Vaught's Views: Barnhart will give Brooks more time

October 12, 2004|LARRY VAUGHT

Not much has gone the way Kentucky football coaches, players or fans wanted this year.

The Wildcats have stumbled to a 1-4 start, including Saturday's mistake-prone 45-17 loss to Alabama, and now have lost eight of their last nine games under coach Rich Brooks.

There's not much reason to expect things to change dramatically this year, either. Not with Georgia, Auburn and Tennessee among the six teams left on UK's schedule. Even struggling Mississippi State and Vanderbilt look like big problems for the Wildcats, who are equally ineffective on offense and defense.

But there is one thing you can count on - Brooks will be back next year as head coach unless he decides to walk away on his own. There's no way UK athletics director Mitch Barnhart is going to remove Brooks, who will still have three years remaining on the five-year, guaranteed contract he signed when he took over the Kentucky program.


Right or wrong, Barnhart is going to stick by what has been his most important hire since he took over at Kentucky. No disrespect to women's basketball, baseball, gymnastics or any other sport, but football and men's basketball are the sports that generate revenue and monopolize the attention of fans. Barnhart understands that and knows how important it is to have a successful football program. But he will not bail on Brooks this early.

More than $2 million to buy out his contract

It would cost Kentucky over $2 million to buy out Brooks' contract, a move that certainly would seem unlikely considering the trouble the school is having raising funds for other athletics projects.

However, money is not why Barnhart will stick with Brooks. Instead, Barnhart believed it would take time to give the new football coach time to build a successful program when Guy Morriss left to take the hefty pay increase Baylor offered him after a 7-5 season at UK in 2002.

Barnhart knew NCAA sanctions were going to take a big toll on the UK football program. He believed the new coach needed time to recruit and increase the number of scholarship players at UK to upgrade the overall talent and put the Wildcats back on a more level playing field with other SEC teams.

While Barnhart would like for Brooks' team to be undefeated, he's not going to solely blame the head coach for the team's uninspired play at times, unimaginative offense that struggles weekly or porous defense that seems to produce a new offensive star for every opponent.

Last year several older players had trouble buying into Brooks' system. It's happening again this year, as not every player is sold on Brooks and his staff.

The true freshmen, including the nine playing this year, and redshirt freshmen don't seem to have as many questions about the staff. Either they are naive, don't care or simply believe more in the staff than the older players who were recruited by other coaches from previous staffs.

Whether you are a Brooks fan or not, accept that Barnhart is going to give him more time. That's a given.

Would he discuss changes with Brooks?

Does that mean Barnhart might not discuss changes with Brooks? Absolutely not. Does that mean Brooks might have changes on his staff next year? Maybe, maybe not.

The Big Blue optimist would note that Brooks and his staff seem to have recruited well the last two years and have had chances to win many more games than they have. The Big Blue pessimist would note that Brooks and his staff have not been able to motivate players or make adjustments needed to win games. The Big Blue realist probably would praise the recruiting and bemoan the way so many close games keep turning into losses.

Take your pick of scenarios, but remember that Brooks is Barnhart's man and will be back next year no matter how many games the team loses this year or how much fans boo and complain.

A coaching change is not in Barnhart's plan, because he has believed from the day he hired Brooks that Brooks would weather NCAA sanctions and eventually win and no matter what has happened, I just don't see Barnhart feeling any differently today or when the season ends.

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