Taylor's Thoughts:Brooks deserves recognition

Kentucky football coach Rich Brooks wasn't among the finalists for the Paul "Bear" Bryant Award, although he should have been. The seven names on the list deserved to be mentioned among the top coaches in the nation, but so does Brooks.

Brooks led Kentucky to an impressive 8-5 record and back-to-back bowl victories for the first time since Bryant was the coach at Kentucky.

It was a feat that hadn't been accomplished in more than 50 years.

In addition, Brooks faced perhaps one the toughest schedules in the nation, and the Cats were one of just two teams that defeated national champion LSU this past season.

The nominees included Virginia Tech coach Frank Beamer, Sylvester Croom (Mississippi State), former University of Hawaii coach June Jones, Mark Mangino (Kansas), Les Miles (LSU), Gary Pinkel (Missouri) and Ron Zook of Illinois.

Only two names were given serious consideration by this writer - Jones and Croom.

Although Hawaii lost to Georgia in the Sugar Bowl, just getting there was an accomplishment for the Warriors. I mean, Hawaii in a major bowl? Who would have thought that would have been possible before Jones bolted the NFL to take over a program located miles away from the other major conferences in the nation?

Jones steered perhaps the biggest turnaround in NCAA history. When Jones took over the program in 1999, he inherited a team that wasn't used to winning football. In fact, Jones took over a program that had lost 18 straight. Now, Jones must revive the program at Southern Methodist University, a program that's still trying to recover from the "death penalty" imposed by the NCAA for recruiting and other violations nearly 20 years ago.

Sylvester Croom, the first African-American coach in the Southeastern Conference, led the Bulldogs to an 8-5 record, which included a 10-3 victory over Central Florida in the Liberty Bowl.

Like Brooks, Croom overcame adversity and a discontented fan base to lead Mississippi State to the postseason. Croom played for Bryant at Alabama and coaches and is in the same mode of late great coaches like Bryant.

In what was termed one of the strangest seasons in college football history, it's good to see a new crop of names nominated for such a prestigious award.

However, the only name missing was Brooks. It shouldn't have been.

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