics Hall of Fame.

Jerry Tipton: 859-231-3227, @JerryTipton

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