John Clay

Rich Brooks is glad Kentucky football has joined the arms race

Rich Brooks: UK needs quarterback to make plays

At Governor's Club Luncheon, former Kentucky football coach Rich Brooks talks about what he thinks UK needs under current coach Mark Stoops.
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At Governor's Club Luncheon, former Kentucky football coach Rich Brooks talks about what he thinks UK needs under current coach Mark Stoops.

The retired coach looked good, tanned, happy, ready to go — to the golf course, that is. These days, Rich Brooks plays a lot of golf and watches a lot of football. The former Kentucky football coach was at the Frankfort County Club to play in the UK-U of L Governor’s Cup preseason golf event, but that had to wait until he answered some questions about football.

And why not? In his seven-year run at Commonwealth Stadium, Brooks proved to be one of the best all-around football coaches, certainly head coaches, in program history. He took over a program decimated by the scholarship reductions and restrictions tied to NCAA probation and brick by brick built a foundation that produced four consecutive bowl games, the first three resulting in victories.

Since retiring after the 2009 season, Brooks has moved back out to Oregon and from the sidelines to up in the stands, or the stadium suite, or in front of the television at home. He watches a lot of football, rooting for Oregon (head coach 1977-94) and UK, but watching just about every team. What does he see in the current game?

“The trends are spread offense, wide open, poor tackling, basketball on grass, if you will, where they try to spread the field and isolate people,” he said. “That’s been the biggest change in the last 10-15 years compared to when the game was compressed. Now out on the West Coast, Stanford is the team that compresses you. They bludgeon you and they won the league last year and they’ve done very well the last four or five years because no one does that anymore.”

Might more teams start copying Stanford? Sports is cyclical, after all. A trend often stretches one way, then goes back the other. Could we be poised for a return to old-school football?

“I don’t think everybody will go back to that,” Brooks said. “I think some schools succeed, Stanford is one of them because they can’t maybe get all the skill people, but they can get the big linemen, big tight ends, fullbacks — some of those you don’t see out of a lot of offenses anymore.”

OK, what about Kentucky? Part of the reason Brooks was in attendance Tuesday was to be honored along with former UK linebacker Jim Kovach and former UK defensive end Jeremy Jarmon. What does Brooks see out of today’s Cats? He thinks current coach Mark Stoops has done a good job of putting the building blocks in place, especially recruiting, how he just needs guys to make plays late in games, particularly at quarterback.

You cannot compete today if you don’t join the arms race. You just can’t compete. And in the SEC, just look at what was happening when I was here with all the facilities around the league. We were kind of stuck in the old days.

Rich Brooks, former UK football coach

What he is most pleased to see is UK’s upgraded facilities, the newly renovated stadium; the new football offices and practice fields under construction, things he fought for but couldn’t quite get accomplished during his stay.

“I was hoping,” he said. “You cannot compete today if you don’t join the arms race. You just can’t compete. And in the SEC, just look at what was happening when I was here with all the facilities around the league. We were kind of stuck in the old days.”

Now, said Brooks, UK has taken a major step forward with the type of things that “impress 18-year-old kids when they come in on their recruiting trip.” Does Brooks lament the fact UK failed to take that step when he was still the coach?

“I wish I’d of had the facilities Oregon now has. I wish I’d had the facilities Kentucky now has,” Brooks said. “But guess what, I didn’t. It is what it is.”

Other topics: Brooks is not a fan of the current satellite camps. He thinks the coaches need a break in the summer. He doesn’t give Stoops advice, but likes to talk football with the current coach. He likes Stoops’ toughness and defensive mind.

Now for something more important: How is he hitting the golf ball these days?

“Not very well,” Brooks said. “Short. Sometimes straight.”

Rich Brooks’ college coaching record

Year

School

Record

Conf.

Bowl

1977

Oregon

2-9

1-6

1978

Oregon

2-9

2-5

1979

Oregon

6-5

4-3

1980

Oregon

6-3-2

4-3-1

1981

Oregon

2-9

1-6

1982

Oregon

2-8-1

2-6

1983

Oregon

4-6-1

3-3-1

1984

Oregon

6-5

3-6

1985

Oregon

5-6

3-4

1986

Oregon

5-6

3-5

1987

Oregon

6-5

4-4

1988

Oregon

6-6

3-5

1989

Oregon

8-4

5-3

Independence (W)

1990

Oregon

8-4

4-3

Freedom (L)

1991

Oregon

3-8

1-7

1992

Oregon

6-6

4-4

Independence (L)

1993

Oregon

5-6

2-6

1994

Oregon

9-4

7-1

Rose (L)

2003

Kentucky

4-8

1-7

2004

Kentucky

2-9

1-7

2005

Kentucky

3-8

2-6

2006

Kentucky

8-5

4-4

Music City (W)

2007

Kentucky

8-5

3-5

Music City (W)

2008

Kentucky

7-6

2-6

Liberty (W)

2009

Kentucky

7-6

3-5

Music City (L)

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