LEXINGTON, Ky. — Rich Brooks still “hears the noise.” The former Kentucky coach hasn’t been on the sidelines since 2009, but Brooks still watches the Wildcats on a weekly basis. And not only that, Brooks is aware that fan support hasn’t fully been behind Mark Stoops and this current Kentucky team.
“Kentucky fans are a little fickle,” Brooks said. “They’re great, but they’re fickle. For them at 5-1 to not be happy with this team and couldn’t believe that we hadn’t blown some of these people out, it’s crazy. I mean, 5-1 for God’s sakes. How many times has Kentucky been 5-1? Not very many.”
Brooks and several of his former players are back on campus this weekend. Kentucky won three consecutive bowl games under Brooks from 2006-08, and those teams will be honored at halftime when Kentucky takes on Tennessee at 7:30 p.m. ET Saturday at Kroger Field.
Stoops is one win away from securing back-to-back bowl bids after Kentucky went the previous five seasons without a postseason appearance. But Stoops complained a couple weeks ago that the coverage of his team has been “just so negative.”
“I follow pretty closely,” Brooks said of this year’s Kentucky team. “I actually get online and see the news and watch the games, and hear the noise if you will. Which I did when I was the coach. A lot of my compatriots thought I was nuts to listen to the talk shows and read the newspaper and all of that. I always wanted to know where the arrows were coming from.”
Despite Stoops’ success, “ugly wins” have been a season-long narrative. Kentucky beat Southern Miss by seven, FCS foe Eastern Kentucky by 11, Eastern Michigan by four and Missouri by six. Though the wins have been close, Stoops has been consistent in his gradual rebuild of the program.
A 45-7 loss in Starkville, Miss., last week was a setback. But Brooks had a message for the team: “That wasn’t you.”
Kentucky can prove it wasn’t them by getting back in the win column against a Tennessee team still searching for its first conference win. The Wildcats have lost to the Volunteers in 31 of the last 32 meetings.
Brooks was 0 for 7 against Tennessee.
“Kentucky can do something very special,” Brooks said. “And you know what? I don’t care if it’s pretty. I don’t care. I just want to see a W.”