Brooks' seat is red hot

All 12 head men who attended last year's SEC Football Media Days were back again this year, marking the first time the coaching fraternity returned intact since 1988. No one was more pleased about that than Kentucky's Rich Brooks, who almost didn't make it to Birmingham for the 2006 reunion.

"I'm happy to be here again," Brooks began, grinning smugly as he added: "There was some question last year as to whether I would be. And I'm hoping I'll be back here next year."

Brooks' seat is undoubtedly the hottest in the league. His three-year record in Big Blue Country is 9-25 and his SEC mark is a dismal 4-20. The Wildcats were 9-14 overall and 4-12 in SEC play under predecessor Guy Morriss. They were 20-26 and 10-22 under Hal Mumme prior to that.

Since Kentucky's recent past is so ugly, Brooks prefers to focus on the future. He says it should be a little brighter.

"The good news," he said, "is we're in better position than at any time since I've been there."

Because of NCAA sanctions, the Big Blue had just 68 scholarship players in Rich Brooks' first year. He has since padded the roster to 82 scholarship athletes. Of course, the quality of the athletes will win more games than the quantity of athletes. Brooks thinks he has upgraded the program in that area, as well.

"We have more speed, more depth and, I think, more playmakers than any year since I've been there," he said. "Now we have to go out and prove it on the field … win games."

If the Wildcats don't prove it this year, Brooks won't be attending Media Days next year. Many observers were surprised he made it back this time, coming off a lackluster 3-8 season in 2005. Things got so bad late last season that media types began asking UK players if they thought their coach would be fired.

"The players shouldn't be put in the position of every week answering questions about the job security of the coach," Brooks said. "Sometimes those situations get out of control, and in our situation last year, I think it did."

The speculation about the head man's job security grew so intense last November that he felt compelled to discuss the topic with his players.

"I've always felt that, when it becomes that obvious, I had to say something," Brooks said. "Basically, what I told them was, ‘Don't worry about me. Worry about yourselves.' I'll be fine, whether I'm here or not here, so let's move forward, see if we can get this going in the direction we all know it can go."

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