Rich Brooks' Success on the Gridiron Should Give Kentucky Basketball Fans Pause

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Rich Brooks' Success on the Gridiron Should Give Kentucky Basketball Fans Pause
(Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
On October 14, Kentucky lost to LSU 49-0 and all hell broke loose in Lexington.
Message boards, water coolers, and talk shows were all calling for his head, saying that this old man did not know what he was doing and that he should be fired.
Fast forward to March 23, and Lexington, Kentucky could not be happier with the football program and the “old man.”

Since the debacle in Baton Rouge, Kentucky has gone 20-12, including wins over the eventual national champion LSU—yeah, the same team that beat UK by seven touchdowns just one year earlier. UK since then has defeated Georgia, Arkansas twice, Louisville twice, and has a pair Music City Bowl victories over Clemson and Florida State and a Liberty Bowl victory over East Carolina.

Rich Brooks has the football program in perhaps the best position that it has ever been, as the 2009 version of the Cats could be a team that wins nine or ten games this year. The defense returns key players and the offense should be light years better than last year.

Rich has also brought in a top–30 recruiting class—including two quarterbacks that could have gone to any school in the country.

It is funny how things come full circle.  Just two and a half years since the masses wanted Brooks gone those same fans are calling for Billy Gillispie’s head. Rich was in his fourth season when the heat started to turn up on him, while Billy has not even completed his second season yet, but still the majority of fans are calling for his head.

I understand that this is Kentucky, and we are supposed to be fighting for NCAA championships and NIT titles, but that still does not change the fact that he has not had enough time yet.

I continually hear from people that he does not know how to coach, or that UK jumped the gun in hiring Billy. To that I say that you could not be more wrong. Billy was one of the hottest if not the hottest coaching prospects available in 2007. He had completely turned around programs at Texas A&M and UTEP, and had proven that he was an outstanding coach.

Should Billy have had this team in the tournament? The answer to that is without a doubt yes. But as we all know, he didn’t.

Yes, that is a major disappointment, but two years is not enough time for anyone. This is still the same exact coach that just one year ago was named the SEC Coach of the year. This man knows what he is doing.

We the fans need to trust in Mitch and his decision-making abilities. I have heard countless times that Mitch should be fired and that he has no idea what he is doing—and to that all I can say is that you could not be further from the truth.

Since Mitch came to Lexington in 2002 the football, baseball, and women’s basketball programs have seen huge growth and all programs are in possibly their best shape ever. I know a lot of people around here just laugh when talking about other sports than basketball, but truth be told our athletic department is in as good as shape as it has been in the 21 years that I have been alive.

There are certain things that obviously bug all of us, like Bill’s irregular substitutions or his inability to connect with the media—or worst of all, his ability to lose games that we have no business losing, games such as VMI, San Diego, Gardner Webb, and Georgia.

I also want fans to think about the repercussions that would follow if Billy was fired.

You have to believe that Patrick and Jodie would very much consider leaving Lexington for the riches of the NBA. Especially if they were leaning towards the NBA, you can guarantee that this would be the final straw in their decision.

Potential recruits could spurn the Wildcats. 2010 Dominique Ferguson has already said his recruitment would open up if Billy was no longer the coach of the Wildcats.

The 2009 class is an excellent one, but all would be able to look elsewhere if Gillispie is gone and you would have to believe that at least one of them would sign elsewhere.

I think it would be very hard to find a big-name coach that would leave his top notch school to go to Kentucky knowing that if things do not go well that they too could be fired after just two years.

The impact of firing Billy could lead to a season very similar to the situation we have seen from Indiana this year—maybe not as bad, but next year could be very bad if Billy is gone.

On the other hand, UK could be a potential top-15 team next year if everyone including Billy returns. Jodie and Patterson would be primed for another huge season. Darius Miller showed us this year that he will be a star for the Cats. A top 15 recruiting class coming in this year including a true center in Daniel Orton that will allow Patterson to move over and play his true position the power forward.

Next year can be very special, or it could be a potential disaster—and it all depends on Billy and his future.

I obviously understand that the football and basketball programs are held to a different standard, but I want people to look at what the football program has done. Mitch showed patience in keeping Rich and it was the best decision he could have made.

So next time you are calling for Billy’s head, I want you to just stop and think about the football program.

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