VAUGHT: Decision on UK coach should be quick

Lee Todd and/or Mitch Barnhart are going to have to make a major decision in the next few weeks because they can't let the speculation about the future of football coach Rich Brooks and his staff continue.

Any realistic Big Blue soul knows that the Cats are going to be hard pressed to win a game in November when they host Auburn and Tennessee and play at Georgia and Vanderbilt. If the Cats are going to win another game, it has to be Oct. 22 at Mississippi or Oct. 29 against visiting Mississippi State.

That's why before the November schedule begins, Todd and/or Barnhart have to make one of two decisions. They either have to decide they are not going to stick with Brooks and start the next coaching search. Or they have to decide they are going to back Brooks and his staff for at least another year and say so publicly in a convincing fashion that puts the speculation to rest about the 2006 season.

Brooks acknowledged Sunday that recruits are asking questions about his future because of what they read and hear. Every day a debate seems to be waged on sports talk radio or various message boards about whether Brooks and his staff should or should not be back.

It's easy to argue either way. The Brooks supporters can point to UK's horrendous injury situation this year to counter Kentucky's 1-4 record and note the huge number of freshmen and sophomores that the Cats are playing as reasons to be optimistic for 2006 and beyond. The Brooks critics can counter that injuries are part of the game and that the offense and defense have been far below Southeastern Conference standards for two straight years.

Only Todd and Barnhart can make the final call. But the worst thing they can do is insist they are still evaluating the coaching staff. That's a warning signal to recruits that a change might be coming.

If they want to make a change, be bold enough to say so before this month ends and let current players and future recruits know what is happening. If they believe Brooks deserves another season because of the situation he inherited and the injuries this team has had, then have the courage to say so soon before recruiting suffers.

My feeling is that any coach deserves at least four years to put a program in place. The talent level in the freshmen and sophomore classes is clearly superior to that in the junior and senior classes. Injuries this year have basically made it impossible to evaluate a team that was already short on depth. No question the schedule is friendlier next year and with the young talent Brooks has gaining experience this year, it's not unreasonable to think the Cats could win six games next year.

But if Barnhart and Todd feel a new coaching staff would be better suited to guide that 2006 talent, then don't wait until December to make that change. Do it now.

The worst thing for Kentucky football right now would for Barnhart and Todd to just look the other way and straddle the fence. Either Brooks is their man or he's not and in the next few weeks they need to make it clear which way it is.

AllWildcats Top Stories