Brooks era ends


UK head coach Rich Brooks yells at his team as Florida advances to another touchdown. Florida beat UK 41-7 at Commonwealth Stadium on Saturday, Sept. 26, 2009. Photo by Allie Garza

UK head coach Rich Brooks officially announced his retirement Jan. 4, eight days after UK’s Music City Bowl loss to Clemson, when Brooks said he was “80 percent sure” he was leaning toward retirement.

Brooks thanked the people involved in helping him resurrect a UK program to what he termed a “level of respectability,” but cited that it was the right time to make the change after seven years as head coach — his final head coaching job.

“It was a good ride, a bumpy ride,” Brooks said. “The start of it was really, really bumpy, and the end of it also had some bumps because we were close to achieving some things that I feel unfulfilled by not having achieved them.”

UK’s head coach of the offense Joker Phillips is set to assume the head coach position and attempt to build UK into an upper-tier school in the Southeastern Conference. No official announcement has been made on when Phillips will be introduced as head coach.

To continue the upward trend the UK program has been experiencing, Brooks said that improvements to UK’s football facilities, including additions to Commonwealth Stadium and an expanded weight room, are necessary steps UK should perform.

Brooks said he had received several texts and phone calls from players in the past week urging him to return next season. Even Brooks’ family members, save for his wife, wanted him to return for another season so he could “ride off on a white stallion.” However, Brooks couldn’t be swayed to postpone his retirement.

“The more I thought about it, I just felt it was right to make the change,” Brooks said. “The losses take their toll; it’s very, very frustrating to be close to something and not be able to grab it. I didn’t want my frustration to change the direction of the program.”

Despite his desire to not change the direction of the program, Brooks was instrumental in leading UK to a streak of four consecutive appearances in bowl games, after posting a 9-25 record in his first three seasons. Brooks thanked UK Athletic Director Mitch Barnhart and UK President Lee Todd for exercising patience during the more unsuccessful seasons in his tenure. Prior to the news conference, Brooks embraced Barnhart and Todd.

Todd said that despite public pressure, he and Barnhart never considered firing Brooks.

“I admire (Brooks) for sticking with it, I admire Mitch (Barnhart) for sticking with (Brooks),” Todd said. “I’m excited for the program going forward under Joker (Phillips).”

Barnhart would not comment on the status of any contract negotiations between he and Phillips, out of respect to Brooks, whom Barnhart said was entitled to take his time to make this decision.

“He was a heck of an assistant coach for many, many years, he’s paid his dues,” Barnhart said. “He’s had the opportunity to work at the right hand of Rich Brooks the last eight years to understand what it looks like to run a program. To run it with dignity, class and respectability.”