NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Kentucky coach Rich Brooks told his Wildcats that he’s probably not returning next season.
Following a 21-13 loss to Clemson on Sunday night in the Music City Bowl, Brooks said he’s “80 percent” sure he’s not coming back. He plans to think about his next move, talk with his family and make a final decision within the week.
“I’ve just got to do some thinking about it away from everything,” Brooks said.
The 68-year-old Brooks led the Wildcats to a 7-6 record this season and 39-47 mark in seven seasons. If it was his final game, his career college record will be 130-156-4 in 25 seasons, including 18 at Oregon where the field is named after him.
Last January, Kentucky announced that offensive coordinator Joker Phillips will take over as head coach when Brooks steps down.
“I think it may be time for a change and time for Joker to take over,” Brooks said. “Not totally sure. I just felt like maybe it’s time.”
The well-traveled Brooks also had several stints in the NFL, including two years as head coach of the St. Louis Rams in 1995-96. He was an assistant with the then-Los Angeles Rams (1971-72), the San Francisco 49ers (1974-75 as defensive backs/special teams), and Atlanta Falcons (1997-2000, assistant head coach/defensive coordinator).
He voluntarily left the Falcons in January 2001 and was out of coaching until Kentucky came calling in 2003.
Brooks began his career as an assistant freshman coach at Oregon State in 1963 and was an assistant the next year at Norte Del Rio High School. He also was an assistant at Oregon State in 1965-69 and was defensive coordinator there in 1973 and at UCLA in 1970 and again in 1976.
Brooks said he had been thinking about calling it a career over the past week, but stayed busy with preparations for the bowl game. Kentucky made school history by reaching a fourth straight bowl game, but snapped a three-game winning streak with the loss.
Senior offensive lineman Zipp Duncan credited Brooks with selling them on a dream five years ago. He was among those players who bought into what Brooks asked of them and helped make Kentucky history. Fellow senior Corey Peters said that made the loss tougher to swallow.
“It’s one thing for the senior class to go out on this note,” Peters said. “But finding out this is possibly the last game for him, you want to get the win for him when it’s possibly his last game.”
Brooks started out giving an injury update after the game, then dissected the game.
“It’s an extremely disappointing loss,” Brooks said.
He kept breaking down what went wrong for Kentucky in what he also called a disappointing season after not accomplishing all he wanted. This was the first time since 1909-1912 that the Wildcats had won at least seven games in four straight seasons. This season also featured the Wildcats’ first win over Auburn since 1966 and first at Georgia since 1977.
But the bowl loss snapped a non-conference winning streak at 18 games.
Sophomore receiver Randall Cobb said hearing the news from Brooks was hard
“I’ve learned a lot from Coach Brooks. He’s taught me so much more than becoming a football player. … It’s going to be hard to see him leave if he does,” Cobb said.