TAYLOR: Brooks with little room for error

University of Kentucky athletics director Mitch Barnhart has likely began devising a backup plan in case football Rich Brooks and the Wildcats fail to win the six games it needs to become bowl-eligible.

Barnhart may have tucked the coaching wish list away following Kentucky's 31-17 win over Ole Miss on Sept. 16, but losing three of four games since may have forced the leader of Kentucky's athletic department to start reviewing his options once the season ends.

It's a move that likely doesn't excite Barnhart, but he won't have a choice if looking for a new coach becomes a priority over the next month.

From now and until the season-finale at Tennessee on Nov. 25, Barnhart will be keeping a close eye on the team's progress. A slip-up against say, lowly Mississippi State or even dangerous Vanderbilt could be disastrous for a coaching staff already on red alert following last week's loss to the Tigers.

Sure there are five games remaining and enough time for Brooks and his staff to make a strong case for a return, but last Saturday's showing at LSU didn't earn the Kentucky coach any bonus points from his boss.

Brooks was fired up following the loss and directed his anger at Kentucky's defense. For the third time this season, defensive coordinator Mike Archer's unit surrendered 40 or more points against a more superior foe, including a season-high 59 against in-state rival Louisville.

A step forward in a win over Ole Miss just several weeks ago has put Barnhart back to square one in terms of what may happen once the season ends.

Barnhart hasn't given a magic number Brooks needs to return, but reaching a bowl game with the type of schedule that deserves nothing less than six wins, makes the most logical sense. Other than Ole Miss, Kentucky has yet to notch a "signature victory" over a quality opponent in the Southeastern Conference, although Brooks and his staff came close before dropping a 24-17 setback to South Carolina nearly two weeks ago.

Brooks has very little room for error and faces the task of rallying the troops for a run at what they hope is a postseason berth. The close call against the Gamethingys resulted in a goose egg against the Tigers.

In a mild surprise, television is beginning to show little interest in broadcasting the Cats, despite a strong showing against Florida. It was announced on Monday that Kentucky's contest against the Bulldogs on Sept. 28 would not be shown in front of a national or regional audience on the tube.

The fan base is already throwing in the towel on several internet sites, including this one. Most of the unhappy campers are fans that have supported Brooks since he arrived on campus four years ago.

Although jumping off the bandwagon warrants some concern, it doesn't mean it's time for anyone to start pushing the panic button. Anything can happen from now until the end of the season, but it never hurts to be prepared for the worst and hope for the best.


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