Vaught's Views: Brooks says he won't quit

October 26, 2004|LARRY VAUGHT

As much as Rich Brooks was glad to see Mississippi State's 38-31 win over Florida because it gave one of the Southeastern Conference's "downtrodden teams" a boost, it could not have come at a worst time for the Kentucky coach.

First, his team has to play at Mississippi State Saturday in what was seen as one of the few games the Wildcats might win this season. Now that seems far more unlikely after the victory coach Sylvester Croom's team got over Florida to give it the dose of confidence UK has lacked in Brooks' 19 games at Kentucky.

Second, Florida's loss led to Monday's firing of coach Ron Zook. He was 20-13 since taking over for legendary Steve Spurrier, who lost just 27 games in 12 years.

Since Brooks is 5-14 and 1-11 in SEC games at Kentucky, Zook's dismissal is only going to fuel more speculation that Kentucky should also admit it made the wrong coaching hire and look elsewhere for a coach for 2005.


Last week had a report that Brooks would be gone when the season ended, a report UK officials quickly said was not true. Still, Brooks knows the rumors are so rampant that he's had to try and convince his team that he will be back.

"The one thing that I would tell them is I'm not quitting, and I'm not walking away from this," Brooks said.

He'll still have three years - and a guaranteed $2.1 million in salary - left on his original contract when this season ends.

"In my opinion, we're going to turn this thing around. We're going to recruit, we're going to work hard, we're going to coach," he said. "That's the only thing I can control. I'm not walking away from anything. I'm not giving up on anything. I'm here for the long haul."

It's been a long haul already, and UK still has games with Georgia and Tennessee left along with this Saturday's game against what obviously will be an inspired Mississippi State. Plus there's Vanderbilt, the team that embarrassed UK last year in Nashville.

Kentucky has not won an SEC game since it overcame a 17-0 deficit to beat visiting Mississippi State 42-17 a year ago. That State team was in disarray because the players knew then-coach Jackie Sherrill would not be back.

The Wildcats continue to insist they believe in Brooks and his staff. Kentucky is playing nine true freshmen along with numerous redshirt freshmen. However, both the offense and defense have struggled most of the season, and Brooks lacks a signature win like Croom got last week against Florida that verified what he's doing can work.

Adamant that the offensive scheme will work

Brooks was as adamant as ever Monday that the current offensive scheme will eventually work at Kentucky, even though the Cats managed just 110 yards in last week's loss to Auburn. Offensive coordinator Ron Hudson said the same thing and noted that unless Brooks fires him, he'll be back because he's doing the best he can with UK's talent.

"Yes, I'm totally convinced that I am capable and confident in my coaching, in my staff and in their abilities," Brooks said. "They have made things work every place they've been."

True, but it is not working at Kentucky. At least not yet, and many fans are impatient with constant references to probation problems being the source of UK's woes.

Brooks said the only solution is to field a more experience team, something UK will have next year. Until then, he says the system really doesn't matter.

"We can suggest that we get in the shotgun and throw 60 times a game and the production would not be any better. We can get in the wishbone and the production would not be a lot better," Brooks said. "We're in a no-man's land right now that we're trying to work through."

He said the offense should "blossom" next year when players who "are giving everything they have to get it right" this year have that extra experience.

Still, State found a way to beat a quality team this year, something UK hasn't done in Brooks' two years. And when the Gators floundered for 33 games, Zook was sent packing.

About the only good news for Brooks is that rumors about former Florida coach Steve Spurrier being interested in coming to Kentucky surely will end now, because it's not hard to imagine Spurrier back in Gatorland next season.

But barring a total turnaround by the Cats in the next four games, the questions about Brooks' future are not going to stop because Kentucky just has not played well enough since early last year to convince fans there is any reason to be optimistic.

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