UK names practice field after former coach

Published 9:49 am Wednesday, July 12, 2023


Kentucky Today

The Nutter Field House is undergoing a new look and getting a new surface name.

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The facility was named Rich and Karen Brooks Field on Tuesday. Brooks coached the Wildcats from 2003-09.

“It’s obviously a very special moment,” Brooks said of being informed about this accolade. “It’s just a wonderful honor and I’m very grateful.”

Brooks guided the Wildcats to 32 victories and four bowl appearances in his last four years at the helm. Prior to the successful four-year run, Brooks won four games in three seasons before turning the proverbial corner in 2006.

“When I came here, we were on probation,” Brooks said. “Had 61 scholarship players to start and we were limited on how many we could replace each year. So, it took us into the fourth year to turn the program around.”

Under his guidance, the Wildcats won three-straight bowl games with back-to-back victories in the Music City Bowl over Clemson and Florida State, respectively and a win over East Carolina in the Liberty Bowl in 2008. In his last bowl appearance, Kentucky lost to Clemson in the Music City Bowl in 2009.

Brooks and his wife enjoyed their time in Lexington despite the rocky start to his tenure as coach of the Wildcats.

“We did love living here,” Brooks said. “One of the best places in the country you could live in. The people are wonderful. It’s a very special place to be.”

In the beginning, however, Brooks wasn’t sure how long call Lexington his home after recording two victories in the first two seasons. The same pattern occurred during his tenure at Oregon, where he served as coach from 1977-94. He guided the Ducks to the Rose Bowl in his final season in 1984.

“I will remind you that I also had ‘Ditch Rich’ bumper stickers and t-shirts sold in the parking lots at football games at both places,” Brooks said. “So, before the success happened, there was a hard road to climb. So, there is humility that does come along with the honor of having such a special thing done in our game.”

Brooks wants his legacy to last beyond the football field.

“To me, my legacy, I hope, is the association with players, their development, their life after playing football, their families, their jobs, their successes,” Brooks said. “And I do run into quite a few of them from time to time and that is the pleasure of what I’ve been able to do in coaching is just seeing them in their environment today as grownups.”

Brooks added his main objective was turning the program around instead of making a name for himself.

“That wasn’t in my mind,” Brooks said. “(I was) just trying to win enough games to be respectable and get into bowl games. To take the program back to a different level than it had been in a few years.”