The cries of, "who?" were abundant.
The last six seasons have seen Brooks improve Kentucky's football program not only talent wise, but also on the overall mentality of the program. After going 9 and 25 in his first three seasons, Kentucky has managed to go 23 and 16 the last three seasons.
It takes many years to build a tradition, but it has to start somewhere. If Joker Phillips can continue Brooks' success and continue to build upon that foundation, you can point back to Rich Brooks taking over the Wildcat program. Brooks provided stability to a program that had been on a rocky road. Now this may be "paw-paw's" swan song.
Brooks had previously stated that he wanted to be the longest tenured coach in UK football history, a record that Fran Curci currently holds (nine years). Apparently that has changed now. "I don't think that's going to happen. The handoff is in waiting and we'll hand it off when the waiting is over," said Brooks. "I'm not exactly sure when that will be," Brooks stated. Head-coach-in-waiting Joker Phillips will take the reigns when Brooks steps down, but in the meanwhile people should appreciate what has been accomplished going into year seven.
Historically the major programs marked Kentucky as a highly probable win when they looked at their schedules. Now they know they have to prepare because the Wildcats aren't laying down for the opposition. "We've had success against a few teams, but we have to continue to build on that and beat more of them, because our goal is obviously to be a factor and have a chance to win the SEC East," said Brooks.
Wins over traditional powers such as Georgia, Clemson, LSU and Florida State have boosted the program's image nationally and have caught the attention of recruits. Before Brooks, those wins were miracles. Now Wildcat fans and more importantly the Wildcats themselves believe that they can achieve victory over anybody they step on the field with. "Being from Kentucky and growing up at Kentucky boy, I take a lot of pride in how far this program has come. We've set the expectations high in the younger guys and that's really what I signed on to do- to turn this program around," said offensive tackle Zipp Duncan.
The difference is night and day from the product on the field in 2003 versus the young men playing in blue today. That can be attributed to Brooks and his no-nonsense approach.
Still with the no-nonsense personality, Brooks knows how to have some fun. "Thanks a lot. Been a pleasure. You guys can go have a cocktail, a cold beer, talk about where you're going to put Kentucky again. There you go. Have some fun with it. I'm having fun trying to prove you wrong on occasion."
No coach, thank you.